Factories from Cyberspace

Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | Why do we build virtual plants in the computer? Because our customers have no time!

Developing production systems such as production lines for automobile bodies, engines, or transmissions, can be complex, costly and fault-prone. Not necessarily, however, if you assemble the lines on the computer first. When the digital factory is finished, installing the real one at the customer´s site is comparatively quick and easy. And Virtual Commissioning shortens ramping-up times – a digital start-of-production with operating equipment and control programs for the machines and robots.

Virtual Commissioning systems have been used increasingly in recent times. thyssenkrupp is one of the leading companies in the world for production facilities for the automotive industry. The company plans and builds plants worldwide for assembly systems – the assembly of engines and transmissions – and body-in-white construction.

“thyssenkrupp is not merely making use of these systems, but is also developing the methods further,” says Matthias Hartmann, Vice President Product Management at thyssenkrupp System Engineering This thyssenkrupp subsidiary employs 3,800 people worldwide.

BIW construction can occupy an area the size of several soccer pitches. A few hundred robots are engaged in putting together a complete BIW out of individual sheet metal parts. These are supplemented by, among other things, materials-handling equipment between the individual stations, fixtures to hold the components, and joining technology – such as welding tongs for joining the sheet metal parts together. These complex systems are backed up by extensive control technology.

“All robots, machine islands, and control elements are assembled and tested virtually in a 3D simulation,” Hartmann explains. This reduces development costs and commissioning times, safeguards process and product quality – and, of course, cuts production costs. However, he says, the main argument for virtual, computer-based development is “to turn up at the customer with a virtually validated line and to reduce commissioning time there.”

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