Danish manufacturing MADE Digital

By Lisbeth Lassen
At the end of 2016, the Danish MADE initiative was expanded to include the MADE Digital collaboration, on which DTU Mechanical Engineering will have a large impact in connection with the digitalization of Danish manufacturing, which plays a key role in the Danish version of Industry 4.0.

In December 2016, DTU Mechanical Engineering received a DKK 14 million grant from Innovation Fund Denmark for the project ‘MADE Digital, driving growth and productivity in manufacturing by digitalization’. Among other things, the grant will finance three PhD positions, three postdoc positions, and one industrial PhD position. DTU Mechanical Engineering is already a PhD project partner in the SPIR project MADE.

MADE and MADE Digital are initiatives that aim to maintain manufacturing companies and innovation competences in Denmark. The collaboration partners focus on ways of ensuring efficient manufacturing under Danish conditions such as high quality requirements, rapid product development and production, and proximity to the customer. As members of MADE, companies can participate in, for example, seminars and workshops. MADE Digital will ensure that in future, Danish companies have access to important knowledge on digitalization of manufacturing.

Digital quality assurance of manufacturing
Professor Jesper Hattel heads work package 4, Digital Manufacturing Processes, where researchers will be engaged in three important areas related to digitalization: integrated modelling of materials and processes, zero-defect manufacturing, and 3D printing. The researchers will also be involved in work package 3, Sensor Technologies and Manufacturing Data, together with DTU Compute. The objective is to study how data input from sensors can be used to digitize the physical production, thereby achieving higher quality.

“Together with DTU Compute, DTU Mechanical Engineering is involved in the work with sensor technologies, which focuses on quality assurance of the processes we are studying,” says Hans Nørgaard Hansen. “The idea is to make cross-disciplinary use of the registered data, so that it’s possible to manage the processes proactively and adjust the ongoing manufacturing process.” This will improve the quality of the products and significantly reduce the level of wasted time and resources.

The digital twin of manufacturing
Materials, process and design modelling means modelling across the entire value chain. Modelling will therefore ultimately be possible in relation to the most significant physical aspects of the product and production conditions. In connection with the ongoing digitalization of the production it is common to refer to this as the digital twin.

“The picture we want to draw is that of the entire production chain —from the product design, through the manufacturing processes to the manufacturing system, as well as the general factory layout and the entire basis of use of the product—we intend to make a digital representation of everything,” says Jesper Hattel.

“When we are able to do that, we will also be able to use the digital twin to control, predict, and optimize  the properties and performance of the physical part. It will be particularly interesting to look at each element in the digital part and each element in the value chain,but it will also be exciting to see how things interact. The link between the digital and the physical world will largely be based on sensor technology.”

A problem: Many different designs and high quality requirements
Many companies are currently working with very comprehensive and complex designs (and product architectures) developed from scratch for specific solutions, where the individual parts of the products often cannot be interconnected. This means unnecessarily long time-to-market—from when the company concludes an agreement with a customer on solving a problem, until the customer actually receives a new design solution. Design is exactly what Head of Section and Professor Niels Henrik Mortensen from Engineering Design and Product Development at DTU Mechanical Engineering has been working with in connection with MADE. In MADE Digital, he heads work package 9, Digital Design, and is also involved in work package 3, Sensor Technologies and Manufacturing data.

“A major problem for manufacturing companies is that they often have a lot of design variations, and all products are subject to high quality requirements,” says Niels Henrik Mortensen. “Of course, it’s not possible to relax the quality requirements, but the combination of the many design variations and the large number of tests and certifications, which are a result of the huge amount of different designs, means that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to react in due time in relation to the market and customer needs.”

An example of major design complexity could be the hydraulic cylinders used in offshore cranes or wind turbines, where they turn the wind turbine blades inwards or outwards to make best use of the wind. “If a company designs a new cylinder from scratch every time a new project is launched, it suddenly ends up with a large amount of very different types of design with different dimensions, material types, and ultimately new test set-ups and documentation,” says Niels Henrik Mortensen.

“The conclusion is that it becomes more and more time-consuming to develop new products; it becomes costly and complicated, and nothing can be reused.” Many companies will therefore spend a lot of time designing a new solution for the customer, and when the solution is finally ready for use, it will be expensive, and the customer and the market will probably have developed new needs. Consequently, the first part of MADE focuses on design simplification.

