Faster time-to-market with a digital twin

New machines for the innovation-driven electronics industry have to be developed and put into operation very quickly. Chinese company Bozhon has joined forces with Siemens to do just that.

Streaming the latest episode of your favorite TV series on the train is no longer a vision of the future, it’s a daily reality. The latest apparel, books, or even food: Today nearly everything can be purchased with a tap of your finger on your smartphone. Consumers expect new products to be delivered at once, to be of the highest quality, and include the most recent technology. That goes for smartphones, too: users expect them to constantly have the very latest technology, and frequently buy a new replacement model after just a short period of time. 

A secretive industry with short production cycles

If companies in the high-tech and electronics industry want to meet the strong competitive pressures, they have to keep their innovation and production cycles as short as possible in order to bring out new products faster than their competitors. It is also important to keep the competition from learning about your operations, because every detail about the machines used allows conclusions to be drawn about production. The short product and innovation cycles in the electronics industry also place a tremendous amount of time pressure on machine manufacturers. They are expected to deliver high-precision machines for manufacturing the new models – and they have to do so as quickly as possible while maintaining absolute secrecy. Fast engineering is required, as are fault-free machines. One company that can hold its own in this difficult market and is highly familiar with challenges faced by its customers is Chinese machine manufacturer Bozhon Precision Industry Technology Co.Ltd. Bozhon worked with Siemens on one of its many current projects that included the development of a digital twin.

The project Bozhon and Siemens had in mind sounded a little unusual at first: In the lead-up to the Hannover Messe, in Germany Siemens created a digital twin for a machine that was being manufactured concurrently in China. It involved an assembly cell with robot arms, and it was used at the trade show to demonstrate how the front and back of a cell phone housing are joined together. 

Virtual commissioning saves a great deal of time

Bozhon’s objective: to achieve up to 30% in time savings by improving engineering efficiency accelerate the development, delivery, and commissioning of new machines at the customer site. To simulate the desired end product, a virtual 3D model of the planned machine was created, including an interface with the open, cloud-based IoT operating system MindSphere. This enabled data to be recorded and analyzed during subsequent operations and in this way to facilitate actions such as predictive maintenance and power optimization.

The digital twin was a fully detailed representation of the actual prospective machine that would allow its sequences of movement to be simulated. The outcome: the entire value chain was comprehensively represented, tested, and optimized in digital form, from product design through planning and designing the machine itself, all the way to the production process and performance. For Bozhon the development of a digital twin was the right course to pursue, as Karl Chen, CMO of Bozhon, explains: "The development of a digital twin enabled us to meet the demand for simulations. We expect digital twins to include more functions in the future and therefore further enhance companies’ long-term competitiveness."

While the developers were working step-by-step to simulate the machine using the digital twin while also completing a virtual commissioning process, the real machine was being manufactured at the same time in China. Fast development and commissioning of machines creates a crucial advantage for machine manufacturers in their race against the competition – and the digital twin puts them a step ahead.

2018-03-26

Picture credits: gettyimages, Publicis Pixelpark

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