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Unlocking the Industrial Internet of Things with PLM Software

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media

With the latest PLM tools, manufacturers can gain an edge in implementing digital manufacturing’s cutting-edge collaborative design and visualization solutions.

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The updated Simcenter 3D from Siemens PLM delivers a unified, scalable, open and extensible environment for 3D CAE with connections to design, 1D simulation, test, and data management. (Provided by Siemens PLM Software)

Digital manufacturing solutions with product lifecycle management (PLM) tools hold great potential for manufacturers to eventually fully unlock the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In recent years, new collaborative virtual tools in PLM solutions that incorporate highly realistic visualizations, including augmented reality (AR), have helped move the bar toward a greater realization of IIoT’s promise for manufacturing.

With the latest PLM offerings, manufacturers can leverage best-in-class CAD/CAM/CAE and PLM’s product data management (PDM) tools that increasingly deploy newer design techniques like generative engineering, AR visualizations, and other simulations linked tightly in a product lifecycle chain that is more enabled by today’s highly connected, sensor-based advanced automation equipment. More on-premises and cloud-based PLM solutions can now create a digital twin that helps accurately tie the virtual world into manufacturers’ physical assets on the factory floor.

In addition, the increasing level of software and electronics in products aimed at connected manufacturing mandates that developers devise new ways to create and manage firmware and electronics content.

Digital Transformation

Simulation plays a key role in transforming digital manufacturing, and most major PLM developers have moved to fully incorporate advanced visualization tools into their PLM toolboxes.

“We’re starting to drive more toward transformational solutions that help bring the value to our customers. Of course, we have a large investment in tools and simulation products,” said Jim
Rusk, chief technical officer for Plano, Texas-based Siemens PLM Software, developer of the Teamcenter PLM and its several related CAD/CAM/CAE products. “We’re finding that customers are looking for value kinds of statements around generative engineering, integration of electronics into the solutions, and how they bring in product performance data from the Internet of Things [IoT], really leveraging the cloud and collaboration to have the information flow.”

Siemens has made several large-scale simulation acquisitions in recent years, as well as a $4.5-billion purchase in November 2016 of Mentor Graphics, developer of electronic design automation (EDA) software.

“We can’t do those things without the core underlying tools that we produce,” Rusk said of the company’s related CAD/CAM/CAE pieces. “PLM has a central role in this, and electronic design automation is another important part, with our Mentor acquisition. We’ve made a lot of strides in how we bring that in. Our customers are building products that have not only a tremendous amount of mechanical content but also electrical and software, so we really have to bring much more solution-oriented capabilities, such as generative engineering, integrated electronics, and autonomous [vehicles]. All of these are really critical elements of solutions we’re bringing forward.”

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A space-borne optical instrument simulated in Aras’ Comet simulation process and data management system. The system incorporates high-fidelity calculations that simulate the active thermal control of the instrument placed in a satellite orbiting the earth. (Provided by Aras)

What’s also driving this digital transformation is manufacturers taking a fresher look at operations, with a willingness to change their basic business practices. “All of the companies that we’re dealing with, bar none, in heavy manufacturing, high tech, and life sciences, have digital transformation initiatives where they’re really trying to fundamentally change the way they operate and rethink the way that they deliver value to their customers,” said Marc Lind, senior vice president, Aras Corp., Andover, Mass., developer of Aras Innovator PLM software.

“Everybody has a level of urgency that is forcing profound changes in the business and in operations. So it’s not just the technology involved, but the way you do business,” Lind noted. “In the context of the business trend backdrop, that means by definition that the digital processes of tomorrow don’t exist today,” Lind said. “There’s no out-of-the-box software you can buy to satisfy processes and requirements that don’t exist and are emerging.”

Depending on the company, this transformation takes different forms and structures, Lind added. “We’re working intimately with them to rethink the processes all the way to what they already know, what they’re trying to accomplish, [and how they can develop] a way to get there much faster than with a five-year project.”

Digital technology, which enables virtual experiences, is driving an industry renaissance that is shaking all sectors of society with new ways—both real and virtual—of inventing, learning, producing and trading, according to Garth Coleman, vice president of Enovia marketing for Dassault Systèmes, Waltham, Mass., and Vélizy-Villacoublay, France.

“In fablabs around the world, anyone can create a smart, connected object in just a few hours,” he said. “Startups are disrupting entire industries and bricks-and-mortar mainstays are reinventing themselves with new, service-driven business models. OEMs are engineering deep digital connections with their suppliers, transforming supply chains into value networks. What’s happening is far bigger than concepts like ‘digital transformation’ can explain.”

Virtual worlds—complete digital ecosystems that allow users to extend and improve the real world—are enabling innovators to simultaneously imagine, map, model and engineer entirely new environments for the first time, according to Coleman.

