Digital manufacturing is the use of an integrated, computer-based system comprised of simulation, three-dimensional (3D) visualization, analytics and various collaboration tools to create product and manufacturing process definitions simultaneously. Digital manufacturing evolved from manufacturing initiatives such as design for manufacturability (DFM), computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), flexible manufacturing, lean manufacturing and others that highlight the need for more collaborative product and process design.
Many of the long-term benefits from product lifecycle management (PLM) cannot be achieved without a comprehensive digital manufacturing strategy. Digital manufacturing is a key point of integration between PLM and various shop floor applications and equipment, enabling the exchange of product-related information between design and manufacturing groups. This alignment allows manufacturing companies to achieve their time-to-market and volume goals, as well as realize cost savings by reducing expensive downstream changes.
Digital manufacturing systems allow manufacturing engineers to create the complete definition of a manufacturing process in a virtual environment, including:
- Assembly Lines
- Work Centers
- Facility Layout
Simulation of production processes can be performed, with the intent to re-use existing knowledge and optimize processes before products are manufactured. Digital manufacturing also allows feedback from actual production operations to be incorporated into the product design process, allowing companies to take advantage of shop floor realities during the planning stage.
Current initiatives in the development of digital manufacturing tools involve improving the user experience, so that information is presented in the context of tasks performed, allowing users to make better decisions faster. Steps are being taken to provide direct connectivity with shop floor hardware, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), machine controllers, computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines and others. Unified platforms have also been developed to manage both PLM and manufacturing execution system (MES) information.
Examples of Digital Manufacturing Applications
Digital manufacturing is utilized in a variety of industries. An automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can design the entire manufacturing process digitally (tooling, machining, assembly sequencing, and factory layout) at the same time that designers are designing the next vehicle program. Because of this, manufacturing engineers are able to provide immediate feedback to designers, if there are any constraints in the part manufacturability. This type of collaboration between manufacturing engineers and designers creates a holistic view of product and process design.
A high tech supplier can use a digital manufacturing system to create a 3D simulation of a complete production line, and analyze the different production variants and concepts as part of the request for quote (RFQ) process. This kind of transparency and precision in planning and proposal preparation can help this company to gain greater customer confidence, and ultimately help it win the contract.
Benefits of Digital Manufacturing
Digital manufacturing can help manufacturing companies improve their productivity in both manufacturing planning and production processes.
- Digital manufacturing enables product, process, plant and resource information to be associated, viewed and taken through change processes, with a consistent and comprehensive approach to production design.
- Digital manufacturing allows part manufacturing processes to be optimized within a managed environment. You can produce flexible work instructions capable of displaying 2D/3D part information, along with the machining and tooling instructions.
- The simulation capabilities of digital manufacturing help reduce commissioning costs by validating robotics and automation programs virtually.
- Using digital manufacturing, you can create factory models faster and ensure that they are operating under optimal layout, material flow and throughput before production ramp-up.
- Digital manufacturing can be used to support six-sigma and lean initiatives, by providing a graphical environment to analyze dimensional variation.
- Digital manufacturing systems facilitate the sharing quality data across your organization by generating complete, verifiable CAD-based machine inspection programs for coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) and numerical control (NC) machine tools.
- Digital manufacturing allows you to execute production processes with real-time access to lifecycle data.
Digital Manufacturing Software
Here are examples of digital manufacturing software applications:
Tecnomatix is a comprehensive portfolio of digital manufacturing solutions that link all manufacturing disciplines together with product engineering – from process layout and design, process simulation and validation, to manufacturing execution. Built upon the open PLM foundation called the Teamcenter manufacturing platform, Tecnomatix provides a versatile set of manufacturing solutions.
NX CAM and CAM Express allow NC programmers to maximize the value of their investments in the latest, most efficient and most capable machine tools. NX CAM provides the full range of functions to address high speed surface machining, multi-function mill-turning, and 5-axis machining. CAM Express provides powerful NC programming with low total cost of ownership.