In the age of Industry 4.0, dig­i­tal­iza­tion is a key fac­tor for the devel­op­ment of future projects and inno­v­a­tive plants. In par­tic­u­lar, the use of dig­i­tal twins can offer new per­spec­tives in the devel­op­ment of PLC soft­ware, such as the pos­si­bil­i­ty of vir­tu­al commissioning.

Tanguy Guarinoni is study­ing engi­neer­ing at the Haute École de la Province de Liège in Belgium. As part of his master’s the­sis at Quality Automation, he cre­at­ed a dig­i­tal twin of our Fischertechnik mod­el to explore this method­ol­o­gy and show inter­est in future appli­ca­tions of this method.

A Fischertechnik fac­to­ry sim­u­la­tion served as a mod­el for the dig­i­tal twin. It con­sists of the mod­els sort­ing line with col­or recog­ni­tion, mul­ti-machin­ing sta­tion with kiln, auto­mat­ed high-bay ware­house and a vac­u­um suc­tion grip­per. With these sta­tions, a closed mate­r­i­al cycle is pos­si­ble. The work­pieces are retrieved from the high-bay ware­house, processed in the machin­ing sta­tion, then sort­ed by col­or in the sort­ing sys­tem, and then returned to the high-bay warehouse.

To cre­ate a dig­i­tal twin, the CAD files of the fac­to­ry were first need­ed. These were used to devel­op the twin with the Siemens pro­gram CAD/​CAM sys­tem NX. For each ele­ment, a so-called mesh­ing had to be defined, as well as the free­dom of move­ment, speed and oth­er impor­tant dimen­sions. In addi­tion, all exist­ing sen­sors were also meshed.

The next step was the vir­tu­al com­mis­sion­ing of the dig­i­tal twin, which was car­ried out with a sim­u­lat­ed PLC. In this way, not only the pro­gram­ming of the con­troller but also the cor­rect func­tion­al­i­ties of the dig­i­tal twin could be validated.

The mas­ter the­sis also includ­ed a direct com­par­i­son of the two sys­tems. Of the mod­el con­sist­ing of hard­ware and its pure­ly vir­tu­al twin. The results of this project are quite inter­est­ing and give us a lot of insight into the pos­si­bil­i­ties of vir­tu­al com­mis­sion­ing. Due to dig­i­tal­iza­tion and the con­tin­u­ous increase in decen­tral­ized work, sim­u­la­tions and vir­tu­al twins will play an increas­ing­ly impor­tant role in the future.