Virtual commissioning is pure gain in time and money
Virtual commissioning and the use of smart visualization and diagnostic software result in savings in time and hence money for VDL Steelweld in Breda. The TIA Portal software from Siemens for Totally Integrated Automation offers a wide choice of handy tools for engineering, building and commissioning production lines extremely efficiently.
As part of VDL Groep, VDL Steelweld develops automated assembly lines for car and truck bodies. The company works for large international car makers. “We devise and develop the necessary equipment, have it made, and then build the installation at our customer’s premises, where we test it and put the finishing touches to it”, says Jorrit Timmermans, Team Lead Controls, and Jaco Kapp, Project Engineer Controls. “We use a lot of PLC technology from Siemens. The majority of our customers require this and we ourselves prefer it because these are reliable controllers that a lot of people can work with. Among other things, this makes it much easier for us to find subcontractors.”
Virtual commissioning brings faults to light right from the engineering phase , meaning that the actual commissioning at the customer’s site takes less time , is associated with fewer risks and can be carried out by fewer people.
- Jorrit Timmermans, Team Lead Controls, VDL Steelweld
At the moment VDL Steelweld is optimizing an existing assembly line for truck cabs at its own location in Breda. The project has been running since 2018 and will be handed over in 2022. For this large order VDL Steelweld is using SIMATIC S7-PLCSIM Advanced software, which enables the interaction between the various parts in the production line to be simulated and optimized. This saves time and money. Timmermans: “Virtual commissioning brings faults to light right from the engineering phase, meaning that the actual commissioning at the customer’s site takes less time, is associated with fewer risks and can be carried out by fewer people. In this way we also prevent production lines that are already in operation from having to be stopped again for optimization. We can carry out around 95% of the tests on production lines virtually, so we can start a dry run at the customer’s premises much more quickly.”
For previous projects VDL Steelweld used SIMATIC S7-400 from Siemens, for which a virtual PLC was not available at that time. SIMATIC S7-1500 is now being used in combination with PCLSIM Advanced. The S7-PLCSIM Advanced software is a major step forward according to Kapp: “A good virtual PLC must have safety and what you simulate must be absolutely identical to what ends up in the factory. To guarantee this, we used to need extra hardware, but with S7-PLCSIM Advanced that’s no longer necessary.”
Visualization and process diagnostics
To build a 3D model including the robots and tools that an assembly line consists of, VDL Steelweld uses Process Simulate software from Siemens. The assembly line the company is working on at the moment consists of more than 100 robots that join the component parts of the cabs up to one another. They are grouped in areas of ten robots at a time that are controlled by one PLC. With the help of SIVARC (SIMATIC Visualization Architect) VDL Steelweld automatically generates HMI visualizations. SIMATIC ProDiag is used to diagnose process faults. This means alarms no longer need to be programmed, but can be generated. “Our customer doesn’t dictate to us that we should use these tools, but for us they offer added value. SIVARC generates HMI visualizations in a flash and with ProDiag you require much less effort to stop when analyzing process alarms thanks to the PLC code view option. For us, this means a great saving in time during engineering and commissioning. We really like this tool and we consider Siemens to be a leader in this field. If we were allowed to determine the specifications ourselves, we would definitely take SIVARC as a standard. After all, a time saving during engineering also means a cost saving for the customer.”
Even more automation
The first parts of the assembly line will leave the VDL Steelweld workshop in a few weeks’ time to be erected at the customer’s premises. Further parts will then be delivered in stages. This will give VDL Steelweld space for new projects. The company aims to carry these out even more efficiently in future.”