Factory Automation Systems The Automation System is the Key

Author / Editor: Heiko Kurtz / Dominik Stephan

“Flexible, Fast and Future Factory” — the F3 Factory is a vision for the future of chemical production. Ambitious projects such as these need partners that can keep the time. Flexibility, speed and efficiency are demanded from plant and components alike — automation suppliers therefore have to leave the trodden path ...

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Figure 1: Standardized process containers will make chemical production more flexible, more efficient and more resource-friendly
Figure 1: Standardized process containers will make chemical production more flexible, more efficient and more resource-friendly
(Picture: M. Henig/PROCESS)

A consortium of 25 partners from nine EU countries has been working since 2009 to develop standardized, modular production systems for the chemical industry. The EU is subsidizing the project, which aims to conserve resources through more efficient processes, to the tune of €18 million. The partners in the consortium, which is coordinated by Bayer Technology Services, include not only industrial enterprises such as Bayer, BASF and Evonik, but also research institutions like TU Dortmund and RWTH Aachen.

The goal of the project is to develop faster, more flexible and more efficient production methods for chemical and pharmaceutical products. At its core is the idea of combining the flexibility of batch production with the cost advantages of continuous manufacturing. This is achieved by designing small to mid-sized production systems housed in standardized containers.


The companies involved in the F3 Factory project are developing their highly modular “plug and produce” systems in easily transportable containers. These can be tested at the new Invite research center in the Leverkusen Chempark for initial production runs under realistic conditions. The focus is on reducing development times for new products. Chemical production facilities can easily be planned, installed, commissioned and, if necessary, expanded using these proven, standardized modules.

"Instead of investing in increasingly large world-scale plants, companies can build smart-scale plants which are more flexible and take less time to build." Dr. Thomas Bott, head of Polymer Technology at BASF - Read More about the F3–Factory–Project in our interview Modular Production Concepts Boost Competitiveness

Atex Control Cabinets WhichFit the Grid

Process automation is key to the F3 Factory project, and each container type has its own Atex control cabinet through which all electric and pneumatic signals are processed. Fluid technology specialist Bürkert is a supplier to the project, and in cooperation with Bayer Technology Services has developed a process automation system based on valve islands and remote I/O. A major challenge for the company’s engineers was to integrate the control cabinets for the valve automation into the predefined and very compact grid dimensions of the process containers....

Read on how the company took up this challenge and developed an a flexible, yet compact automation system on page 2!