Skip to content

Virtual Commissioning: Efficiency, Long-term Flexibility and High Availability

Dipl.-Ing. Tho­mas Koch, NILES-SIMMONS Indus­trie­an­la­gen GmbH


The Area of Tension

The com­ple­xity of modern machi­ning cen­ters increa­ses with the num­ber of ope­ra­tio­nal func­tions. At the same time and in con­trast to that, the available period to inte­grate a machine into a pro­duc­tion line decrea­ses con­ti­nuously. This dis­crepancy is par­ti­cu­larly heigh­tened when expan­ding or con­ver­ting exis­ting machi­nes, plants and manu­fac­tu­ring lines, wher­eby down­ti­mes must be kept to a mini­mum. In addi­tion, work­piece mate­ri­als that are sophisti­ca­ted, dura­ble and cor­re­spon­din­gly expen­sive are incre­asingly used, which means that inten­sive com­mis­sio­ning of machi­nes and tech­no­logy can quickly become an enorm­ous cost factor.

Com­pre­hen­sive tests of func­tions and pro­ces­ses are neces­sary before start­ing the real com­mis­sio­ning to manage these chal­lenges suc­cessfully. One pos­si­bi­lity to imple­ment this is the vir­tual com­mis­sio­ning (VC) of machi­nes and plants. For this pur­pose, we deve­lop vir­tua­li­zed machine models, which repre­sent the real sys­tem- and time beha­vior. If these vir­tual tests are suc­cessfully con­duc­ted and pro­gramm­ers can apply rea­li­stic machine models for veri­fy­ing their deve­lo­p­ments, com­mis­sio­ning and deve­lo­p­ment times of machi­nes and sys­tems can be redu­ced by up to 30 – 50% and a con­sidera­ble increase in effi­ci­ency can be achieved.


Image 1 – Vir­tua­liza­tion of Cranks­haft Machi­ning for a Crank-Mil­ling Machine N30CM


Vir­tual Com­mis­sio­ning is where NILES-SIMMONS crea­tes a vir­tual 3D image of one or more machi­nes to be deve­lo­ped and the model is cou­pled with real or vir­tual con­trols. The mecha­ni­cal and elec­tri­cal pro­per­ties of the machine is simu­la­ted as close to a 1:1 ratio as pos­si­ble in real-time.

When crea­ting a vir­tual machine model and con­nec­ting the model with real or vir­tual con­trols, the vir­tual com­mis­sio­ning can com­mence in par­al­lel to the manu­fac­tu­ring pro­cess of the machine. The machine func­tion­a­lity as well as the mecha­ni­cal beha­vior of the machine can be tes­ted on the model while the soft­ware is being inte­gra­ted and pro­grammed. This enables engi­neers to iden­tify any sources of error or incon­sis­ten­cies and then loca­lize and eli­mi­nate the dis­crepancy. Even cri­ti­cal machine fea­tures and appli­ca­ti­ons can be model­led and inten­si­vely tes­ted wit­hout risk.


Image 2 – Tests of the vir­tual Machine Model at NILES-SIMMONS Indus­trie­an­la­gen GmbH in Chemnitz


The tests its­elf can incor­po­rate simple toggle func­tions, such as swit­ching on coo­lant or other ancil­la­ries, as well as fol­lo­wing com­plex sequen­ces. The model­ling includes the com­plete machi­ning pro­ces­ses or com­plex inter-rela­ti­onships con­cer­ning mate­rial flow, robots and auto­ma­ted control.

By cou­pling seve­ral machi­nes, manu­fac­tu­ring, and auto­ma­tion sys­tems tog­e­ther, the com­plete manu­fac­tu­ring pro­cess can be simu­la­ted The simu­la­ti­ons could model indi­vi­dual manu­fac­tu­ring cells, such as the com­bi­na­tion of a mil­ling machine, a mea­su­ring machine and a part hand­ling sys­tem for ins­tance, or they can also repre­sent com­plete pro­duc­tion lines. During the test­ing phase, both the pro­ces­ses for mea­su­ring and trans­fer­ring qua­lity and dimen­sio­nal cor­rec­tions to the machine and all the requi­red altera­ti­ons to the pro­duc­tion con­trol pro­ces­ses are iden­ti­fied. The pro­gram is opti­mi­sed with the help of models that are sub­se­quently trans­fer­red to the real system.


Image 3 – Vir­tual Simu­la­tion of a Com­plete Machi­ning Pro­cess and Trans­fer to the real System



At NILES-SIMMONS, we under­stand this tool as a valuable enhance­ment of our deve­lo­p­ment pro­cess. Bes­ide the desig­ning abili­ties, we also use vir­tual machine models for ana­ly­zing equip­ment fail­ures and oppor­tu­ni­ties for our pro­ducts and ser­vices. In addi­tion to the signi­fi­cant reduc­tion in com­mis­sio­ning time, espe­ci­ally directly at the customer’s site, costs due to rework or expen­sive mate­rial usage for tests can be redu­ced dra­sti­cally. Fur­ther­more, the relia­bi­lity of the sys­tems can be increased, assis­ting us in our aims to gua­ran­tee machine uptimes of up to 95%.

From the customer’s point of view, ano­ther advan­tage of the vir­tual machine model is that they are highly bene­fi­cial throug­hout the entire life of the machi­nes. In an agile pro­duc­tion line, machi­ning cen­ters have to cope with con­stant machi­ning adap­ti­ons. By using vir­tual models, cus­to­mers can rebuild entire pro­duc­tion lines or add only indi­vi­dual func­tion­a­li­ties to the pro­duc­tion line. Down­ti­mes, retoo­ling- & reor­ga­niza­tion peri­ods, and asso­cia­ted risks, are redu­ced to a mini­mum and cus­to­mers can easily test new pro­ces­ses with little cost com­mit­ment. Vir­tual machine models enable opti­miza­tion of the entire pro­duc­tion plan­ning pro­cess throug­hout the entire life cycle of a machine tool.

The time and cost advan­ta­ges are obvious when inte­gra­ting pre-tes­ted sys­tems. For this reason, the pro­vi­sion of vir­tual com­mis­sio­ning and the asso­cia­ted pos­si­bi­lity of acqui­ring the resul­ting digi­tal models is incre­asingly beco­ming key cri­te­ria. This is espe­ci­ally the case in the con­text of invest­ment decis­i­ons made by cus­to­mers inves­t­ing in high-qua­lity machine tools.




Download Whitepaper as PDF


If you have any questions, please contact us:


NILES-SIMMONS Indus­trie­an­la­gen GmbH
Tel.:   +49 371 – 802 333