Siemens Automation and Drives Group, a maker of PLCs and Tecnomatix Technologies Ltd., a maker of computer-aided production engineering (CAPE) software, announced a cooperation agreement whereby the two companies will jointly provide an integrated 3-D virtual environment to streamline the engineering process and to enable a seamless path from process design to shop floor automation.
The combined Siemens and Tecnomatix product family will allow engineers from both mechanical-design and control departments to work in parallel and share manufacturing information. The software will enable off-line programming of PLCs directly from the virtual manufacturing cell as well as virtual commissioningtwo key elements for fast production ramp up. The first product in the family, ROBCAD/PLC, is intended to be released in mid 1999.
ROBCAD/PLC is part of the ROBCAD line of CAPE products. ROBCAD enables production and process engineers to design manufacturing processes, create programs to run PLCs, robots and machines, validate and optimize the processes and programs by means of simulation, and to download them directly to the machines on the shop floor, all within the single CAPE environment.
"Today, the main requirements of the production industry, especially the automotive industry, are high product quality at moderate production costs," says Alfons Kiermeier, program manager PLC Code Generator at BMW. "Moreover, a fast product launch and steep ramp up of production are decisive factors for the success of a product. That's why we have to know exactly the functionality and behavior of the production lines early in the production engineering phase. These critical factors can be achieved by generating automatically the PLC programs concurrently with the design process, and then using these programs to simulate the production lines in a virtual environment."
"BMW initiated this joint project with Siemens and Tecnomatix because of their high level of know-how in automation, simulation, and production of the automobile, required for such an ambitious project," adds Markus Erras, coordinator Mechanical/Electrical Standards at BMW. Erras notes that BMW has been working with both companies for many years.
"Automating the path between product design and production will offer manufacturers unique benefits unequaled on the market today. It helps to optimize the engineering process and allows manufacturers to bring products faster to market and at less cost," says Thomas Schott, director of Automotive System Business at Siemens Automation and Drives Group. "This breakthrough became possible through the cooperation of our companies and the seamless integration of ROBCAD/PLC and Simatic PLCs using the capabilities of Totally Integrated Automation and our Simatic Industrial Software."
"The Siemens-Tecnomatix solution will expand the capabilities of our Digital Factory offering to include not only product/process /resource definitions but also shop-floor controllers," says Harel Beit-On, president and CEO of Tecnomatix (San Jose, Calif. and Herzaliya, Israel). "After our customers have met the challenge of robotic off-line programming with ROBCAD, programming of PLCs on the shop floor is the next hurdle to quick ramp up."
According to Beit-On, programming in the virtual environment can save five to 10 weeks lead-time of a new product launchwhich can translate into significant incremental profits for customers.