A physics simulation involves recreating real-world physical phenomena, either in a laboratory setting or within a virtual environment using software physics engines, known as physics-based simulations. This type of simulation is widely used in engineering and scientific fields to model various physics concepts, such as Newtonian physics, aerodynamics, fluid dynamics, soft-body physics, and thermodynamics. For example, engineers employ aerodynamics modeling to enhance their understanding of automobile fuel economy.
In the realm of industrial manufacturing, physics-based simulation, in combination with discrete event simulation (DES), plays a crucial role. It enables digital replication of equipment design and industrial processes, allowing engineering teams to evaluate designs against predefined criteria. This validation process helps them identify and address design flaws before finalizing and commissioning the equipment. Real-time feedback from simulations facilitates early modifications, resulting in improved system performance and reduced risks of costly changes during later stages of development.
Physics-based simulation offers a distinct advantage by providing higher fidelity, and it should be utilized alongside early-stage discrete event simulation.
This article presents industry insights on the utilization of physics-based simulation during the initial design and engineering phases of industrial systems. Additionally, we will showcase two examples that demonstrate the unique capabilities of physics-based simulation, providing design insights that traditional DES alone cannot offer.
The Use of Physics-Based Simulation in Industry
Simulations are integral to engineering processes, adapting their applications to suit specific systems or processes. In the realm of factory and warehouse design, we commonly encounter two major types of simulations: single system and multi-system modeling.
The primary purpose of single-system modeling is to virtually assess the feasibility of complex or innovative designs. Through these simulations, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can expedite the project cycle and mitigate risks. They enable testing and demonstration of design aspects like human-machine interfaces (HMI), machine safety and ergonomics, line-of-sight considerations, and intricate programming logic. Our collaborations with diverse manufacturing companies have revealed a growing demand for high-fidelity simulation technologies to validate designs. This empowers equipment providers to convincingly demonstrate the practicality and effectiveness of their engineering concepts to end-users.
On the other hand, multi-system modeling aims to evaluate the interoperability of multiple engineering systems provided by different vendors. For example, a beverage manufacturer may use various equipment such as tank farms, fillers, conveyors, accumulators, and case-packers. Engineering, Procurement & Construction companies (EPCs) or Systems Integrators (SIs) often aggregate and integrate these disparate pieces of equipment into a cohesive manufacturing process. However, a drawback of this approach is that the combined systems are typically not tested together until they are physically on-site, which can pose challenges if modifications are required. Similar to single system modeling, multi-system modeling helps engineering companies mitigate project integration risks. Consequently, there is a strong push for EPCs and systems integrators to validate multi-system applications using simulation technology during the early engineering phases.
These evolving simulation trends not only reduce project risks and costs for manufacturers but also offer additional valuable capabilities. One such capability is virtual commissioning, often integrated with physics-based simulation technology. This enables a cost-effective transition from simulation to virtual debugging of the control system. Leveraging Virtual Commissioning, manufacturers can further enhance their operations and lay the foundation for other Digital Twin functionalities, maximizing the benefits derived from simulation technology.
Example 1: Assessing the Viability of Tire Building Equipment
The timeframe from the release of a preliminary design to the actual manufacturing of equipment can span several months. During this period, OEMs need to make critical design choices to achieve their desired objectives or business goals. In this example, an engineer is using a simulation to understand and make very precise decisions in a tire manufacturing application, including speeds, component interlocks, sensor placements and more. This exemplifies the application of single-system modeling, usually carried out by the equipment vendor, which provides sufficient accuracy to visualize the movement of individual components.
High-fidelity equipment simulation can enhance performance by up to 15%, optimizes or potentially reduces capital expenses, and contributes to reducing commissioning time.
Source: Rockwell Automation Emulate3D Product Team
Example 2: Enhancing the Efficiency of Material Movement Across Diverse Systems
The integration of equipment from different vendors usually occurs during the physical commissioning phase, which takes place in the later stages of a project. Cross-functional teams, comprising members from various organizations, collaborate to conduct design reviews, ensuring a seamless integration of equipment from different vendors. In the context of this example, an engineering team is utilizing simulation to assess the interoperability among different components, including conveyance tracks, elevators, and accumulators. Through this simulation, the team can perform line balancing to determine optimal rates even before the equipment arrives at the site. This is an illustration of multi-system modeling, typically carried out by engineering firms or third-party vendors. In comparison to single-system models, multi-system models generally exhibit a lower level of fidelity.
The simulation of integrated systems substantially mitigates project risks and additionally reduces commissioning time.
Source: Rockwell Automation Emulate3D Product Team
Changing the Way Factories are Engineered and Deployed
The convergence of conventional discrete event simulation, physics-based modeling, and virtual commissioning is ushering in a new era in factory engineering. This powerful combination empowers manufacturers to achieve remarkable enhancements in production output, optimized material flow and personnel safety, as well as reduced project risks and costs. As these digital twin technologies continue to advance, industrial software vendors are introducing innovative functionalities and architectures, including cloud computing. Kalypso is committed to harnessing leading-edge tools in imaginative ways to unlock unprecedented advantages. By integrating AI, digital thread, and automation, we look forward to a future where digital technology not only enhances but ultimately automates the design, engineering and commissioning of factories.
Brian is currently a senior manager in Kalypso focusing on digital twin and smart connected operations. He was born in China and immigrated to the US with is family early in his life. He is based out of Phoenix, AZ, loves Asian food and is a part-time mechanic.