In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama challenged Americans to be more innovative. That means developing new materials, new products and new production processes. To tackle that challenge, manufacturing engineers must harness the power of “smart assembly” tools and systems.
Proctor & Gamble Co., which manufactures batteries, razors and other consumer goods, is on the cutting edge of adopting DM/VP technology. “Unquestionably, the biggest benefit to DM/VP is speed-to-market,” says Tim Storer, P&G’s digital manufacturing product manager. “This benefit can emerge from several different sources, from accelerated validation to reuse of design knowledge to fewer prototype iterations. Ultimately, this allows firms to compress the delivery cycle without sacrificing quality.”
According to Storer, one of the key capabilities of DM/VP technology is real-time validation of design. “Models running in the background are able to analyze the current cross-functional design and flag issues before the design is complete,” he explains. “This allows knowledge-based decisions to be made as early as possible in the design cycle.
“DM/VP integrates mechanical, electrical and control systems by sharing common data in a neutral format or database,” adds Storer. “Accordingly, exchange of information is performed in real-time rather than during a discrete validation event.”
“Development methods that facilitate conceptualization of a system early in the design process and track functional requirements with the implementation are essential to reducing time to market,” says Slansky. “To address that need, we’re seeing the emergence of new software platforms that go beyond traditional product lifecycle management (PLM) programs. They bring together multiple elements, including virtual commissioning, and a closed-loop synchronization between physical production systems and upstream product design.”
For example, Siemens PLM Software, recently unveiled a software program based on computer game technology that makes it quicker and easier to design new machines and simulate their complex functions at an early stage. Depending on the task involved, the Mechatronics Concept Designer reduces development time by up to 20 percent. It makes it possible for all specialist departments to develop a machine together right from the start instead of successively, as was the case in the past.
Slansky says an interdisciplinary development platform enables engineers to evaluate various mechanical and electrical component designs jointly, long before any physical prototyping or testing is possible. For instance, a mechanical engineer can create a design based on 3D shapes and components, such as kinematics, gears and cams. Working on a collaborative simulation platform, an electrical engineer can select and position components such as sensors, actuators and servos. An automation and controls engineer can use the platform to design the basic logic control, as well as motion control programming. A
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