Learning Factory

Man using testing equipment

If medicine has teaching hospitals, why doesn’t engineering have learning factories, where production, research, and education come together seamlessly?

Composites manufacturing is a complex process, combining new materials to produce innovative components that are strong, lightweight, safe and low-cost. Research and development often involve computer simulation in the early stages to establish suitability and process before embarking on real world scale manufacturing. However, full digitalization or Industry 4.0 for composites manufacturing at real world scale is currently not possible. 

The Learning Factory addresses this gap.  

The project focuses on: 

  1. Designing and building an optimized composites factory for current innovative capacity that will transfer to real world scale for industry partners 
  2. Investigating how to retrofit and optimize existing factories to bring them online for digitalization 
  3. Defining the composites factory of the future 

As a physical facility, the Learning Factory is a scaled-down and controlled environment. It functions as a ‘factory in a lab’ that satisfies both academic and industry requirements with its core capability. Operating at the current, qualified production baseline, the factory will be immensely data rich, with multiple layers of sensors and data analysis, sized for both standard production and research production. As a highly reconfigurable and multi-layered space, different sensor and data analysis technologies can be implemented and researched.  

A virtual facility hosted at the UBC Vancouver campus combines the big sensor and data capacity from the physical factory for simulation to understand, control, and optimize the production of advanced aerospace composites structures. 

In addition to training the engineers and composites scientists of the future, the Learning Factory will gather valuable data for AI and machine learning to drive computer simulation for composites manufacture research. 

Information gathered from the Learning Factory controlled environment has the potential to scale up to industrial manufacturing levels and retrofit existing factories with advanced technologies and workflows. 

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