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Machinery Benefits of a Multi-Disciplinary Design

Multi-disciplinary design is a game changer for collaborative machine engineering.

Multi-disciplinary design is a game changer for collaborative machine engineering.

Building a machine is a complicated process in the industrial machinery industry that previously focused on mechanical CAD and the functioning assembly and arrangement. Complex machines are currently mechanical marvels; however, in the last 20 years, electrical power has been a part of motors, rotary equipment, and camshaft gears. Furthermore, advanced computing is the driver via software, controlled by PLCs and CNCs. Mechanical design is no longer in one space, with the electrical design and schematics in silos. Software is now an essential part of the equation in providing optimum design.

Multi-Disciplinary Design 

All engineering disciplines must work cohesively to ensure the design is completed on time and cost-effectively manufactured and commissioned. As a result, machine manufacturers are leveraging a multi-disciplinary design approach, inciting manufacturing to better efficiency. Multi-disciplinary design assesses the complexities of machine building, including engineering design and manufacturing. 

For decades the machine manufacturer's priority was CAD and manufacturing parts within tolerance for everything to function mechanically. The machine was primarily a mechanical piece of equipment, like automobiles or airplanes. Therefore, the mechanical design would reside in one area, with the electrical design, schematics, and software development in another location.

However, this dynamic changes with motors and equipment transitioning to gears driven by software and PLC codes to accelerate performance-based programs. Also, this software must adapt to conditions on the floor, with the machine responding to real-time sensor readings. For example, basic processes like a cylinder extending and retracting based on the pressure differential and flow regulation – technologies previously unavailable to small and medium-sized businesses due to cost. This scenario increases mechanical capabilities and features by using software – a game-changer for machine designers.

The multi-disciplinary design blends all capabilities and skillsets for advancing machine engineering into a collaborative environment, paying dividends in output quality of the machine design with everything working collaboratively. It is an art form instead of merely bolting on electrical, sensors, and cable runs. It is an integrated solution.

Machining – New Approach

Manufacturers can no longer follow the established method: “we used to design it – build it and then see if it worked by testing it.” Machinery companies are aggressively compressing timelines to push sophisticated machinery to market. Therefore, there is a substantial effort to provide simulation into the design process, thus incorporating a multi-discipline domain, finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, vibration, and harshness.

Furthermore, machine builders are relying on a comprehensive digital twin. The digital twin represents the physical machine, its performance, and the manufacturing recipe. It corresponds to everything that creates the machine: mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, fluid, pneumatics, design domains, performance, simulation, and automation code. The digital twin also encompasses manufacturing and the service life, from the point of origination to the end of life, when it gets recycled.

Additionally, design exploration is more profitable when simulating the complete digital machine for displaying the performance virtually. Therefore, items like Mechatronics Concept Designer, a digital industry software with kinematics to define PLC code, portray a virtual twin, allowing designers to ascertain failures and perform work early in the process quickly. Realistically, it's the same work completed by the team but is now in a synchronized, collaborative manner.

The collaboration parts of the mechanical system that have reached a level of maturity can be available to the electrical and software teams to perform upfront, 90-degree motion kinematics. Therefore, knowing the limits of a mechanism's function allow inputting that knowledge into building the mechanical behavior during simulation. Being mindful of the behavioral action from the mechanical allows incorporating that knowledge into the PLC software.

Subsequently, as companies move towards a collaborative approach, the traditional processes cannot be cast aside without migration. When adopting new technologies, companies in machinery and automation must not consume them simultaneously because the business cannot sustain it culturally. However, we are witnessing companies adopting these innovations successfully. 

Pharmaceutical Packaging Machinery Example

There is a global market leader in pharmaceutical packaging machinery, known for their high-precision activity for over a half-century, building specialized machines for pharmaceutical companies to fill and package ampules, bottles vials, disposable syringes, and pens.

Siemens Digital Industries Software supports more than 90 percent of their filling plants' exportation. Therefore, they depend on a systematic digitalization of the entire value chain: from design to simulation and optimization at its virtualization center to commissioning and servicing. Simulation, using a digital twin, reproduces a digitalized future machine as a complex virtual model. However, singularly, digitalization does not achieve optimal success.

Therefore, customers are brought into a virtual reality wall to interact with the machine digitally. This scenario pays huge dividends financially. Similarly, it unites the engineering upfront in the design, collaborating various disciplines in testing the machine code while compressing the delivery schedule by over 25 percent.

Software Code Validation

Virtual machine simulation and commissioning is another significant benefit of adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to machine design. This technology refers to how a machine proves or validates the software code in the virtual world before physically operating on the factory floor. 

The software is driving the machines. Consequently, simulating the code running on a virtual twin of the machine generates considerable dividends in time and resources. Furthermore, validations of the PLC software are in a managed environment using virtual commissioning, with an entire modular product development strategy. So, machine builders can perform the simulation upfront and link the software to the modules. 

Financially, virtual commissioning and visualization pay enormous dividends for companies. No one purchases a machine sight unseen. Likewise, they will not buy it because it has been virtually simulated by software code. A customer must validate that a machine works before shipping it to their plant. 

However, because many software integrations and safety factors are essential to run a machine, this can be a demanding task to perform physically while the customer is present. Therefore, a virtual world is ideal for turning a machine on and performing real commissioning. It combines the engineering upfront in the design and collaborates the various disciplines in machine code testing.

Software Solutions

Siemens Digital Industries Software drives the transformation to enable a digital enterprise where engineering, manufacturing, and electronics design meet tomorrow.

Xcelerator is a comprehensive, integrated portfolio of software, services and an application development platform. The portfolio accelerates the transformation of businesses into digital enterprises. It unlocks a powerful industrial network effect – essential requirements to leverage complexity as a competitive advantage, no matter the industry or company, to transition seamlessly to create tomorrow's complex, efficient machines.

Rahul Garg is Vice President of Industrial Machinery and the SMB Program for Siemens Digital Industries Software. He and his team are responsible for identifying and delivering strategic initiatives and developing solutions for the industry, working closely with industry-leading customers and providing thought leadership on new, emerging issues facing the machinery industry. Rahul’s experience and insights are derived from a 25-year career of delivering software-based solutions for product engineering and manufacturing innovation for the global manufacturing industry. He has held leadership positions in multiple areas, including research and development, program management, sales and P&L management, having focused exclusively on the industrial machinery and heavy equipment industry since 2007. Rahul holds a master’s degree in Computer Science from Wayne State University, with a concentration in Operations Management and Strategic Marketing, as well as a Bachelor of Computer Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from Bombay University.

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