While product line simulation helps to address potential issues during the design phase, product line emulation extends the benefits of modeling to the installation and testing phases of a manufacturing system. The result is a shortened critical path, greater throughput, and increased profitability for the customer.
Here's how it works: When a project reaches the installation phase, control engineers conduct a data exchange between the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and the simulation model that was developed during the design phase. This process, known as emulation, converts the simulation model into a virtual manufacturing process. It allows the PLC device to operate, control and test the manufacturing system model under realistic conditions represented by the simulation — even more so with the addition of physics engines available in some of the latest modeling software.
The PLC's ability to control the simulated environment allows testing and debugging of PLC code to be conducted prior to production line implementation. This kind of early access to the production line means more phases of a project can be conducted simultaneously as opposed to taking up time on the project’s critical path. In fact, research has shown that emulations can reduce production line start-up time by as much as 50%. This can translate into early production line launches and increased productivity for many customers.
Emulations provide additional benefits, as well. Operator training can take place in the simulated environment, rather than waiting until line implementation is complete. Potential equipment updates or replacements can be assessed prior to purchase, minimizing the risks associated with these kinds of capital investment.
If saving time and money by resolving line issues well in advance of production line start-up is something your company can benefit from, please contact us.