The idea is to pull additional information into the simulation environment, so that engineers don’t need to recreate those system variables to develop their control algorithms. They are viewing the same dynamic behavior in both environments and avoid reinventing the IP they have already created. Lennon said customers are interested and would like to see more of this happen. The MathWorks also has interfaces to SolidWorks, ProEngineer, and Autodesk, and continues to work on marrying together the engineering and simulation environments.
One point of emphasis has been on developing targets between Simulink and automation software programming environments. The evolution is helping customers who are following this adoption phase gain a new set of skills. The process is similar to their moving from a drafting board to 2D and 3D CAD models. The goal is to see the benefits in testing and software development, where fewer errors occur and the process is streamlined to achieve the targeted machine specifications.
One future scenario might see automation vendors providing block sets that would provide a motion profile input into a Simulink block for a servo drive, for example, in order to aid in programming more complex motions. The drive could be connected to an inertial or full mechanical model of the machine with multiple linkages, backlash, and friction. By operating that model, the user could see how the system would respond to different inputs. One master drive could be connected to several slave drives over cam profiles, for example, as is commonly found in the packaging industry.
“From an OEM point of view, these tools would provide an ability to visualize complex motions," said Lennon. “Comparing multiple axes on a simulation level would provide a significant benefit to viewing the overall process. As customers move to more axes and higher speeds, simulations would allow the user to see the dynamics of the machine that can’t be identified using a static analysis or a mechanical model.”
That main point is that with multi-domain modeling, there is a single point of contact with all of the three mechatronic domains. This includes the mechanical part that integrates physical modeling, the electrical part that integrates servo drive models from industrial automation suppliers, and of course all of the software and controls used in the machine which can be used to simulate operation before the user sets up the first physical prototype.
“One of the pain points for machinery builders is that they often don’t have a good idea if the software works until they commission their software on a real machine. If it doesn’t work, this can affect delays and impact delivery of machines to the end customer,” added Wallner.