“And digital experience platforms are the infrastructure of these virtual worlds, reducing to zero the distance between places, people, ideas and solutions while enabling new ways of thinking, learning, acting and interacting,” he said. “IDC predicts that by 2020, at least 55 percent of organizations will be digitally determined, transforming markets and reimagining the future through new business models and digitally enabled products and services.

“Offering profound individualized experiences requires a seamless synergy of technologies,” he continued. In this synergy, “the real and virtual merge on virtual experience platforms to extend collaboration to complete ecosystems of contributors, both inside an enterprise and to virtual networks of suppliers, partners, customers, and prospects. This is definitely not your father’s PLM!”

Leading the Way

Visualization tools, particularly wider use of both AR and CAE applications, are helping manufacturers transform PLM’s design and engineering processes to adapt to the new era of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT. Likewise, generative engineering helps speed customers’ designs and adds optimization capabilities to the mix for better overall results.

In January 2019, Siemens issued the latest update of its Simcenter 3D series of simulation applications for CAE applications, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA) tools. Last year, the company bought Comsa Computer und Software GmbH, a Munich-based developer of software for electrical systems design and wire harness engineering. Comsa’s LDorado suite of automotive harness design and engineering tools will join Siemens’ Mentor applications portfolio.

“We’re seeing more interest in bringing more front-end, early concept engineering—really systems engineering,” said Siemens’ Rusk, noting that customers are looking for earlier product requirements, parameters, and simulation models. In the automotive world, particularly autonomous vehicles, “there’s a tremendous amount of systems engineering and electrical that goes into this,” Rusk said. “We want to let our customers seamlessly integrate those systems.”

The simulations extend to additive manufacturing applications, which are part of Simcenter 3D, and help close the loop on manufacturing, feeding information around digital twins and back to the factory, he added.

There’s a new level of emphasis on systems engineering, said Aras’ Lind, and particularly on model-based engineering, as manufacturers grapple with software-enabled designs, electronics, and sensors. “With electrification and autonomous, the auto industry is in upheaval, and aviation, too,” Lind said. “It’s really across the board.”

New technology included in Aras’ latest PLM platform is the ability to handle variance and options, Lind said, enabling major customizations of options in automotive products, both mechanical and in software-enabled features like electronic control units (ECUs) and other software-specific items. “The level of variation is really skyrocketing,” he said. “You need to know which software to flash onto the chip [in firmware], so the level of software is [customized] at the VIN level.”

On the simulation front, Aras also picked up much-needed added functionality with its September 2018 purchase of Comet Solutions Inc., an Albuquerque, N.M.-based developer of simulation process and data management (SPDM) tools for connecting simulation users to the enterprise. Offered now as part of Aras’ PLM subscription, the company’s SimApps are vendor-agnostic applications that team with Aras’ open approach to connect users with an array of CAD, FEA, meshing, 0D/1D simulation tools and other applications for lifecycle product configuration and cross-discipline design.

“With all of the things that we’re talking about—MBE and MBSE, digital twin, factory definition—once you have a digital configuration or a model, what you want to do is simulate it in real-world conditions,” Lind said. “You want to know whether this thing is going to perform, what’s the anticipated mean time before failure [MTBF], and how do I anticipate failures in the factory, or with aircraft in the field? You want to be able to simulate that.”

Simulating processes with Comet’s SimApps gives Aras customers a new tool to manage huge volumes of simulation data, Lind noted. “The idea of simulation is also very specialized,” he said. “Just as in design, these actual simulation capabilities are isolated, specific types of analysis like FEA and CFD that show turbulence or ESD [electrostatic discharge]. It’s so specialized and it’s what our largest customers want because these simulations pop up all over and there has been no good way to manage the data that gets generated from them.”

Manufacturers’ processes typically involve large runs of incremental simulations, he said. “It’s not a single run. Change a parameter, increment it, then run the simulation again. You do that over and over and you wind up with a whole lot of data input,” Lind said of processes that could involve five to seven different solver environments. Taking an open approach also is an advantage, he said.

“Major providers of the simulations tend to organize around their own toolsets. There’s nobody that says ‘let’s take an open approach.’ We’re making it a level playing field. We’ll manage across the market, in a consistent way, and you’re able to proceduralize cross disciplines downstream. Digital twin simulation is coming. Not a lot of people are doing it now.”

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Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience PLM features a My 3D Annotations tool for sharing detailed 3D markup simulations of product designs across the enterprise. (Provided by Dassault Systèmes)

Dassault also made a recent move in simulation with a partnership announced in January 2019 to embed the Autonomous Vehicle Simulation Suite from Cognata Ltd., a Rehovot, Israel-based developer, into Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience PLM platform. Dassault said the partnership will offer a first-of-its-kind solution for autonomous vehicle makers to define, test and experience autonomous driving throughout the development cycle within the 3DExperience platform. This promises to speed the addition of fully integrated autonomous vehicle development processes for more accurate, safer autonomous vehicles on the road.

