Bosch presented sustainable solutions for factory automation, the hydrogen economy and AI at Hannover Messe 2024.

Hannover Messe 2024: Open Ecosystems and Collaborations Steal the Show

May 14, 2024
With exhibits on digitization, cloud solutions, automation, engineering and more, this year’s trade fair brought innovation to its peak.

Think resilience. Think sustainability. Think collaboration…

Call it big-picture thinking, but these were the topics of interest that core industrial companies across the globe impressed upon the 130,000 visitors from 150 nations, while trading ideas with some 4,000 exhibiting companies at Hannover Messe 2024.

Ranging from the efficient use of hydrogen in industry, help from software to reduce the carbon footprint, to verified use cases demonstrating ways to digitalize value chains, the business opportunities and tech solutions appeared to be boundless. This year’s overarching theme, “Energizing a Sustainable Industry,” elevated energy costs, the expansion of digital infrastructure, fast approval procedures and the call for qualified workers to the top of the agenda.

Setting Clear Objectives

The trade fair is a perennial site for economic policy delegations. More than 300 economic delegations visited the event, all intending to build capacity and maintain competitiveness. A prime example of pan-European cooperation was a notable deal—signed, sealed and delivered—announcing this year’s partner country, Norway, will export large volume hydrogen to Germany and will create necessary hydrogen infrastructure by 2030.

Open Ecosystems are Table Stakes in Manufacturing

Bosch Rexroth responded to the theme by bringing automation solutions for battery production and hydraulic solutions as a practical contribution to the hydrogen economy. The drive and controls technologies supplier highlighted another prevalent trend in the factory automation section of their booth: shifting from closed supplier-related supply toward open ecosystems. 

READ MORE: Schunk Takes the 2024 Hermes Award at Hannover Messe

This is important in particular because innovation speed in factory automation is accelerating at speeds that are near to impossible to cope with, explained Thomas Fechner, member of the board of management and responsible for factory automation at Bosch Rexroth. “The reason behind the digitalization and high software content in the machines is because with this comes a differentiation,” he said. “And no corporate alone can cope with the speed demands of our customers.”

Fechner pointed to computer vision to illustrate his point. “With a stereo camera you are observing the materials; you check if quality is okay. There are hundreds of startups and a lot of venture capitalists invested in making source code and in making software to make the best out of it. So, utilizing artificial intelligence and generative AI. No big corporates can cope with this feat.”

To this end, Bosch Rexroth can provide the base technology needed for automation through an open ecosystem, said Fechner. The company launched ctrlX Automation about three years ago, which is now marketed as building blocks for complete automation solutions—encompassing controllers and I/Os, IPCs, HMIs, drives and safety solutions, as well as comprehensive motion, PLC and IoT functions. “It’s like a smartphone for automation,” said Fechner. “The system allows you to optimize hardware independent from software.”

READ MORE: Hannover Messe 2024: Festo’s Frank Notz on the State of the Automation Industry  

Bosch partners contribute the software. Out of 100 partner companies, a handful were invited to demonstrate the network of collaboration at Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX World showcase, including Arduino Pro by Arduino s.r.l., GEFAZ mbH, Intel Corporation and VMware by Broadcom, VEIL Energy BCorp, and XITASO GmbH, as well as ctrlX OS OEM partner Dell Technologies. 

The partnership dynamic enables companies of various sizes to innovate faster than they could on their own. “We are making a joint value proposition,” said Fechner. “If a customer buys such a solution, it is making business with us and with the software partner. So, it’s a real partner ecosystem with a win-win situation or triple win because, in the end, the customer wins with the best and fastest innovation.”

Data-Driven, AI-Powered Automation, Connectivity and Generative Engineering

Similarly, Harting Technology Group made clear that the company’s goals to 2030 remain rooted in climate neutrality. The concept of an all-electric society is needed to solve the energy problems, with a focus on electricity, said Philip Harting, chairman of the Board, Harting. That would mean leaving behind fossil fuels and embracing new global energy sources such as wind, solar, water and, of course, Harting’s products—cable solutions and connectivity, he said during a press conference. He also pinpointed digitization and automation as an opportunity, 

The industrial connectivity solutions company takes a multifaceted approach to connectivity, extending beyond mechanical, to the cloud service, integrating software and IIoT connectivity. Norbert Gemmeke, managing director, Harting Electric, explained the relationship Harting has fostered with Microsoft and Siemens in an effort to bring AI to industrial products (such as AI-assisted connectors) to market. 

