The Coventry-based CNC specialist NUM (UK) Ltd
has launched digital twin technology that enables machine tool manufacturers to reduce their time to market dramatically by using ‘powerful’ Industry 4.0 simulation techniques.
For automation products such as machine tools, a digital twin is a virtual model that uses simulation, real-time data acquisition/analysis and machine learning techniques to allow full evaluation of a machine’s dynamic performance before constructing a physical prototype.
The same technology can also be used for customer presentations, virtual commissioning and operator training purposes — even before the actual machine itself has been built.
NUM offers two versions of digital twin technology, and both are designed for use with the company’s open-architecture Flexium+ CNC platform.
One version uses a naked Flexium+ controller and resident virtualisation software running on the system’s industrial PC to simulate the twinned machine automation; the other version uses the actual Flexium+ controller that will eventually be incorporated in the machine, linked via EtherCAT to a standalone PC running specialist high-speed ‘hardware simulation’ software to represent the mechatronics of the twinned machine.
The virtual controller version includes a software development kit for creating the software model of the machine. This model, which is a standalone PLC program that uses predefined components to simulate individual machine elements, is loaded into the integrated PLC of the Flexium+ controller.
The Flexium NCK in the controller then executes the NC programs and simulates the changing position values of the machine’s axes.
The other version of NUM’s digital twin technology package accommodates real-time data acquisition and analysis. It is based on the ISG-Virtuous hardware simulation software produced by Industrielle Steuerungstechnik GmbH (ISG).
The Flexium+ controller that is intended to be used in the physical machine is connected via an EtherCAT network to a standard PC, and interacts with the simulation software in real-time.
The PC acts as the twinned virtual machine to accurately replicate the structure and dynamic performance of the real machine. The movements of the machine are displayed realistically on the PC, using the supplied 3-D simulation software.