Exploring the world of virtual commissioning

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  Exploring the World of Virtual Commissioning

By Robert Glass, Global Food and Beverage Communications Manager, ABB

In 1895, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the pioneer of astronaut theory, developed the concept of the Space Elevator, a transportation system that would vehicles make it possible to travel directly into space along a cable from the surface of the earth. While early incarnations have proved unsuccessful, scientists are still testing new concepts.

Industry 4.0 continues to open up new opportunities in the food and beverage industry. In particular, these technologies help to improve manufacturing flexibility and the speed and cost with which manufacturers can adapt their production to new product variations. Virtual commissioning is one of these key technologies. This article examines the concept of virtual commissioning and how to use system tests in the food industry.

What is virtual commissioning?

Virtual Commissioning is the creation of a digital replica of a physical manufacturing environment. For example, a robot picking and packaging cell can be modeled on a computer along with its automation control systems, which include robot control systems, PLCs, frequency converters, motors, and even safety products. This "virtual" model of the robot cell can be modified according to the new process requirements and product specifications. Once the model is programmed, each step of the operation of that cell in the virtual world can be tested and verified. If changes in the process automation or robot movement are required, they can be executed on the same computer, allowing the robot to be reprogrammed or changes made to the frequency converters and PLC programming. The ABB Ability ™ RobotStudio is a tool that enables this kind of virtual commissioning.

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After reprogramming, the system is retested, and if successful, it is ready for physical use. Here are the real benefits felt. Using virtual commissioning for pre-programming and testing reduces the number of process outages and enables manufacturers to reduce conversion risks

Automation programming and software failures in a system can be incredibly difficult and costly, especially if found later in the production process. The research of Austrian Software Testing fric Tricentis estimates that software errors, glitches and security failures cost companies around the world $ 1.1 trillion

To achieve the full potential of virtual commissioning, the simulation must be integrated across the entire plant process Planning and development phase. This step, known as simulation-based engineering, is an integral part of installing reliable systems. The use of simulations in a plant is not a new concept, but virtual commissioning has been explored for more than a decade.

The Benefits

The implementation of virtual commissioning brings with it a number of advantages. The "Try Before You Buy" concept allows asset managers to model and test the behavior of a line before making any physical changes. This saves time because the user can program the system automation when testing and fixing errors. Using a digital model can also reduce the risk of changing or adding processes.

One company that has seen significant improvements in production since investing in virtual commissioning is Comau, a supplier of automotive and powertrain manufacturing and assembly technologies. Comau's Head of Engineering and Automation Systems, Franceso Matergia, said, "We were able to reprogram 200 robots in just three days with virtual commissioning, as opposed to about 10 weekends when the work was done in the factory floor."

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So you would not build a space elevator without careful planning and years of prototyping on a small scale. It's very costly and time consuming to build and test in a virtual environment where you can find the bugs and recognize the unforeseen challenges and mitigate the downtime without any extra downtime. It is much better to find this bugs when they gather on the ground, at about 100,000 feet in the middle between the surface of the earth and the penthouse in space.

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