Microsoft is using Azure OpenAI to provide recognition algorithms and contextual understanding for interpreting natural language inputs. This information adapts to specific requirements (such as environmental classes), and with the aid of Harting connectors can then create 3D models for CAD software, which is where Siemens fits in. To this end, Harting can boast of development process results that are sped up, customizable and resource efficient, Gemmeke said. 

Data is Paramount: Why Make it Accessible to All?

Manufacturing is one of the most data-intensive industries, generating an average of 1.9 petabytes worldwide every year, according to McKinsey Global Institute. Yet, the ability to scale has remained a long-time bane due partly to the limited ability to unify OT and IT.

READ MORE: Hannover Messe 2024 Preview: Automation, Digitalization and Electrification

Microsoft’s announcements of manufacturing data solutions in Microsoft Fabric—an end-to-end analytics software-as-a-service (SaaS) based platform—and copilot template for factory operations on Azure AI, are designed to help manufacturers scale, integrate and accelerate industrial transformation across operations. Azure IoT Operations leverages open standards and works with Microsoft Fabric to create a common data foundation for IT and OT collaboration.

The software giant brands itself as a co-innovation partner working with enterprises to unlock the potential of AI solutions. “Microsoft partners are critical to our success,” said Kathleen Mitford, corporate vice president, Global Industry, during a private meeting with Machine Design. “In fact, here at HMI, we have over 24 different partners featured in our booth. And Siemens, Rockwell and Schneider are among many of the partners that are critical to Microsoft.”

Microsoft partners were in plain sight through branding and demonstrations across the fairgrounds. A partial list includes Accenture, Ansys, AVEVA, Blue Yonder, Bosch, CapGemini, Cognite, Connected Cars DK, DSA, HERE Technologies, Hexagon, Netstar, NVIDIA, PTC, Rockwell Automation, SAP, Schneider, Syntax, Sight Machine, Siemens, SymphonyAI, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), ToolsGroup and Tulip Interfaces.

“The reason why we’ve chosen these partners is they have very deep solutions that our customers care about—engineering solutions, manufacturing solutions, service solutions,” touted Mitford. “Our strategy is to meet our customers where they are, which means they’re already using this technology... So how can we help our partners accelerate by using a combination of their existing technology, either on top of Microsoft technology or Microsoft technology incorporated into it?”

Hermes 2024 Award Goes to Schunk

Automation expert Schunk won this year’s acclaimed Hermes prize for its 2D Grasping Kit. The award recognizes innovative products and solutions that demonstrate a high degree of technological innovation and provide benefits for industrial settings, the environment and society. Schunk’s AI-supported 2D Grasping Kit was purposefully designed for automating repetitive sorting or randomly arranged objects or performing logistics tasks with little outlay. The kit consists of a camera with lens, an industrial PC, AI software and an application-specific gripper, enabling reliable handling of random parts on a conveyor belt, tray or supply table. 

Siemens and Bosch Rexroth were both runners-up. Siemens submitted its SiGREEN CO2 management tool, a real-time, secure and scalable tool for managing product carbon footprint (PCF) data. The data capture platform is part of Siemen’s Xcelerator portfolio. Bosch Rexroth submitted a system designed for unloading and dismantling battery modules from electric vehicles. Recycling allows up to 95% of the chemical elements to be returned to the production process, stated the company.

The coveted Hermes Startup Award was conferred upon to Archigas—a startup based in Rüsselsheim, Germany—for designing a compact, moisture-resistant sensor for fast, precise and reliable measurement of hydrogen content. The sensor was developed in cooperation with the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences. Archigas described the principle behind the sensor as an advanced thermal conductivity measurement function on a microchip. “In developing the sensor, Archigas is making a valuable contribution toward enabling the safe production, storage and use of hydrogen,” stated the judges. 

Hannover Messe 2025 runs from March 31 to April 4. Canada will be featured as the partner country. 

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