Smart Products Design for Industry 4.0

Smart Product SimScale Industry 4.0

Smart products are part of industry digital transformation. The digital revolution radically changes the traditional manufacturing processes; from the new digital model-based engineering to smart factories, everything is about virtual prototypes, digital manufacturing processes, and intelligent machines. The digital revolution in manufacturing is outlined by the Industry 4.0 concept.

What is Industry 4.0?

Smart Products SimScale Industry 4.0

Smart products value will consist not only in physical characteristics

Industry 4.0 is a concept widely adopted  as digital industry driver, based on the “Industrie 4.0” project developed by the German government and announced at the Hanover International Fair in 2011. According to Industry 4.0 theory, the digital industry will be based on customized products developed in flexible manufacturing environments. [1]

The smart products value will consist not only of physical characteristics, embedding enhanced customer and supply partners experience, from the earliest stages of engineering and design. Everything is integrated with high-quality services in a new category of hybrid products.

The new manufacturing concept developed by the Industry 4.0 initiative will bring together machines, processes, software, sensors, processors, and communication technologies. All these systems have both a computing component and a physical interaction with the real world.

What technologies drive the digital industry?

Smart Products SimScale Industry 4.0

New manufacturing concept developed by Industry 4.0

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) identified the following as major technologies governing the Industry 4.0 concept:

  • Cloud services – the only alternative in the processing, storage, monitoring and control of enterprise data and applications;
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – brings together the entire ecosystem of communication between equipment, devices, and sensors capturing primary information and generating answers in real time;
  • Big Data & Analytics – flow data generated by each development stage of production, from engineering to design, testing and production launch;
  • Engineering simulation (CAE) – virtual modeling scenarios products from early workflow phases are vital for performance achieving, shortening the time to market and reducing production costs;
  • 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing (AM) – enterprise capacity 3D printers will play an increasing role in the production of small series of personalized products;
  • Augmented Reality (AR): systems like Oculus Rift or Microsoft  HoloLens will play a key role in increasing productivity and decision-making processes accelerating.

From Industrial Internet of Things to Digital Industry

In an Accenture definition, “Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept and a paradigm that considers a pervasive presence in the environment of a variety of things/objects that through Internet of Things: Converging Technologies for Smart Environments and Integrated Ecosystems” [2]. The same source mentions the core of Digital Industry is based on highly intelligent connected systems that create a fully digital value chain. This is the 4th industrial revolution enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things.

Key trends will change the classic way of life for industrial companies:

  • Digital – transforming production processes in all sectors, from high-tech to industrial equipment;
  • Industrialize – companies should integrate these technologies to improve their value chain;
  • Optimize – innovative producers believe the enhanced manufacturing process as key for business growth.

Smart products for Digital Industry 4.0

Smart Products SimScale Industry 4.0

Today smart products don’t provide only their identity

Smart products integrated into the modern production flows are able to self-process, store data, communicate and interact with the industrial ecosystem. Starting from early approaches enabling products to identify themselves via RFID, the products capabilities to provide information evolved. Today smart products don’t provide only their identity, but also describe their status and lifecycle history. They perfectly know the further process steps, including not only productions stages until the finished form, but also upcoming maintenance operations [3].

Digital models in smart manufacturing

A critical role in the modern manufacturing process was the adoption of digital models in production workflows. Based on initial engineering plans, sketched by the product designer, drawn by the design team and prototyping by the testing engineer, the unique digital model main advantages is that it can be modified any time in a fully digital manufacturing process. As the collaboration between these teams improves, the prototype will be assimilated quickly into production, and the finished product will get faster to market. More products, better, faster, and with fewer production costs.

The digital model concept was developed within the sendler/circle, a group of engineering and software professionals which in May 2014 gathered in a Bavarian village and adopted four theses, known in the industry as “theses from Hechenberg“:

  • The basis of innovative, “smart”, connected products are digital product models.
  • The digital product model must contain all the elements of mechanical, electrical, electronics, and software and may reflect their interaction virtually.
  • Digital models make development, production and operation of complex products manageable.
  • The integrated management of digital product models throughout their entire lifecycle is an important prerequisite for Industry 4.0.

Engineering Simulation’s Role in Modern Production Processes

According to a Research & Markets report, global engineering software market was about 20 billion dollars in 2014, with an expected increase of 12.4% per year until 2022. Development drivers are the industrial process automation and the increased demand for integrated analysis and design solutions. Platforms for engineering applications have evolved along with the entire IT industry. A dramatic impact in reducing costs, enhancing the quality and new products launching speed was the migration of design and simulation applications in the Cloud.

Smart Products SimScale Industry 4.0

Thermostructural analysis in the browser with SimScale

The next wave was engineering platforms based 100% in Cloud.  The first cloud-based 3D simulation software was provided by SimScale, aiming to help engineers build better and smarter products, in a shorter period of time. Using a large variety of simulation analyses offered on the SimScale platform, any manufacturer could create and optimize intelligent machines that combine mechanical functionality, digital control, and communication with industrial IoT ecosystems.

Due to the large applicability of modern simulation models, digital industry processes could be assimilated by various companies.

Industrial automation equipment and intelligent machines providers could offer their smart products to clients from various industries such as oil & gas and mining, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and power, chemicals, or utility providers. SimScale is being used in a variety of product development processes, across the whole industry ecosystem from large products and process manufacturing to component supply chain providers.

This is how the whole smart product lifecycle is being created.


[1] The new High-Tech Strategy Innovations for Germany”, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, 2014

[2] Accenture – “Are you ready for Digital Industry 4.0?”

[3] Schmidt R., Möhring M., Härting R.C., Reichstein C., Neumaier P., Jozinović P. – “Industry 4.0 – Potentials for Creating Smart Products: Empirical Research Results”, Springer, June 2015

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