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A Digital Twin can have several benefits including the ability to run in-line with the real machine to enable rapid task-planning and early detection of potential problems

Image: B&R Industrial Automation

Software & Engg Tools Efficient and cost-effective machine design with the Digital Twin

Jun 28, 2018

Manufacturers, today, are focusing on enhancing their production so as to cater to diverse customer demands. This pursuit has also led to complexity of machine design, due to which the time for software development and commissioning has also increased. This article highlights the perfect solution to overcome these challenges. A read on…

Today with new emerging technologies, individualisation has caught the eye of consumers, giving rise to customised products. To be able to cope with these requirements, plant operators have to shorten the time-to-market and become more efficient and flexible, while maintaining or even improving their quality. However, while trying to make production more agile, complexity of machine design, time for software development and commissioning is increasing. Digital Twin is a perfect solution to overcome this challenge. By providing companies with a complete digital footprint of machines, shop floor or products, the Digital Twin enables companies to detect physical issues sooner, predict outcomes more accurately and build better products with superior quality. Virtualisation is very powerful allowing the visibility of machine operations as well as large inter-connected manufacturing systems. The Digital Twin model can be used to predict the future state of the machines.

Digital Twin: A smart choice for Industrial IoT

Digital Twin is essentially a combination of data and intelligence, representing the structure, behaviour and context of a physical system of any type. It provides an interface that allows understanding the past and present operations of physical devices and systems and helps to predict the future. It also helps optimise the physical world and improves operational performance and business processes. Most of the companies get unstructured data when any device or a mechanical instrument fails or is about to fail. Companies follow static, read-and-react approach. It is a virtual representation of a physical asset, which reduces anticipations and guesswork and works on actual data.

Digital Twin is already being used today in a variety of industries including manufacturing, automotive, energy, transportation, construction and more. Companies in these sectors are leveraging this tool to optimise operation, asset performance and enhance maintenance of machines and factories. Industrial assets generate millions of data points. Integrating a Digital Twin with data generated from physical assets enables machine builders to decide whether or not to replace a device. An engineer can always update the parameters online so that the digital version matches the physical one.

A Digital Twin can have several benefits including the ability to run in-line with the real machine to enable rapid task-planning and early detection of potential problems. It also enables continuous process improvements, design improvements, operations, maintenance and conditional states of the machines. The implementation of enterprise asset management and lifecycle services strategy, around the concept of Digital Twin and within the overall Industrial IoT ecosystem, can provide significant benefits to machine builders. By integrating, a Digital Twin of the machine design on a real-time platform helps in accelerating commissioning, reducing risks and decreasing costs by configuring and testing in parallel with the real machine. Digital Twin and Industrial IoT are the primary trends affecting industrial businesses today and will continue to do so in the future. Industries pushing to modernise their systems and equipment must plan for the incorporation of these trends in their strategies.

Empowering machine builders with Digital Twin

The concept of the Digital Twin solves many of the manufacturer’s needs for observing and tracking what is happening on the shopfloor at a micro level. Machine builders can leverage this for faster time-to-market and reducing development costs. The machine builder usually develops a concept, builds mechanics and integrates electrical and automation components in the system. At this point, he starts developing the software. Due to this, the software team gets a very short time for development. In case of the need for rework in mechanics or concept, time as well as huge cost is incurred and eventually machine builders are unable to maintain the deadlines. With Digital Twin, B&R helps machine builders to virtually develop and test machines without the need for actual mechanics and electronics.

Automation studio, the single tool for programming all B&R components, has an inbuilt simulation environment, which enables simulation of controls, I/Os and even motion components. Apart from hardware, software and technology scalability with B&R system, machine builders can simulate the entire electronics even before they receive the hardware. In addition, development of machine software is platform independent. Using Maple Sim and Matlab, machine builders can even simulate the mechanics for dynamic modelling of machines and machine components. This simulation can be then imported in the automation studio, enabling machine builders to have a simulation environment down to mechanics.

Early testing and virtual commissioning can help keep errors in check despite increasingly complex application code. Simulated control systems linked to virtual machine components make it possible to verify application code long before the first prototype machine goes into operation. Machine builders with B&R virtual commissioning can accelerate and streamline the process of commissioning the actual machine. This minimises risk and ensures reliability in meeting project deadlines and achieving quality targets.

Smart manufacturing

To remain competitive in the era of industrial IoT, digital transformation is the need of the hour. Offering hardware and software solutions, B&R provides comprehensive service and expertise in automation and digitalisation of machinery. With dedicated technology and open source communication standards, such as, OPC UA, POWERLINK and openSAFETY as well as the powerful automation studio software development environment, the company helps in implementing Industrial IoT for both new and legacy equipment.

Courtesy: B&R industrial Automation

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