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Siemens Breaks Down Silos in Machine Design

Oct. 15, 2010
Mechatronics Concept Designer quickens development time, brings together mechanical, electrical and software disciplines.

Think of the silos between design and production and the efforts and years spent at trying to break them down. Now there's a new battle being waged to break down the silos inherent in product development, those between mechanical, electrical and software.

Siemens recently launched Mechatronics Concept Designer, a new systems engineering approach to machine design, which presents interactive simulation capability using "gaming" technologies. In essence, it simplifies the process of machine development, taking a systems engineering approach to facilitate design.

Today's machine tools and production systems have grown increasingly complex, requiring product design teams to bring in experts from multiple disciplines. Mechatronics Concept Designer allows design elements from mechanical, electrical and software and automation disciplines to work in parallel.

The software is based largely off the mechanical design features of Siemens' NX CAD architecture, but Concept Designer allows the user to develop a list of sensors and actuators that can be easily positioned to establish the basis for electrical engineers to create the layout.

Design tools have traditionally ignored requirements commonly needed in product design, creating fragmented toolkits, thus making it harder to simulate design concepts. More importantly, this leads to late-stage design changes that are more costly in time and expense to implement.

"Machine tool builders must improve development methods that span from conceptual design through detailed design," said Sal Spada, research director at ARC Advisory Group in a presentation made at September's IMTS in Chicago. "Specifically, development methods that facilitate conceptualization of a system early in the design process and track functional requirements with the implementation are essential to reducing time to market and ensuring that the completed system meets the customer expectations."

Interactive simulation capability based on gaming technology simplifies developers' tasks, reducing design development time.Using built-in modeling and simulation capabilities, users can quickly create and interactively validate design concepts. Mechatronics Concept Designer employs NVIDIA's PhysX technology, a physics engine similar to the software technologies used in many video games today.

Design alternatives can be created, reviewed, and validated quickly, easily and, most importantly, interactively. Users are able to interact with the digital machine model while the simulation is running, so they are able to test the effects of different inputs in real time. This is a process simplification that models actual physical behavior, so errors can be detected and corrected much more easily and cost-effectively.

"[It] enables our entire development team to collaborate more effectively from the beginning to the end of the machine design process, thereby allowing us to catch and easily correct issues early, before they become costly manufacturing or customer related problems," said Dr. Siegfried Schmalzried, managing director, MAG Industrial Automation Systems' Switzerland unit. "In addition, its ability to capture and support requirements, coupled with its outstanding physics simulation, gives us the confidence we are producing a very high quality design that will meet or exceed our customers' expectations. And that's a strong competitive edge."

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