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Siemens Digitizes Industrial Machines to Speed Development

Siemens PLM, industrial machinery, virtualization, simulation
Siemens has created Advanced Machine Engineering to reduce prototypes and reuse data.

Siemens PLM has created the Advanced Machine Engineering (AME) solution to provides a platform that connects mechanical, electrical, and software engineering data to allow engineers access to a completely digital machine-build prototype. This digital twin represents an industrial machine operation that can be tested virtually throughout the development process. The goal of the engineering platform is to increase collaboration and reduce development time, while also reducing risk and allowing for the reuse of existing designs.

The AME uses modularized product development to establish common parts and processes among a family of products while defining functional modules that can be easily modified to meet specific requirements support changes. In other words, you can build the manufacturing process like a collection of Legos (chunks of software), then customize the configuration and test it before you begin banging equipment into place.

Mechatronic design provides a common platform for concurrent product development. Image courtesy of Siemens PLM

By involving mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and software development processes simultaneously, you shift away from the more time-consuming serial development process. You create a concurrent method that effectively turns the process into mechatronics.

Siemens developed the AME into order to speed the time it takes to set up plant equipment while also making the machine configurations easier to customize. “We created this for companies that are making automation control equipment, packaging machines, printing machines, anything that has a lot of mechanical systems and components, as well as sensors, and drives,” Rahul Garg, senior global director of industrial machinery and heavy equipment at Siemens PLM, told Design News. “Typically, these are the companies making products and machines that go into a plant.”

Creating the Modular Plant

One of the goals in developing AME was to make plant equipment modular, so the overall configuration of plant processes could be done more quickly and with greater flexibility. The digitized modular plant concept was also designed to reduce risk and engineering time. The process can be design and tested digitally. “Many of these companies need to serve their end customers with increasing customization,” said Garg. “We wanted to create the ability to modularize the machine structure to deal with customization and quickly respond to engineering or systems changes.”

Leverage a digital twin to virtually test complex machine requirements. Image courtesy of Siemens PLM

The modular approach to managing plant equipment also supports change, especially since much of the engineering to support the change is worked out on a digital level using existing modules that are already validated. “This improves the way the machine builders manage the end-customer requirements. Those requirements are change. How do you, manage that change? Get the engineering communicated to the shop floor and to those who service the products,” said Garg. “We are trying to improve the way they manage the engineering process and schedules to better control and improve the risk while working on large projects.”

Mechatronics on the Machine Level

The idea is to build new functionality into the equipment driven by automation and analytics. The intention is to turn it into an easy and rapid process. “You have to deliver the innovation in a fast process and reuse it,” said Garg. “The idea is to create a digital twin of the machine where you can simulate the entire behavior of the machine using control software and control applications. You drive the systems with the software.”

The AME contributes to the concept of the digital twin, which digitizes a product from design, through configuration, and into operation at the customer’s plant. “What we are trying to do is create manufacturing functions through the visualization process,” said Garg. “Then we want to take digitation further, by closing the loop with the physical product. Once the plant equipment is out in the field and the customers start using the equipment and machines, we want the ability to see and monitor the performance of the equipment and see how it’s performing.” 

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Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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