Digital Twins and Virtual Reality: Sup'Biotech students take on the Factory 4.0!

News / 22.01.2021

During an Industry 4.0 themed workshop, fifth year Bioproduction and Quality students used digital twins and virtual reality technologies through HakoBio to create and showcase their virtual Covid-19 vaccine production factories.

To prepare its students for the challenges of the Industry 4.0, Sup'Biotech has initiated a project between its future 5th year engineers and the Brussels company Ouat! which specializes in the creation of "digital twins" for industrial sites. Started in late 2020, this first collaboration ended on January 14, 2021 with several conferences and the presentation of the students' interactive achievements.

Also known as the "factory of the future", Factory 4.0 is quite simply the programmed evolution of production sites through the use of new high-performance technological trends such as IoT, robotization, 3D printing or augmented and virtual realities. An approach that will logically lead to profoundly transform many biotech companies in the years to come according to Asma Timoumi, professor-researcher in bioprocess at Sup'Biotech and head of the school's future bioproduction research laboratory. Sup'Biotech's objective is to start training students in this area in the third year," explains the supervisor of the project conducted with Ouat! Industry 4.0 in biotechnologies will not be possible without a 4.0 school: our engineers will be the actors of the factory of the future! »

An original, innovative and professionalizing project

Both students of the Bioproduction & Quality Major, Constance Albouze and Alyriane Escoutay (Sup'Biotech class of 2021) took part in this first experience on the factory 4.0 and came out of it with a lot of confidence. "I enjoyed discovering this new aspect that we often hear about," confides Alyriane. "I liked having several speakers to talk to us about the different components of the subject and then being able to put our new knowledge into practice, by sizing a plant or thinking about new processes, from the creation of the product to its sale."An opinion shared by Constance. "I found it very interesting to see how data and 3D can be linked to very concrete things, especially since I hadn't been able to experience virtual reality before. It gives me a lot of ideas for what to do next. It's also enriching to be able to do this alongside a company: it allows you to become even more professional! »

A challenge inspired from current worldwide events

This factory that the students had to imagine was in line with current events since it was a vaccine factory against Covid-19. A theme focused on pharmacology that did not disturb the two students of the Agri-food Minor. "Whether it is for a vaccine or something else, producing a molecule on a large scale in order to market it requires detailing all the steps of upstram bioproduction, from the R&D phase to the purification and packaging phase," explains Constance. The future engineers began with a seminar and several hours of training on OUAT!'s HakoBio platform before creating the digital twin. For each step, the student teams had to think about the tools to be implemented. For example, in order to have a completely sterile room, it has to be equipped with a number of strategically placed airlocks in the factory," continues Alyriane. The advantage of designing your factory and then being able to visualize it via virtual reality is that you can move around inside it, understand the different paths that operators or external visitors can take, place the machines... It's a good vision of how a factory is shaped. »

Delighted with this project, the two 5th years even admit to hoping to be able to use this knowledge in a few months, in the professional world. Alyriane is already on the right track: "During a job interview, I took the opportunity to talk about this project with the HakoBio software. As this process is more and more in demand, it immediately interested my future company, which hopes to be able to virtually model its entire production line in the food industry in order to anticipate possible problems upstream. This appealed to recruiters and I imagine that I will be able to use these skills in the future! »

Digital is now a necessity. 

It wasn't just the students who appreciated the collaboration. Co-founder of OUAT! and head of product development at the company, Matthieu Egloff also says he is satisfied with the joint project: "This project was ambitious because it was cross-disciplinary and was carried out in a relatively short period of time - it was both a work of planning, dimensioning and simulation of the vaccine manufacturing process, thanks to the digital twin. The students were inventive and creative in the renderings proposed!" Addressing future professionals is essential for him because, in his eyes, the integration of digital technology among biopharmaceutical players has now become essential. "Our goal is to provide new digital tools to allow women and men working in bioproduction plants to access information in an extremely simple and intuitive way. Having virtual replicas of real environments allows us to anticipate changes or predict certain operations such as the training of newcomers to the company. This is precisely what we worked on with Sup'Biotech students: when building a factory, they had to see how to train future users on processes and equipment handling, in particular via virtual reality. »