Simulation between interconnected machines to optimise processes
Simulation systems for the analysis and optimisation of processes, with the possibility of being interconnected to plants/machines.
The concept of simulation is linked to that of “digital factory“.
The concept of Digital Factory (or Virtual Factory or Digital Manufacturing) consists in the mapping of technical and business processes in the digital world in order to provide advanced support for decisions related to the product, process and system design, programming and production control in the real world, using ICT technologies such as virtual or augmented reality, simulation, optimisation, etc.
The Digital Factory will be available to users (managers, designers and operators) through a heterogeneous set of software tools ranging from CAD / CAM to PLM (Product Life-cycle Management), from discrete event simulation to cinematic simulation, from virtual reality to augmented reality, from ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems to scheduling and supervision tools.
Although heterogeneous from each other, the software tools of the Digital Factory will be able to interact with each other thanks to the underlying presence of an overall and coherent factory model, which will guide users in using the functions of the Digital Factory. Each software tool will be able to interact with the factory model by operating on a particular view of the model itself (for example, a logical view in the case of discrete event simulation, a physical and geometric view for virtual reality applications, a chemical/physical/kinematics for process simulations, etc.). The interoperability between the tools will be enabled by the use of standards both for information modelling and communication protocols and data exchange methods.
The Digital Factory will be able to take advantage of advanced connectivity at low factory levels for the acquisition of data on machines, order statuses, warranties, personal times, breakdowns and so on. The data acquisition systems of the factory (which are currently part of the MES systems – Manufacturing Execution Systems) will be made directly available to the highest levels of the company and will make intelligent data management and analytical and computational functions possible through constant updating and maintenance of the digital representation of the factory. To achieve these functionalities, the new production systems based on Industry 4.0 will revise the traditional structure of the automation pyramid (sensors/actuators, PLC, SCADA, MES, ERP).
The Factory Model will be exploited not only in the design phase but also in the operational phase of the factory. This will require a guarantee of digital continuity between both the real factory and its virtual representation, maintaining coherence between data from various sources (e.g. production plans, monitoring, demand forecasts, etc.) which contribute to defining the evolution over time of the production system.
The usability and reusability of the software tools from the Digital Factory can be increased by introducing service-oriented architectures (SOA – Service Oriented Architecture), i.e. typically web-based architectures in which applications are made available to users as services/functions within a remote access platform. The recent potential that is offered by Cloud Computing technologies will further emphasize the benefits deriving from an SOA approach, allowing operations that require high computational loads to be allocated to the cloud using high-performance computers (HPC – High-Performance Computing).