Digital Twin Technology Comes to Packaging

ABB Robotics has introduced digital twin tools to its PickMaster robotic software in order to quickly design test production digitally before physical implementation.

Rob Spiegel

November 11, 2019

3 Min Read
Digital Twin Technology Comes to Packaging

Digital twin technology was originally associated with the design and simulation of products. It was then developed to also simulate the manufacturing process of those products. Now the technology has moved to packaging. In this effort, ABB Robotics has introduced digital twin technology into its PickMaster robotic software, now calling it PickMaster Twin. The goal is to use digital twin technology to shorten commissioning times of vision-guided, random flow picking and packing applications.

The PickMaster Twin lets users design packaging applications online and then use the same confiruation to drive the real-world version. (Imagesource: ABB Robotics)

ABB sees digital twin technology as a set of tools that can optimize the production line, shorten commissioning time, and speed change overs. “This technology improves the productivity of the full lifecycle of high-speed picking lines,” Henrik Knobel, packaging technology manager at ABB Robotics, told Design News. “As such, it shortens commissioning times from days to hours and change over times from hours to minutes.”

Creating a Simulated Line That Doubles as the Actual Line

The digital twin technology allows users to test out robotic configurations on virtual production lines before physical lines are built. The simulated twin can be directly connected to production operations, allowing the picking process to be optimized virtually at the same time as the process is being implemented. “Digital Twin technology enhances the user experiences by using the same 3D visual environment for offline design and simulation as well as for online connection, calibration synchronization, and further optimization of the picking process,” said Knobel.

PickMaster Twin was designed to offer greater flexibility and visualization of all complicated robotic maneuvers designed for flow-wrapping, tray loading, case and carton packing, and handling applications.

Designed for Ease of Deployment

Like a lot of the advanced manufacturing tools hitting the market this year, ABB’s system and digital tools are not more difficult to use just because they operate with greater sophistication. We’re seeing a common pattern of smart tools that are easier to use than their less sophisticated predecessors. “The digital twin technology makes it easier to deploy and lowers the risk of making mistakes as new recipes can be tested and optimized offline on the digital twin before they are put into operation in the factory production,” said Knobel.

PickMaster Twin was designed with intuitive interfaces built on ABB’s Ability Zenon Operations Data Management. The system provides colorful dashboards for easy data visualization. PickMaster Twin complies with OMAC PackML. The PickMaster software also features online visual tuning of the workspace in both X and Y directions in order to maximize output and increase OEE.


As for the logic behind developing digital twin tools for packaging, Knobel noted that the technology offers an overall improvement for the user. “Our interest was to make the commissioning and programing of robotic packaging programs easier and more efficient,” said Knobel. “ABB is in the forefront of driving digitalization for improving the efficiency and productivity of our automation portfolio for the fully automated factory of the future.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 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.

About the Author(s)

Rob Spiegel

Rob Spiegel serves as a senior editor for Design News. He started with Design News in 2002 as a freelancer and hired on full-time in 2011. He covers automation, manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, AI, and more.

Prior to Design News, he worked as a senior editor for Electronic News and Ecommerce Business. He has contributed to a wide range of industrial technology publications, including Automation World, Supply Chain Management Review, and Logistics Management. He is the author of six books.

Before covering technology, Rob spent 10 years as publisher and owner of Chile Pepper Magazine, a national consumer food publication.

As well as writing for Design News, Rob also participates in IME shows, webinars, and ebooks.

Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like