Machine design software generates open source Mechatronics program code

Machine design software generates open source Mechatronics program code

 
By Bill Lydon - Editor
 
Industry First!
 
I recently attended the introduction and a demonstration of Siemens Mechatronics Concept Designer™ software at IMTS on September 14, 2010. Siemens Mechatronics Concept Designer™ software is a game changer for companies that develop and implement any type of machine tools and production machines. Mechatronics Concept Designer provides tools that enable the entire development team to collaborate more effectively to design, simulate, and build a complete machine including Mechatronics. This method provides the opportunity to identify and easily correct issues early, before they become costly problems. To implement a design, Mechatronics Concept Designer generates the control application code in the PLCopen XML standard format to create programs for controllers.
 
 
Fully detailed machine at end of the design.
 
The software is part of Siemens PLM Software’s computer-aided design application NX™ software and works in conjunction with its Teamcenter® PLM software. This software allows machine builders to deliver solutions to meet customer requirements at lower costs and in less time. A major advantage is that designers can verify the virtual model of the machine running in simulation before designs are committed to implementation.
 
The output from Mechatronics Concept Designer can be used directly by multiple disciplines for detailed design work. Since Mechatronics Concept Designer is based on the NX CAD platform, it provides all of the mechanical design features needed for sophisticated CAD design. Mechatronics Concept Design also exports model data to many other CAD tools, including Catia, Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks, and the CAD-neutral JT format.   Machine control application code is output in the PLCopen XML standard format.
 
 
Machine and Mechatronics Simulation
     
Virtual Debug & Commissioning
This product closes the gap between machine design/simulation software, and controls implementation. Innovations in Product Life Cycle Management (PLM), modeling and simulation software are enabling virtual designs of machine, production lines and processes to avoid costly mistakes in actual implementation. The entire machine, including controls, can be debugged and commissioned virtually to find problems before committing to real machines and controls. This reduces the time it takes to start the manufacturing process and avoids costly rework at production startup time.
 
The Siemens Mechatronics Concept Designer is the first complete suite based on an open interchange standard. There are some other products that use proprietary interfaces to deliver control logic for specific controllers, but they lock the customer into one vendor. 
 
The development process in the machine tool industry requires experts from several different disciplines, including mechanical, electrical, and software design, to develop a complex machine to the specific requirements of each individual customer. Siemens Mechatronics Concept Designer enables mechanical, electrical, and automation disciplines to work in parallel. It includes mechanical design features while enabling the user to develop a list of sensors and actuators which can be easily selected and positioned, laying the foundation for the electrical engineers to create the layout plan. More efficient software development is supported through the ability to make the machine’s sequence of operations available in a standard format common in the machinery industry.
 
Working in conjunction with Teamcenter, Mechatronics Concept Designer delivers an end-to-end machine design solution with an integrated systems engineering approach. At the beginning of the development cycle, designers can use Teamcenter’s requirements management and systems engineering capabilities to build a functional model that ensures customer requirements are incorporated into the design.
 
 
Importing customer requirements from a Word document into Teamcenter
 
Reuse
Since portions of the design can be made into reusable software components, users can further increase productivity with other machine designs. These components become known, validated building blocks for physical design, sensor layouts and Mechatronics for other projects.
 
Competitiveness
At the introduction, Sal Spada, Research Director at ARC Advisory Group, commented, “Machine tool builders must improve development methods that span from conceptual design through detailed design.” “Specifically, development methods that facilitate conceptualization of a system early in the design process and track functional requirements with the implementation are essential to reducing time to market and ensuring that the completed system meets the customer expectations.” Spada punctuated that the use of improved development methods can make machine builders more competitive.
 
Simulation Engine
Mechatronics Concept Designer includes a state-of-the-art modeling and simulation capability based on NVIDIA® PhysX® technology. This physics engine, developed with the PhysX SDK from NVIDIA, is similar to the software technology used in many of today’s video games. This approach to simulation makes it easy to quickly create and interactively validate alternative design concepts.  The demonstration illustrated how the user is able to interact with the digital machine model while the simulation is running, providing the ability to test the effects of different inputs in real time. The ability to model real-world physical behavior in the virtual world enables early concept verification to detect and correct errors when they are least expensive to resolve.
 
PLCopen XML Control Logic Interchange Standard
The PLCopen XML Control Logic Interchange Standard used by Mechatronics Concept Designer is an open non-proprietary interface that defines the interchange of industrial and process control programs between machine controls, Product Life Cycle Management (PLM), Machine & Process Simulation, CAD, documentation software, and other systems. The PLCopen XML schemas and documentation as well as an introduction are available free to anyone at www.control-xml.com. The downloadable files include a 156-page explanation of the PLCopen XML Schema, a 58-page document on XML Formats for IEC 61131-3, and XML Schema files. The PLCopen standard has also gained acceptance by the AutomationML organization www.AutomationML.org.
 
Thoughts & Observations
Mechatronics Concept Designer may well be a major milestone in the development of integrated machine design software that starts with customer requirements and ends with implementation. 
 
It is much more efficient to have integrated design tools that can interact in a virtual environment for all the disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and software design. This approach eliminates the problems created when each design group “throws” their part of the design over the wall to the other groups.   When using these traditional, isolated methods, any design issues are not resolved until the machine is built, when expensive changes are required.
 
In a virtual environment, there is more room for creativity to do things better by using trial and error methods. This creativity leads to more efficient and innovative machine designs.
 
Siemens used the NVIDIA® PhysX for the simulation engine rather than, “reinventing the wheel.” This shows a refreshing openness to leveraging technology from other sources to accomplish their goals.
 
The open standards such as the PLCopen XML Schema would seem to indicate that the AutomationML Digital Factory concepts are starting to get traction.