PLM Tools Speed Developments
Latest collaborative tools help compress manufacturing time-to-market with global virtual designs
Collaborative product development through product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions has reached the critical stage where manufacturers must use virtual development tools in order to meet global time-to-market and quality demands. New virtual design and development tools now allow fast and precise modeling of product development processes, including the latest systems offering accurate virtual commissioning of plant layouts and automation gear on the factory floor.
PLM software tools and services have gained traction as manufacturers in aerospace, automotive, and other industries have realized the value of PLM, and its subset digital manufacturing tools, in effectively managing farflung global product design, development, and manufacturing efforts. As outsourcing and global factory operations have become more common, manufacturers are embracing PLM technologies as a way to speed product development processes.
Worldwide demand for PLM software and services grew at a 13.5% growth rate to reach an estimated $24.3 billion in 2007, according to market researcher CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI), exceeding the company's earlier forecasts. Manufacturers are investing heavily in PLM as management recognizes the value of PLM for companies of all sizes, notes Ed Miller, CIMdata president.
"Executive-level recognition of the significant business value of PLM is driving increased implementation of the approach," Miller says. "Many of these far-reaching systems extend beyond engineering design to a broad range of activities—from early-stage product strategy development and planning, to product engineering and manufacturing engineering, and through to product maintenance and support." PLM investments will continue to climb, as CIMdata forecasts PLM increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 9.8%, expanding the market to nearly $40 billion by 2012.
"One of the primary trends that we're seeing now, that's been a part of the Dassault vision for a long time, is the concept of true virtual product development—the ability in the computer to be able to design, manufacture, test, and even service products virtually, before you really start any physical design or tooling construction," notes Bob Brincheck, PLM director, Dassault Systèmes America (Woodland Hills, CA, and Paris).
"Ten years ago, there was more best-in-class type of approach, where you could use a really good CAD tool, a different, good product data management tool, and a different and good manufacturing simulation tool, and as long as you had a couple of threads between those tools, you could make it work and see a lot of benefits," Brincheck adds. "But the whole best-in-class philosophy, while it might give you some useful initial benefits, it causes a lot of long-term issues."
Virtual plant-floor commissioning of assembly lines and factory layouts can be a boon to manufacturers trying to compress product development cycles. In aerospace, automotive, and other transportation products, the melding of mechanical, electronic, and software systems is becoming common, notes Brincheck. "The separation between physical CAD, PDM, and manufacturing really causes some problems," he adds. "One of the recent Delmia technologies is Delmia Automation's virtual commissioning. For a long time, we've had robot simulation. I can program a robot and simulate how that robot does its task and actually create code for the robot. But the robot oftentimes has some simpler automation that's more PLC-based or more actuator-based, and the robot has systems that start it, stop it, and provide it with the electricity or hydraulics or whatever's driving it so it can run.
"Problems around commissioning have typically been that you'll get a robot in place, and the robot will run through the routine that it needs to run through. But the automation, tooling, or the machines that I'm using to feed the robot partsᰬthe conveyor line, or other components of automation—don't necessarily work as a system. So when large assembly lines are commissioned, manufacturers often spend many weeks just getting all the stuff to work."
To help solve that puzzle, Dassault teamed up with Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee) in December 2007 to jointly develop an integrated digital factory and plant-operations solution. Under the agreement, Rockwell Software's RSLogix 5000 control programming and configuration software would be integrated with Dassault's Delmia Automation PLM software. "What the Delmia Automation solution does is that we've partnered with some major automation suppliers like Rockwell and we can actually simulate how their product works—we're able to develop code for that product from the simulation," Brincheck notes. "We put that simulation in the context of the robots and the control panels—down to the solenoids, actuators, and whatever else is on that assembly line— and then I can literally virtually commission that product. Before I set it up at the plant, I can run that assembly line virtually. I can debug all of those systems, and make sure that my manufacturing line will work, so that when I come in to install it, it's actually going to run correctly."
