Next generation automation will make manufacturing smarter and more efficient with 3D simulation for installation engineering of automation lines, immersive virtual reality devices, big data, and analytics for decision support.
E-Technologies Group continuously works towards maximum efficiency and is always seeking ways to manage costs for our customers. 3D simulation is becoming an increasingly important part of our engineering work process. Advances in CPU and computer graphics technologies have transformed yesterday’s mathematical models into larger simulations that reliably represent systems and equipment, both in terms of data flow and real-world physical characteristics. The ability to connect the actual application code to models allows a realistic virtual environment for design validation and optimization. This capability has transformed the way we engineer and optimize solutions.
How this works
Models are built and connected to application code quickly by experienced automation engineers. Once built, the model is validated and the design is observed utilizing realistic production scenarios. Modern manufacturing processes such as spiral conveyors, inclines, declines, elevators and other critical transformations are accurately represented.
Some modern 3D simulation packages also contain physics engines that allow the models to include not only process-related calculations such as throughput, but also physical calculations of product collisions to analyze product falling from a conveyor. By applying physical traits to virtual product in the 3D simulation, controls engineers gain additional insight into the system’s functionality, allowing further optimization before stepping foot on the factory floor.
Why use 3D simulation?
While 3D models of a real-world system are not perfect, we can leverage today’s computing power and software packages to create models and simulations that are remarkably accurate and produce reliable results. With communication standards such as OPC, we can also connect these 3D simulations to real PLCs and run controls code against the models. This technology allows our controls engineers to virtually debug, test and validate code before it gets delivered to site. They can run as many simulated scenarios as they need to work out any issues with their code long before a start-up takes place. With more reliable code, engineering time and cost to get a new line up and running is significantly reduced. 3D simulations also benefit from an infinite supple od virtual product and materials, further reducing cost of testing the controls code on site, either during a start-up or normal production.
3D simulations are also a valuable tool for existing production lines. Our controls engineer is able to make modifications to the PLC code and test the results without impact in production. Overall line speed changes, new product formats, and physical design changes can all be tested and virtually validated while a line is still in production. taking advantage of this technology has the potential to reduce risk, save engineering hours, and limit loss of raw materials from making code changes directly on the factory floor.
Additionally, 3D simulations are a great training resource for engineers and line operators. A 3D virtual factory layout provides a safe and calm environment for operators and engineers to learn the process and how to approach any issues that arise. Since the 3D simulations are software driven, they are mobile and easily distributed to engineers at different locations. When a simulation is connected directly to a PLC running real-world code, operators and engineers can also run HMIs against the simulation and learn how to interact with the system remotely. By utilizing 3D simulations as a training tool, operators can be prepared for the production environment reducing the risk of downtime caused by errors due to inexperience.
What can I get out of 3D simulation?
3D simulations improve the engineering work process, streamline start-up, and result in better production systems. Engineers can virtually validate controls code and optimize processes in an offline and disconnected environment. The system’s end-users can better visualize and input to the design as solutions are being created. Both new and existing processes are brought into full production faster due to better debugging optimization, and improved training by using the virtual environment. This results in a more productive and safer start-up. The entire project team can be confident that the design will work before any physical or code modifications are made. After systems are turned over to production, models remain useful for running new production scenarios, making reliability improvements and training resources. This advanced technology can transform both engineering and operations when properly applied and fully implemented as a tool for smarter manufacturing.