Five scenarios show how a virtual component library can further reduce the testing effort in mechanical and plant engineering.
In the meantime, it has been confirmed many times that digital test simulations significantly accelerate development processes and commissioning in mechanical and plant engineering, contribute to quality improvement and reduce costs. The virtual components, assemblies and systems are a 1:1 replica of their real counterparts, from the parameters to the interfaces to the control behavior. This requires two things: a sophisticated hardware-in-the-loop real-time simulation system and the components and assemblies of the respective plant in digital form. The basic building blocks are the individual components, which then - analogous to reality - form the assemblies, which in turn make up the plant. However, these components can be the same across different plant manufacturers and companies. It can be assumed that the individual manufacturer will install the same components in different plant configurations and that several companies will use identical components and component groups. Even plant builders from different industry segments may use the same components. Drive components in a printing system, a machine tool or a placement robot, for example, may be the same. So why not use an existing digital twin of a component across the industry - instead of trying to reinvent the wheel over and over again? There is a lot to be said for using a common platform for digital twins in mechanical and plant engineering.
One platform for all
Numerous machine and plant manufacturers do not operate their own simulation systems in-house, but instead rely on powerful real-time applications from service providers in which simulation and real control technology are optimally linked. Cloud solutions are becoming increasingly popular, as they enable access regardless of location and time. In addition, companies can concentrate on their core competencies instead of simulation software and have no maintenance and servicing costs for the simulation system. Under these conditions, it is only logical to build a platform in the next step. The simulation system, the tools for creating digital twins and a successively growing library of virtual components are integrated into this platform.
Everyone involved wins:
The machine and plant builders, as primary users of the simulation platform, gain significantly more application options.
The component suppliers increase their service friendliness towards their customers, and as co-users of the simulation system they improve their quality assurance.
The simulation platform supplier opens up significant added value for his customers compared to a single simulation system.
The following five examples show the many ways in which an integration platform with a growing virtual component library supports component and plant manufacturers.
Faster, more cost-effective, more innovative
1. Use what is already available
Virtual machines and plants are modular. The smallest unit is the component. Once stored in the library, it can be used again and again - by any company working with the simulation platform. The effort to digitize the component is incurred only once. It is to be expected that within the user community, each company will occasionally deliver itself and occasionally benefit from the preliminary work of the others.
2. Draw on the full range for small and large innovations
Development work is time-consuming and cost-intensive; it ties up resources. Medium-sized companies in particular tend to focus on further optimizing proven technology rather than breaking completely new technological ground. However, if the R&D department can safely and at relatively low cost experiment with components that have not previously been used in the company, many an innovative new development will result.
3. Be satisfied only with the best possible alternative
If it is necessary to replace a component or group of components in a plant with the product of another manufacturer, for example because the previous supplier is no longer available, the machine builder can now virtually run through all the variants available in the database and select the technically best solution with relatively little effort.
4. Standardization reduces costs
Initially, the number of virtual components available in the library will increase as more manufacturers use the simulation platform. However, it can be assumed that in the medium term, machine and plant manufacturers will more or less unconsciously initiate a trend toward standardization of similar components: Preference will be given to components available in the library. Both sides benefit from this - the component manufacturers and the plant engineers. After all, standardized components are usually technologically optimized and more cost-effective to manufacture.
The digital component library provides a crucial basis for running test simulations fully automatically in the future. In advance, the operator configures the test sequence with the aid of checklists. The system then independently pulls the appropriate data sets from the library and performs the computational processes. The simulation runs completely, and no one has to start the follow-up test manually.
Self is the supplier
In the past, the supplier of the simulation software often created the virtual plant components for its customers. Nowadays, many component manufacturers do this themselves. What's more, they also set up their digital twins in the simulation system themselves and thus use the testing options of this virtual world for their quality assurance. As a rule, the creation of the digital twin only involves a small amount of additional work for them, since they need the same data set for hardware production.
Numerous companies - suppliers as well as machine and plant manufacturers - are already convinced of the advantages of a jointly used simulation platform: They have committed themselves to it in discussions with the author and want to integrate their components, assemblies and control-specific tools with the support of ISG. The simulation platform of ISG Industrial Control Engineering currently includes extensive libraries for, for example, robot systems, drive technology, conveyor technology, gripping systems and sensor technology.
Application scenarios for simulation with digital twins
- Simulate commissioning and prepare the real IBN in the best possible way
- simulate maintenance work to reduce the time required for it
- train operating and service personnel on the virtual twin without blocking the plant for this purpose
- subject components, component groups and the overall system to digital tests in all phases of product development and thus find errors and weak points at a very early stage
- simulate the configuration and IBN when retrofitting existing systems in order to keep changeover times in production as short as possible
- simulate faults that would be too dangerous to trigger under real-time conditions or could damage the equipment
Measurable success in mechanical and plant engineering
If the commissioning of individual assemblies and the entire plant is simulated in advance with their digital twins, experience shows that the time required for real IBN can be reduced by around 80 to 90 percent. Development projects - both for the development of new products and for the redesign of existing machines - require 10 to 30 percent less time if the functionality of the individual components and their interaction as an assembly(s) is played through and optimized in virtual space before the prototype is manufactured.
Author: Dr. Christian Daniel, Business Manager Simulation Technology at ISG Industrielle Steuerungstechnik GmbH