Robotics Virtual Commissioning

What is robotics virtual commissioning?

Robotics virtual commissioning uses an automation simulation environment, rather than the physical robotics system, to test the system’s behavior based on the actual control software. Robotics virtual commissioning is performed ahead of production-floor deployment and commissioning. It is one of several functional capabilities of robotics simulation software.

Robotics virtual commissioning employs a digital twin, which is an interactive virtual representation of the robotics system and surrounding production environment, to simulate the robotics system’s planned and programmed operation. It enables manufacturing engineers to perform robotics offline programming and to test that programming without disrupting current production operations.

Through the virtual commissioning process, engineers are often able to identify and correct issues such as programming bugs and mechanical interference. The process also verifies that the production area is as expected; for example, that the robot’s work envelope is free and clear of other equipment or structures. Without virtual commissioning, these issues are not resolved before the robotics system is deployed, and addressing them on the shop floor is a much more costly and time-consuming endeavor.

Robotics virtual commissioning uses robotics simulation, rather than the physical system, to validate behavior based on the real control system.

Robotics virtual commissioning uses robotics simulation to validate real control system behavior.

Robotics virtual commissioning functionality

Robotics virtual commissioning simulates much more than the robot itself. Through the digital twin, robotics simulation software brings all relevant devices, equipment, and structures into the same 3D interactive representation. Modern robotics simulation software is “robot-agnostic,” meaning that it works with any brand of robot. It also supports multiple robots in the same work area.

While robotics simulations include virtual hardware, some simulations may involve actual hardware. For example, a hardware control device such as a programmable logic controller (PLC) might be connected to the simulation model to see how the system reacts. In this configuration, the simulation tests real control input from the PLC and feedback from the simulation model.

During robotics virtual commissioning, engineers create scenarios to verify that the robotics offline programming has created a workable and efficient program. Reach and cycle times can be verified. Robotics virtual commissioning also typically runs event-based simulations to ensure that contingencies work properly.

Virtual debugging is a key feature of robotics virtual commissioning. The software enables users to debug automation control logic and PLC code in a virtual environment. When physical robotics systems are commissioned only after they have been built on the production floor, all debugging must be performed after deployment, and this means production stoppage for long periods of time. In contrast, when robotics virtual commissioning software performs debugging operations, the time between deployment and live production is abbreviated considerably.

Benefits of robotics virtual commissioning

Robotics virtual commissioning confirms that a robotics system will work as expected before the control program is downloaded to actual equipment. This enables corrective actions to be taken before deployment, eliminating debugging and rework on the physical system.

Additional benefits:

  • Reduced time to production startup
  • Lower commissioning, debugging, and rework costs
  • Less production downtime
  • Opportunity to train operators virtually

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