Focusing on 3-D technology, Dassault last year also added more core 3-D capabilities with the acquisition of Seemage Inc., a developer of 3-D product-documentation software. Along with its earlier 3DLive software technology, Dassault rebranded Seemage's package as 3DVia Composer, which complements the 3-D focus of Dassault's latest V6 PLM 2.0 applications suite that includes CATIA, Enovia, and Smarteam. Brincheck says that with the 3DVia Composer technology users can use 3-D design and engineering data content, along with the structured bill-ofmaterials information for quickly and easily generating 2-D and 3-D publications, including shop-floor instructions and inspection sheets for technical publications. Brincheck notes that Dassault's different approach offers a very 3-D-focused environment capable of eliminating any confusion that can result from the reliance on text-based common languages and terms.
"One of the challenges we've had over the last number of years is that we do the 3-D design, we share that information with Delmia, we do a lot of the 3-D simulation, but publishing that information has always been a gap, to a certain extent. Or we've done that, but it's not in the bigger context," Brincheck says. "It's not done as effectively as it could be. And with the 3DVia Composer product, that liberates a lot of the 3-D information from engineering or from manufacturing engineering and enables it to be distributed to the shop floor, to our viewers or to other people, much more efficiently and effectively.
"The value of working with Delmia and the ease of use of a tool like 3DLive is that you can do a simulation of how to change out a machine tool or a die in a press in the most efficient way," he adds. "With 3DLive, the user on the floor can replay that simulation from a PC, laptop, or a terminal, and play that simulation over and over, and use it as a real-life example of how they can do their job. That's something our customers Dassault Aviation and Toyota have done when using the Delmia simulations in a training context. Some of the feedback we got early on with the Falcon 7X a couple years ago was that when the workers started to put it together, they got a very interesting case of déjôvu, because they had been working with this vision in a virtual environment for so long that putting actual physical parts together was strangely familiar. The first time they ever touched physical product, they knew exactly what to do with it, because they had worked with it virtually so many times before."
Developing tighter links between product development designers, engineering, and manufacturing engineers on the factory floor also has been a key focal point for Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX) since Siemens AG acquired UGS PLM Software early last year. With its Archimedes product development effort underway to forge stronger ties between digital manufacturing tools and factory automation, Siemens PLM has leveraged its expertise in manufacturing execution systems (MES) and factory automation along with the addition of UGS PLM software. Siemens' PLM suite includes the Tecnomatix suite of digital manufacturing tools acquired earlier when UGS bought the Israeli company Tecnomatix (see "Enter the Virtual World" in the October 2007 issue of Manufacturing Engineering).
"One of the big trends in the marketplace that is not so different than what has been around for years is, 'how do companies get to market faster,'" notes Bill Carrelli, Siemens PLM Software vice president. "The caveat is the fact that not only do companies want to get to market faster, but companies are really recognizing that in the future the manufacturing processes are going to evolve. We see more build-to-order now than we ever have before, and in the future that's going to even evolve more because of consumers' requirements for personalization in their products.
"All the automakers are really starting to engage in an open innovation activity, where they are sponsoring contests or they're going to their suppliers, and asking them to take on a broader role in the people development process," Carrelli states. "Overall the vehicle model, on a global basis, is moving much more to a collaborative model, where automakers are open to ideas and innovation that are more closely aligned with the specific marketplaces that they're serving, and that's really important when you try to create a global vehicle. The automotive world's move toward global engineering really reflects the understanding that competitiveness in the future is going to be governed by companies that can respond more quickly to market demands. And that really builds toward coming up with the flexibility to have their manufacturing processes meet the more personalized requirements that are coming out of the design and development organizations."
Collaborative development tools are enabling PLM to develop tighter bonds between designers, engineering and the factory floor. "We've created an internal code name project within Siemens called Archimedes, and it's a cross-organization project involving PLM, automation systems, and motion-control people within Siemens," Carrelli says. "The idea is to look at common ways of linking the virtual design tools and the manufacturing tools, simulation tools, manufacturing and processes, and tying that all the way to the actual physical resources in the factory, so that as designs are being conceived, that at the same time, they're designing with the knowledge and context of the manufacturing processes and resources that are available to them today."
