Challenges in the world of machine software
At Vintecc, we create smarter machines in an ever more challenging context. One of the main trends we see is the increase of machine complexity. Just look at new cars. They contain more features to enhance driver comfort, make use of smart ADAS systems and have a lot more connectivity options.
Another trend is that technology moves faster than ever. Innovations need to be deployed to the market in short time. Outsmarting competition, offering tailor-made solution to each customer, higher ROI, etc. There are a lot of underlying drivers for this trend.
In short, increasing complexity while reducing time-to-market fuels the need for more technical resources. While those are becoming more scarce. So how to tackle this?
Model based design & Virtual Commissioning as key-enablers
Every design is a trade-off between these three forces. At Vintecc, we believe by using the right tools and methods this process can be accelerated. Model based design & virtual commissioning are some of those concepts. To explain these concepts, a use case of a transport system is presented. Such a systems are built to order and tests are expensive, yet important improvements can be made which makes it a perfect case for virtual commissioning.
Virtual Commissioning vs. Digital Twin
Virtual Commissioning deploys a device or process in a virtual context prior to its physical realisation. Using our in-house developed DUAL platform, a digital twin of the transport system is created starting from 3D CAD models. Depending on the scope of the development, some abstractions can be made. For example, motor dynamic behaviour is not always considered.
With a first version of the digital twin, the algorithm design can start using the digital twin as a virtual test bench. Also, mechanical adaptations can be easily iterated upon (such as the location of sensors) and verified against the software under development.
The control software itself is built in Simulink/Stateflow from Mathworks. Its visual approach to software development makes it a low code platform which in turn speeds up the design iteration process while leaving all options open for final deployment through automatic code generation.
In this case, for prototype testing, we chose to deploy the generated C++ code on a real-time platform with an internal architecture developed by Vintecc.
At this stage, we marked a quasi-identical kinematic behaviour as compared to the digital twin simulation. This increased the confidence level in our digital twin and guaranteed the performance level we designed for. Thanks to Virtual Commissioning however, this result was achieved much faster at much lower cost (~90% reduction).
Key success factors to make Virtual Commissioning succeed
At last, there are some key factors you should consider before using a virtual commissioning workflow:
- First of all, in order to iterate quickly, simulations should run at least real-time to make it workable. The faster the simulation speed, the faster results can be obtained. This balances with the level of detail you wish to integrate.
- Next, the digital twin should represent reality. It is important to mark that any abstraction or simplification comes at a cost, which is being further off from reality. Knowing this, you can anticipate on expected differences and design for it.
- The digital twin should connect and co-simulate with the application software development environment, such as Matlab/Simulink, native C or C++ or PLC language.
- At last, the digital twin should be intuitive, easy and configurable such that it can handle adaptations and/or variations quickly.