The digital twin comes to life

The demands in special-purpose machine manufacturing for the pharmaceutical industry are changing. The strategy of the mechanical engineering company Bausch + Ströbel in Ilshofen, Germany, is based on achieving significant increases in efficiency using digital twins of its machines in order to be able to meet requirements faster.

The pharmaceutical industry is a demanding ­clientele and expects more than “just” technological innovations from mechanical engineers: “On the one hand, clients are asking for highly specialized plants with extensive customer service. On the other hand, there is a trend toward standardized machines with a high degree of flexibility and short delivery periods,” explains Dr. Hagen Gehringer, managing director of Bausch + Ströbel. In order to meet both goals, he maintains a close collaboration with Siemens in the areas of digital engineering and automation. He has also adapted the structure of the company’s work groups to the possibilities afforded by digital technologies. Their goal is to increase engineering efficiency by at least 30%.

Virtual testing of machines

In the past, a full-sized wooden model based on ­customer specifications was produced to test factors such as mechanical characteristics, ergonomics, and transport routes. It was not until the tests had been completed that the actual machine was built and then ­programmed.

Bausch + Ströbel, who has been using NX for CAD construction and Teamcenter as its data backbone, began taking a new direction as early as 2012. The data from the digital design of the machine with NX for Design are used, among other things, for mapping the new machine at a scale of 1:1 and in 3D on a large screen in the company’s virtualization center. In this early concept phase, it is possible to simulate complete motion sequences. That allows both Bausch + Ströbel clients and engineers to see the design and functions of a machine at a very early stage in a virtual environment. Special glasses and stereoscopic 3D vision provide a realistic impression, because the movements of the users are also recorded and reproduced on-screen. The effects are so life-like that users quickly forget they are only dealing with a virtual model.

“What helps us enormously is the parallel between the physical construction of the machine and the digital model. It enables us to align the digital images with the client and start programming,” says Dr. Gehringer. The development teams that up to now had been separate units at Bausch + Ströbel were merged to form interdisciplinary units. Today the opportunities of digitalization can be leveraged so that all work relating to design, electronics, mechanics, and programming can happen simultaneously and as a joint effort. All findings from the simulations and testing with the digital twin of a machine go back into the data pool, which is managed with Teamcenter. The digital twin enables a virtual commissioning where flaws can be reliably detected and corrected. This significantly shortens commissioning time.

Anticipated improvement

The digital twin is used beyond the construction phase and delivery of the actual machine. Findings and data gathered during operation are remitted to Bausch + Ströbel, so the company has a virtual copy of each machine at hand at all times. This is ideal for providing customer service and is a real competitive advantage.

Another advantage is the time saved during ­engineering. Dr. Gehringer expects an increase in efficiency of at least 30% until 2020 – and Bausch + Ströbel has joined forces with Siemens to achieve this goal. Totally Integrated Automation Portal (TIA Portal) will support the company from now on to reduce isolated solutions and increase engineering efficiency.

What drives us when it comes to digitization is that it will bring added value to the client.
Dr. Hagen Gehringer, Managing Director of Bausch + Ströbel

This is the goal defined by Dr. Gehringer: “We know that we have the right take on digitization if the client approaches us with an order and we can configure it within two days on-site, so that processes and modules are defined and we can get started with the development process very soon.” The digital twin plays an important role in this process.


Picture credits: Bausch + Ströbel

It is hard to miss the Bausch + Ströbel Maschinenfabrik Ilshofen GmbH & Co. KG production plant in the outskirts of the peaceful little village of Ilshofen in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. For nearly 50 years, filling and packing plants for the pharmaceutical industry have been manufactured here with great success, and have to a large extent been exported worldwide. The mechanical engineering company has been relying on the strong market acceptance of Siemens hardware for a number of years. The company uses software and digitalization as a key to consistency in its engineering.

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