“The partnership with Dassault Systèmes will hasten the development of autonomous vehicles by making simulation an integral, seamless component of the engineering process,” said Danny Atsmon, Cognata CEO and founder, in a statement. “The earlier simulation is utilized, the easier it is for engineers to modify each component of the autonomous vehicle and test it through a virtual environment, to see how it works once incorporated in the vehicle and confronted with unexpected edge cases.”

Many companies are utilizing computer simulation to test novel concepts in virtual environments, working faster and ensuring optimized results before launching products into the real world, added Dassault’s Coleman.

“Simulation speeds planning, cuts costs and aids decision-making with greater accuracy,” he said. “This allows researchers to test, verify and quickly optimize a design for manufacturability to reduce materials; for safety in manufacturing to protect workers; for long-term maintenance to extend the product’s useful life; and for environmental impact, including factors such as minimizing the total amount of material consumed, finding alternatives to hazardous materials and designing to simplify recycling.”

AR-Enabled Visualizations

Another key technology in simulations is a wider deployment of AR-enabled PLM applications like the Vuforia lineup from CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM developer PTC, Needham, Mass. “PLM is continuing to evolve to bring about manufacturers’ digital transformations,” said Francois Lamy, vice president of PLM solutions management for PTC. “In fact, without a solid PLM system in place to ‘put your digital house in order,’ it can be difficult to integrate smart, connected capabilities or get better insight and analytics.”

To improve the way product designs are shared, PTC developed ThingWorx and Vuforia applications into its software after acquiring the technologies a few years ago.

“We are constantly making improvements to our PLM portfolio to make PTC the PLM vendor that will kickstart our customers’ digital transformations,” Lamy said. “We are leveraging Vuforia, PTC’s augmented reality technology, to publish multi-CAD data. With AR, the need for building expensive prototypes is virtually eliminated. And the risk of sharing valuable company IP with external stakeholders, such as the supply chain, disappears when you are sharing an AR experience of a product design rather than the actual CAD data itself.”

PTC’s ThingWorx Navigate out-of-the-box role- and task-based applications make it easier for “lightweight” users who don’t typically interact with PLM to get the product data that they need, Lamy added. “Customers are focused on building a consistent and modern digital backbone of processes, data, and systems, incorporating state-of-the-art technologies [smart connected products, smart connected machines, artificial intelligence, augmented reality] for cross-discipline collaboration through engineering, manufacturing, operations, service, and supply chain apps,” Lamy said.

Last summer, PTC and simulation developer Ansys Inc., Canonsburg, Pa., announced the companies were partnering to bring Ansys’ real-time simulation to customers through PTC’s Creo CAD software. “This new solution, Creo Simulation Live, gives engineers fast, easy-to-use simulation that is fully integrated into the CAD modeling environment,” Lamy said. “It eliminates the back and forth between design and simulation. When changes are made to models, engineers get real-time feedback on their design decisions, enabling them to iterate more quickly and design with greater confidence.”

Access Anywhere, Anytime

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Autodesk’s Fusion Lifecycle cloud-based PLM allows viewing of manufacturing details on product designs using a web browser. (Provided by Autodesk)

Increased accessibility to manufacturing data via the cloud has fast become the norm rather than the exception, driven by the inherent cost advantages of cloud-based PLM systems over those available solely as on-premise versions. Autodesk’s cloud offering is Fusion Lifecycle PLM, which offers users a highly collaborative environment for sharing manufacturing data.

“One of the underlying trends we see in manufacturing is the convergence of design and make, even for customers that do not manufacture [products] themselves,” said Charlie Candy, senior manager, global GTM [Go to Market] business strategy for design at Autodesk Inc., San Rafael, Calif. “Line of sight to the manufacturing process is helping customers increase innovation by experimenting more, taking greater risks in design by rapidly iterating between digital and physical. At the same time, they’re able to maintain better cost control and scope by simulating product performance and the manufacturing process. Autodesk has invested more than $1 billion in manufacturing technologies to connect design to make and help our customers stay ahead.”

The impact of this trend on PLM is that businesses need to connect with more people, across more disciplines, earlier in the process, Candy said. “To compete and differentiate, manufacturers are looking to evolve the ways they work, as well as the supporting tools and processes. This requires a digital strategy.”

He noted Autodesk’s PLM approach focuses on five pillars that form the foundation of a customer’s digital strategy: mass customization; collaboration; customer experience; flexible manufacturing; and connected services. “Of these five pillars, collaboration is consistently ranked by customers as the highest priority,” Candy said. “Involving the right people at the right stage to drive critical decisions is what defines the success of a project or product.”

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