iPREFER – Bringing Sustainability to Series Production

Fuel cells play a key role on the path to sustainable aviation. By the year 2035, the first commercially operated hydrogen-powered aircraft should be ready on the runways. However, there are still some challenges to overcome before reaching this point. Fuel cells (FC) are complex systems, and their design and production are quite demanding. To ensure that aircraft can take off in the future with these innovative propulsion systems, FC systems must be available in sufficient quantities and at appropriate production costs.

This is where “intelligent automation” comes into play, aiming to simplify and accelerate manufacturing processes. The ZAL is currently researching how this can work under the name “iPREFER” (Innovative Processes for Fuel Cell Ramp-Up). The LuFo VI-3 project is conducted by a research consortium consisting of Airbus (lead), DLR, Synergeticon, the Technical University of Hamburg, and ZAL GmbH.

ZAL GmbH’s contribution to the current project lies in the development of so-called intelligent systems. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and smart sensor technology, the future FC production is expected to optimize itself. Intelligent systems should automatically capture sensor data, analyze it using machine learning methods, and then provide relevant recommendations for process improvement. There are two ways in which these recommendations can be processed: either directly as machine parameters that feed back into the process or as information for workers. Both options aim to rectify errors and enhance product manufacturing quality.

With a focus on the expected industrialization of FC systems in the future, this approach should help make manufacturing processes controllable and reduce production costs. At the same time, this continuous process monitoring is expected to improve the safety of the new propulsion technology, for example, through early detection of leaks or faulty wiring and connections.

Are you interested in this project or topics like automation, digitalization, and artificial intelligence? Feel free to reach out to us; we look forward to hearing from you.

Automation Dr. Felix Berteloot Deputy Head of Automation +49 40 248 595 143 felix.berteloot