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Faster to a finished machine

Author : Carola Schwankner

31 July 2020

Manufacturing OEMs are faced with the challenge of building increasingly customised, specialised machines – and getting them up and running as fast as possible. With no time to spend wrapped up in testing, how can they get their machines to market faster? The answer: using simulation and digital twin technology.

MapleSim is a highly efficient simulation tool used to create detailed models of machine components.

We've all been there – you get to the end of a long and frustrating project only to discover it doesn't meet the specified requirements or work the way it was intended. Suddenly, you're back to the drawing board. These situations are particularly devastating when you've just spent months and months building a very complex, very expensive machine. If developers were, instead, able to test a virtual version of the machine in advance, they could identify potential errors and correct them before the machine was ever built.

When a customer orders a new machine, they want it to be up and performing as expected as soon as possible. Nobody can afford to get to the unveiling of a finished machine, only to discover that it fails to deliver on the original requirements – neither the machine builder (who would have developed an entire machine for free, so to speak) nor the machine operator (who would be unable to start production until a new machine was built).

Digital machine testing

To avoid ending up in this dead-end street, machine builders rely on simulation. Different simulation tools can be used to create digital twins of individual mechanisms, entire machines or even complex plants, and use them to test all sorts of different manufacturing processes. "A good idea is only good if it actually works in practice," says Kurt Zehetleitner, head of B&R's simulation and model-based development team. "Simulation and digital twins give you the tools you need to make good ideas work – quickly, easily and inexpensively."

A digital twin is an exact digital duplicate of a real machine. It behaves and functions exactly like its sibling. This eliminates the need to build hardware prototypes as the machine is being developed. The real, physical machine is not built until everything is functioning smoothly in virtual form, performing just as the customer imagined it. That saves time and money.

Read the full article in the August issue of DPA.

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