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Commissioning a new production machine, cell, or line is a crucial phase of a project. It demonstrates whether the overall system – consisting of mechanics, electrical systems, and automation – will operate as planned. Unplanned behavior can quickly lead to delays and high costs – virtual commissioning greatly reduces this risk.
The first step is to prepare a mechatronic model based on the 3D data that maps the physical and kinematic properties of the machine. This virtual model is linked to the actual PLC program of the real system, thereby validating the overall automation system. Depending on the requirements either a real or virtual controller can be used for this purpose. Combining these two simulation models results in a Digital Twin of the real machine that helps to simulate, validate, and optimize its behavior. All insights obtained and errors discovered can be used for optimization purposes before the real production begins. This reduces the time, risk, and costs involved in actual commissioning.
The Six Sigma model describes the importance of detecting possible errors at an early stage. It helps calculate the error quotas that occur during a business process. The key finding of the model is that undetected errors are propagated along the value chain. The later an error is detected, the more expensive it is to eliminate; the costs grow by a factor of ten per development step. That’s why virtual commissioning has so much potential – for machine and plant builders and for manufacturing enterprises in general.
Virtual commissioning from Siemens makes it possible to conduct machine commissioning tests early in the development phase. What-if scenarios can be tested with no risks involved, the engineering error quota gets reduced, and the security validated – before the real machine even exists.
Problems or errors detected in a virtual environment do not cause expensive repairs, and can be eliminated fast and efficient. During the real machine assembly, the virtual machine can be used for testing and debugging of the PLC code – enabling a more effective and flexible use of resources.
Tests and simulation of a machine using virtual commissioning enables a smooth transition to real commissioning. This significantly shortens the cost-intensive, risky, and slow commissioning phase. Large and complex machines that often only can be verified on the customer’s premises can be tested ahead of time using a digital twin of the customers’ production line. Virtual commissioning from Siemens therefore helps prevent expensive damage to the real machine. The total time required for commissioning the actual machine can be reduced by as much as 70 percent.
By networking and parallelizing the design, construction, and programming phases, the simulations and tests allow the production systems and processes to be thoroughly optimized before actual commissioning. Even ideation for next generation products can benefit from the flexibility and efficiency gained in the simulation process.
Digital models are built efficiently using Mechatronic Concept Designer, which provides many ways to save time when creating digital models for virtual commissioning. These include reusing mechatronic components and linking and kinematizing machine components.
Through simulation, these models can be used at an early stage of the development in order to try out alternative solutions, and even be connected to an actual controller to verify the machine concept. This connection can be established with a real controller (SIMATIC, SINUMERIK) or a virtual one (PLCSIM Advanced). By the use of real PLC code we get a very realistic simulation, also early in the development phase.
The Digital Twin can not only be used for virtual commissioning, it can also be used in training of machine operators. This way, they can familiarize themselves with the handling of a machine or system and the human machine interface (HMI) before they begin operating in the physical world. This helps reduce orientation time on the machine.
Siemens makes this possible by rigorously linking the design with software tools for Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) to the automation components of Totally Integrated Automation (TIA). This comprehensive, end-to-end portfolio provides a wide range of unique validation options.
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