Industry 4.0 requires comprehensive data collection in order to control highly automated process sequences in complex production environments. One example is the cultivation of living cells. But digitalizing and networking biotech production equipment is a huge challenge: relevant standards have yet to be established, and biology has a dynamic all its own. Using fully automated equipment for producing stem cells, Fraunhofer researchers have managed to adjust the process control to cell growth – delivering an adaptive system that is suitable for use in a number of sectors.

The term industry 4.0 is generally associated with the manufacturing of cars, machinery or industrial goods. But, as the partners (see box) in the StemCellFactory collaborative project show, the comprehensive networking of machines and products is also making headway in biotechnology. This is a particular challenge, because this field deals not with solid components but with living objects that – unlike screws or gears – change and multiply. Networked process control needs to take this into account and be able to adjust the process accordingly in real time.

Photo: An inside view of the StemCellFactory (Photo Credit: Bildschön GmbH)

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