There is increasing pressure to improve customer experience and increase profitability. As a result, organizations are embracing digital transformation and disrupting business models with new value propositions. One of these technologies is advanced simulation technologies. For example, Emulate3D dynamic digital twin software can help manufacturers simulate and emulate a production cell, complete production system, or manufacturing line before you even lay the first circuit board.

Nicola Iovine, Strategic Business Developer EMEA, Digital Design and SaaS at Rockwell Automation believes three primary drivers for adopting digital twin technology exist. “The first one is about reducing costs, especially the energy cost and performing commissioning and testing virtually is a big benefit,” he says. “The second driver is COVID. During that time, everyone experienced the benefits of working remotely, not accessing the physical equipment. Last but not least is sustainability. There is a substantial material and energy waste during testing, which can be reduced through virtual testing.”

With a dynamic digital twin, machine builders can test their machines without waiting for the machine to be built physically. “When designing their machine, they normally start with a mechanical or electrical CAD,” Iovine explains. “By reusing their mechanical CAD, they can add configurations and kinematics and make it dynamic, not just a digital replica or a digital model. It means that it is not just a 3D visual of the model, but it is also dynamic and physics-based, and you can move around it, test the full machine or load boxes.”

This approach is equally relevant for a single machine, a production cell, or an entire line. “When integrating machines on a full line, normally every machine builder provides its digital twin that integrates into complete line digital twin,” Iovine adds. “This allows for testing the throughput or identifying any bottleneck between one machine at another. It is an ecosystem of machine builders, system integrators and engineering companies.”

Virtual commissioning or controls testing is an integral part of advanced simulation technologies. This is where the automation system and PLC codes are verified. “As soon as you have the digital model, you can begin virtual commissioning; it does not matter if the machine is not ready or waiting for components,” Iovine continues. “You can test the PLC code against the digital model as if it was the real machine because the digital model will emulate the behaviour of the physical machine.”

Each phase of the development process places different demands on the dynamic modelling software. As projects evolve from presentations to throughput analysis and eventually to installation and ramp-up, the typical workflow designed into simulation software can eliminate rework and minimize errors. “It all starts with the design of the machine, through commissioning, and then operations and maintenance,” Iovine explains. “The digital model is not a one-off model; it is dynamic, and you can use it all through all the different stages.

“It can be used as a sales tool to display the concept and design of a new machine; you can simulate throughput and conduct virtual commissioning. But it does not end there; it can be used for operator training before the machine is physically available, and then finally, you can use it for maintenance. It covers the entire lifecycle of the machine and accurately reflects the current state.”