Digital manufacturing tools with factory-floor virtual commissioning speeds time-to-market. "This is absolutely key, and with the virtual commissioning of factories, the whole idea of mechatronics becomes even a bigger issue," notes Carrelli. "What virtual commissioning really means is the ability to validate a manufacturing facility, or process, prior to actually making the investment. Automakers today will build up segments of their factory automation; they'll build a complete line in a different facility, then test it, and once it works, they tear it all down, then set it up in their actual manufacturing production site. It's a hugely expensive, time-consuming process. What we want to do is give manufacturers the ability to build that line in the production site without the expense of validating it physically.
"What we're doing now is we're trying to simulate much more accurately the whole interaction of what's happening on the shop floor—the mechanical properties of the factory, as well as the electronics—the drives, the motors, the controllers, and the software that runs the PLCs," Carrelli says. "When you think about doing an accurate simulation, you really need to be able to take into consideration the mechanical, the electrical, and the software sides of the factory itself and those resources—that's what mechatronics is all about. You need to integrate the PLCs with the controllers, the sensors, and the motors. The electrical network is a very complex environment in its own right, and integrating it with the mechanical side is really what's required if you're going to get more accurate commissioning."
Another key aspect to Siemens' efforts is the control-level integration of its NX CAM software with machine tool controls on the shop floor. As part of the Archimedes development, the efforts include a focus on what Siemens calls Hi-Fi Machining, with tighter links between CAM and the physical controllers. Carrelli says the company will introduce the first such products later this year.
"This idea of CAM and CNC machining integration is where we're really integrating more closely the virtual CAM models with the actual machine codes that are driving the machine tools themselves," Carrelli explains. "What we're doing there is we're creating a much higher level of integration between the code that's being used in designing the toolpath and the actual machine characteristics themselves, so there's a lot less correction that has to be done by the manufacturer on the shop floor. The models that are developed take into account the capabilities and characteristics of the precise machine. The software is going to be used to actually generate the machining operation. Integration of the CAM and the CNC is something that's going to be delivered as part of our standard product offerings by the end of the year, and we think that'll go a long way toward greater optimization of the equipment on the shop floor, and even greater quality in the products that are being manufactured."
A second development Siemens will show soon is the first production release called Automation Designer, which Carrelli describes as an integration between the Tecnomatix Teamcenter and Automation Designer products, which will create a better environment for virtual commissioning. "With Archimedes, not only are we focusing on greater integration of the design environment with the manufacturing environment all the way to the shop floor, but we're also focused very heavily on managing that data and closing the loop. As the real-time manufacturing is occurring, we're able to monitor the factory data and compare, on a real-time basis, that data to the as-designed data in the virtual model," Carrelli adds, "and do real-time corrections, optimizations, to see issues that may be occurring that have to be fixed on the shop floor that can be readjusted in the product. But the whole idea of closing the loop between the as-designed and the as-built world is key to maintaining the highest quality, and also making sure that we are looking at the way we can optimize how products are being manufactured."
Siemens PLM Software also has added a new element called synchronous technology that will be included sometime this summer in Siemens' NX CAD/CAM systems and its Solid Edge modeling software. Introduced in April at the Hannover Fair in Hannover, Germany, the new patent-pending synchronous technology enables digital product developers to use feature-based, history-free modeling technology while editing 3-D models used throughout the design-to-manufacturing process chain. The synchronous technology is said to combine the best of constraint-driven techniques with direct modeling, offering users substantially faster model-editing capabilities.
"Synchronous technology breaks through the architectural barrier inherent in a history-based modeling system," says Ken Versprille, PLM research director, Collaborative Product Development Associates LLC (CPDA, Stamford, CT). "Its ability to recognize current geometry conditions and localize dependencies in real time allows synchronous technology to solve for model changes without the typical replay of the full construction history from the point of edit. Depending on the model complexity and how far back in the history that edit occurs, users will see significant performance gains. A 100X speed improvement could be a conservative estimate."
The new Siemens model technology has the potential to impact NX CAM users on the factory floor, notes Chuck Grindstaff, Siemens PLM executive vice president, products. "It'll make it all work faster and better. There is no break in the connection between geometry and CAM, so you're not waiting for NX CAM to catch up," Grindstaff notes. "NX CAM in the first release will be fully compatible, so that means you can use synchronous technology to model in-process workpieces, to manipulate the model, and use it to define tooling in a more convenient fashion. And that also applies to CAE applications."
This article was first published in the June 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.