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12 Feb, 2020 14:21

‘Polytech Days in Berlin’: Why new digital technology is the backbone of industrial production and the global economy

‘Polytech Days in Berlin’: Why new digital technology is the backbone of industrial production and the global economy

What’s the best way to crash test an airplane, reduce production time, or make the most of scientific research? Digital technology and cooperation are the keys, according to the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University.

“Digital technology is everything: it defines the dynamics, as well as global changes and development,” said Professor Andrei Rudskoi, rector of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), during the ‘Polytech Days in Berlin 2020’ forum held February 6-7.

Digital engineering, digital twins, additive technologies, new materials and robotics – these are the latest digital trends that are bound to dominate manufacturing operations and drive significant market shifts in the coming years. The St. Petersburg Polytechnic University welcomed nearly 400 people from academia, business, and politics to its first large conference abroad to discuss the importance of digital industrial technology and demonstrate cutting-edge technological advances.

Embarking on the digital path

“Integration of digital technology through a host of software programs makes it possible to design, build and, most importantly, utilise a digital twin,” Professor Rudskoi said.

Digital twin technology allows manufacturers to recreate the behaviour of a process or a physical object, such as cars and aircraft, in a virtual environment. This means producers can foresee errors before they occur and significantly reduce the time it takes to turn an idea into an actual product.

SPbPU was “the first in Russia to create a digital twin of a car,” while working on a luxury car for Aurus, a Russian auto manufacturer. The vehicle first debuted during Putin’s inauguration in 2017. The Polytech researchers managed to reduce the production cycle time from 5-7 years to just two years and four months.

Collaboration between research and business

As “one of the leaders in the field of digital design, modelling, and creating digital twins for complex mechanical systems,” SPbPU researchers work in close collaboration with a host of leading German and global companies, including Siemens AG, AIRBUS, Philips GmbH, SAP SE, Robert Bosch and Boeing. “Polytech is a symbol and a litmus test of the modern Russian industry,” said Russia’s trade representative in Germany, Andrey Sobolev, during a meeting with the university’s delegation. “It is internationally oriented and aimed at removing barriers, forging new partnerships, and realising innovative projects,” he added.

The SPbPU delegation met with long-term and prospective industry partners during the forum. The Polytech representatives outlined future cooperation with the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: “We are pushing digital industrial transformation forward not only in Russia, but in Europe, too,” Rudskoi said. 

SPbPU plays an important role in Russia’s National Technology Initiative, which was inspired by Germany’s Industry 4.0 strategy. It involves employing new digital technologies to optimize production, foster industrial growth, and increase competitiveness, with its principles adopted across the globe.

Strengthening research partnership

To succeed in new technological research, “you need a lot of people,” according to Professor Volker Epping, president of Leibniz Universität Hannover. “This time, the research and science is very complex and therefore you need experience from all.” Last year, Leibniz Universität Hannover and SPbPU celebrated their 35th anniversary of cooperation.

“Not machines, not universities – it’s the researchers, students who cooperate, therefore we need close contact to see the whole picture and therefore you need a lot of experience from every side,” he added. His sentiments were echoed by Professor Rudskoi, who stressed that ‘Polytech Days in Berlin” was first of all a forum of “friends and like-minded people.”

SPbPU enjoys fruitful partnerships with more than 50 educational and research organizations in Germany alone. There are more than 20 universities, including Berlin Technical University, the University of Stuttgart, and the Technical University of Munich. SPbPU also works with smaller institutes, since it “primarily relies on [universities’] zones of competence,” the rector said. “We need polygamy in our relations with German universities to benefit.”

“As opposed to the political turbulence, our relations with Europe, European universities, and Germany have experienced an incredible boost in the last few decades.”