FutureWork 360

Q&A: Virtual lab worlds offer attractive solutions for future industrial work

Dirty, dark, loud and smelly are the features that often come to people’s minds when thinking of industrial production. It doesn´t have to be that way, claims Dr Stephan Wilhelm of Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO.

Dr Wilhelm, on 26 March 2020 you opened your virtual lab world  on www.futurework360.de. What can we expect?

We've set up a virtual 'factory of the future' for people worldwide seeking inspiration for future industrial work. All you need for your visit is a computer and internet access. We are open 24/7 and invite people to test our innovative technologies without travel efforts! Let´s see what you will like best – my personal highlights are our mega robot and a robot suit which allows senior staff to keep in business much longer than before. But there are many other stunning precision-engineered solutions people can experience at work. In fact, the virtual labs we will show online are digital twins to our real labs at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart.

 Why is the virtual lab tour a must-see?

There is no travel effort, and the virtual walk through our factory lab is an almost real experience thanks to a 360° view. It´s like an online 'Open Lab' which allows people to try out our technical solutions 'with their own hands'. Plus: We offer fresh research results and innovations featuring new materials, future-proof machines and processes for future industrial production. At first sight, however, our visitors are likely to be surprised. Most people know industrial productions that are dirty, dark, noisy, smelly and unappealing for young skilled staff. FutureWork360 proves it can be done differently and in an appealing way.

What inspired you to provide virtual images of your research labs?

Industry faces a massive innovation pressure and needs best-practice-solutions. This is where FutureWork360 steps in. Our labs offer new ideas and hands-on-experience of viable solutions to the typical obstacles in industrial working including the shortage of skilled workers or outdated production conditions. Our biggest hope is that developers and entrepreneurs from abroad become inspired by our projects, start a collaboration with us and develop their solutions in a joint project.

Do you focus on any industry in particular?

We are currently looking at the particular challenges of French companies in the plastics processing industry. Together with our partners from the research cluster Plastipolis we identify how our virtual labs can deliver innovative solutions, for let´s say, attractive work places, or better energy efficiency and sustainability in the plastics processing production. But in general our research and development is open to all industrial branches.

How will FutureWork360 become accessible for interested parties?

We invite companies and institutions from all over the world to participate in our guided tours and real-time web sessions. During their virtual visits they can discuss their technological or scientific needs as well as potential collaborations directly with our researchers.

The exact dates for our tours and real time web sessions can be found on our website.

Thank you very much for this interview!


Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO
Dr.-Ing. Stephan Wilhelm
Nobelstrasse 12
70569 Stuttgart
+49 711 970 2240
Twitter: FutureWorkLabDE
LinkedIn: futurework360