Modularization arranges the many designs
The large number of specially developed designs can be simplified using modularization, so that different sub-elements can be combined to form new solutions. Modularization is also a design structure that is suitable for digitalization due to the uniformity.

“Our contribution from K&P to MADE was modularization, which is also known as modular architecture,” explains Niels Henrik Mortensen. “It means that instead of establishing new design principles every time, we make certain decisions regarding interfaces, and we decide that from now on, some of the key interfaces will be in a certain way. This provides scope for consolidating things in new ways in the production without having to redesign the individual components. Modularization basically means that we get rid of dependencies—now we’re able to change the properties of the final product without changing all the components.”

Modularization means far less components within a product range. “The interesting thing is what happens in the production,” says Niels Henrik Mortensen. “When the components become very similar, the first part of the production can be automated. We get fewer test set-ups and fewer documentation requirements, the company is able to respond more rapidly towards to the customer and the market, and maintenance and repair become much easier, and thereby also cheaper, throughout the product life cycle. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.”

Modularization (right) means fewer components with better interfaces than before (left).

Ready for manufacturing automation: Digitalization of simplified designs
MADE Digital builds on these simplified designs and is to propose specific solutions to implementing them in the IT systems to enable automation of part of the manufacturing. The solutions will include, for example, developing new systems for configuration systems, better libraries for organization of CAD drawings, and PLM systems (product lifecycle management systems).

“A configuration system is a type of expert system that gives us a quick overview of which components can be combined with each other, and which cannot be combined with each other,” explains Niels Henrik Mortensen. “This allows the company in the tendering phase to swiftly design a specific solution and provide an estimate of the costs. New requirements regarding changes can also be handled quickly merely by creating a new configuration.” Overall, it means that the company can develop the solutions in close dialogue with the customer.

The new component designs must also be available to allow the company to find the right designs immediately, and therefore it is furthermore important to develop good libraries for the CAD drawings. This provides the possibility of making a quick search and retrieving design solutions, and for efficiently adjusting and changing designs.

PLM-systems are systems capable of creating complete documentation in connection with a product, ranging from drawings and calculations to simulations. “It’s simply a tool for handling engineering issues across the fields of mechanics, electronics, and software. This way, the company becomes far better at handling changes due to the system’s intelligence. It ‘knows’ that when a change in made in one place, control and software must be updated somewhere else, for example. Today, we have stand-alone systems for mechanics, software, and electronics—and it’s expensive,” concludes Niels Henrik Mortensen.

During the first six months of 2017, DTU Mechanical Engineering intends to recruit and employ new researchers.

The MADE organization was established in 2014 as a SPIR initiative under the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, and MADE Digital is a continuation of the collaboration. The purpose of the initiative is to strengthen the innovative capacity, competitiveness, and productivity of the Danish manufacturing industry to retain jobs in Denmark and attract international companies.

The MADE Digital consortium is composed of:
Five universities: Technical University of Denmark, University of Southern Denmark, Aarhus University, Aalborg University, and Copenhagen Business School.

Three approved technological service institutions: The Danish Technological Institute, FORCE Technology, and the Alexandra Institute

44 companies: NCC, Grundfos, Haldor Topsøe, Danfoss, LEGO Group, Vestas, Rockwool, Terma, Sjørring, GEA, Arla, GPV, DMRI, B&O, Electronic, Danish Crown, FLSchmidt, Universal Robots, Aasted, 3D Printhuset, Altan.dk, Applicate IT, C.C. Jensen, CIM, CorePaths Robotics, Gabriel, Gripa, Hounö, IHFood, Inmould, IPU, JLI Vision, Kecon, NIL Techn, QualiWare, Resiewe, Scape Technologies, Sentio, Skywatch, Technicon, Thürmer, TRESU, VOLA, xtel.


Jesper Henri Hattel
Head of Section, Professor
DTU Mechanical Engineering
+45 45 25 47 10


Hans Nørgaard Hansen
Head of Department, Professor, PhD
DTU Mechanical Engineering
+45 45 25 48 16


Niels Henrik Mortensen
Head of Section, Professor
DTU Mechanical Engineering
+45 45 25 62 75
23 OCTOBER 2020