Virtual production solutions for automation How can complex production processes be consistently simulated and safeguarded from planning to virtual commissioning?

Virtual production solutions for automation

How can complex production processes be consistently simulated and safeguarded from planning to virtual commissioning?

While Industry 4.0 slowly finds its way into production processes, the digital factory has already been established for some time in a number of sectors. Corresponding software solutions for the digital factory already help companies to define, validate, simulate and optimize their production processes to be efficient and cost-effective.

The virtual automation of production processes begins long before the start of production, i.e. in the early phase of layout definition and process planning. Then it extends from the selection of optimal production variants to the concrete engineering with detailed plant configuration as well as robot and machine simulation and offline programming.

Using mechatronic components and resources combined with the schematic logic definition of the production cell or line, the exact behavior of the cell can be defined and depicted in a much simpler and more realistic fashion. A digital twin defined in this manner can also be connected to the real control system. This way, it can be ensured that the simulated and real behavior match. The simulation is based on the same logic used in PLC programming and, thus, corresponds with the real plant behavior later.

Not always do layouts consist of standard components

It is all the more important to also integrate assembly-specific components into existing layouts. Ideally, the software provides smart functions by means of which the layout can be supplemented with project-specific components.

Such open software infrastructures also enable a significantly simpler collaboration with engineering partners by means of a standardized, system-neutral data exchange of complete plant data or device data, including kinematic and logic definitions. The AML standard, among others, is suitable for this purpose. In addition, PLCOpen is available as a communication interface for connection of virtual or real plant control and robot control systems.

A look at a real-world application

With fulfillment of the aforementioned criteria, the virtual plant model of CENIT's FASTSUITE Edition 2 can be used as a digital twin for early validation of the plant control system (PLC). This results in significantly shortened project times.

FASTSUITE Edition 2 uses a "shared memory" approach for the simulation. The simulation data is written from the control system in this shared memory. The 3D visualization, in turn, loads this simulation data. This shared memory approach also makes it possible to replace the control system emulators used up until the acceptance phase with real control system components and thus to conduct a PLC validation and virtual commissioning. Because the entire layout already consists of mechatronic simulation models, linking the digital plant model with software-in-the-loop or hardware-in-the-loop is advantageous. This allows the virtual model to be tested against the real controls before the real system is ready to be placed into operation. Virtual commissioning supports parallel workflows between the plant engineering and software development and hence reduces risks, errors and downtimes in production.

As soon as the manufacturing cell have been started up, the same virtual layout can be used to introduce new parts and products with the offline programming functions. The time-consuming teach-in and the production interruptions that go with it can be omitted.

Regardless of the applied solutions, one thing is certain:

Virtual process design and safeguarding offer clear potential for efficient design of production processes. Can you take advantage of this? We would gladly help you to.

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