We are located in one of the oldest parts of the Mladá Boleslav plant. The founders of the automobile company Václavová Laurin and Klement began building the first Slavia bikes here a century ago, and later also cars. Today it houses the FabLab. A team of experts that tests new technologies and their use not only in Boleslav, Kvasiny or Vrchlabí. It mainly focuses on predictive maintenance of machines and robots that produce new Škoda cars. Magic Eye testing began three years ago, but due to frequent production interruptions caused by the pandemic and suspension of investment, the technology is only now fully underway.
“Due to the positive experience from the production of octavias and enyaqs, we are working on deploying Magic Eye on other production lines in Boleslav and Kvasiny. We are also in talks with colleagues from the Group’s plants in Poznań and Hanover, and at the end of the year colleagues from Porsche who are interested in technology came to see us. We want to get to the stage where the Magic Eye components are universal and can be easily installed anywhere,” explains Milan Dědek, project coordinator for predictive maintenance artificial intelligence.
Magic Eye is a system of cameras that compares high-precision images of production machines with thousands of stored records from the past, in a matter of seconds. Artificial intelligence thus detects the slightest deviation from the optimal state of temperature, position or vibration of the conveyors of suspended aluminum tracks on the nearly kilometer-long production line.
“The transition to the production of electric enyaqs was a challenge in this respect, as these cars are more massive than internal combustion ones and represent a greater burden mainly for the elevators on the line, respectively for the rails on the elevator connections. The cameras can now detect an impending malfunction in time. In this case, the system will send a notification to the maintenance worker directly to the phone. He will decide whether to plan a more extensive repair or to intervene immediately,” Dědek explains, adding that the technology enables annual savings in the order of tens of millions of crowns.
The transfer of a large amount of data collected in real time across the plant could be facilitated in the near future by the private 5G SA (Stand Alone) network that Škoda is testing in Boleslav. Although, according to FabLab experts, public 5G NSA (Non Stand Alone) networks belong to overrated technologies, they could also increase the capacity and speed of data transmission here.
In addition, the existing Wi-Fi network in Boleslav is already often overloaded in terms of production technologies. “We are investigating when and where the deployment of very investment-intensive technology would be advantageous. Whether in production, logistics or elsewhere. We have tried it and we know how to deploy the technology. Another thing is that the operation makes economic sense. The connection with Magic Eye can be that case,” says FabLab specialist Lukáš Procházka.
However, he points out that the current state of the production structure and production equipment is not ready for the mass use of 5G networks, even though Škoda, unlike most corporate users in the Czech Republic, has its own private 5G network.
The Škoda “laboratory” is currently looking for business potential also for the use of powder technologies of plastic 3D printing. They consider the purchase of one of the most expensive HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers for millions of crowns to be an imaginary goal. Průša Research already uses about a hundred of those common types. For now, safety regulations make it practically impossible to use such printed parts in cars, but 3D printing supplies simpler parts to production in the form of fixtures and tools.
“During the production of a car, for example, you need to leave the hood or doors ajar at a certain angle. For this, such parts are suitable and used. Printing from plastic is much easier and cheaper, on the other hand, the parts are imperfect, a little different every time,” says Vladislav Andronov from FabLab.
FabLab is therefore now testing the possibilities under which the use of more powerful “powder” printers that generate more homogeneous and “reliable” parts would be beneficial, whether in production, maintenance or logistics.
In cooperation with Nářaďovna Škoda Auto, FabLab also prints metal, for example tools for die casting. “The biggest benefit is conformal cooling, which, for example, contributes to increasing tool life. We also print MQ100 gearbox test case type prototypes. We help other departments to use 3D printed parts, including know-how. For example, colleagues needed to find out how 3D printing stacks up against conventional technologies,” adds Andronov.
VIDEO: Production of batteries for electric cars at the Škoda Auto plant in Mladá Boleslav