Siemens Process Instrumentation offers an innovative portfolio of process instruments for flow, level, pressure and temperature measurement, as well as a wide range of continuous weighing products. Pneumatic valve positioners, process controllers and recorders and process protection devices complete the package. The company’s versatile technologies meet the needs of diverse applications across all of the process industries – including oil and gas, chemical, water and wastewater, power and many others.
Process industries are very complex because of the large quantities of assemblies and components. Process manufacturing is common in oil and gas, energy, food and beverage, chemical, pharmaceutical, consumer packaged goods and biotechnology industries.To make plants more efficient and energysaving, Siemens Process Instrumentation customers must address many details, including smart positioners − devices that control the positioning of process valves using compressed air. By injecting or bleeding off air, the positioner sets the pressure in the actuator to a specified value, executing an upstream control command.
Siemens Process Instrumentation develops and manufactures the SIPART PS2 positioner that controls valves in this manner for conduits of all sizes, from outlets only a few millimeters wide to pipes as much as three meters in diameter. There are correspondingly large differences in the quantities of air involved, and in the speed with which the drive must be filled with air or emptied. The capability to accurately execute control commands regardless of valve configuration is the strength and added value of the SIPART PS2 – but it also results in millions of positioned configurations because of drive variety (for example, models and dimensions) and environmental conditions (for example, temperature and pressure).
Philippe Labalette, project manager at Siemens Process Instrumentation in the research and development (R&D) department, leads the development projects for SIPART PS2. Labalette explains that one particular difficulty for process manufacturing is when it comes to implementation. “Every time we make a change, we have to make sure that the positioner will continue to operate all actuators and valves in the same way as before,” explains Labalette. “Of course, we could review all the combinations in the test laboratory. But the time and cost involved would be impossibly high, and would mean tens of thousands of test runs.”
Conducting tests in a virtual environment can save time and costs. For those reasons Labalette considered automating virtual testing on millions of configurations. Virtual testing would allow engineers to rapidly optimize control for both standard uses and for sophisticated applications, and virtually assess the performance of the positioner involving complex multiphysics systems.
Labalette collaborated with the Simcenter™ Engineering services team from Siemens Digital Industries Software to develop a virtual test environment. “With Simcenter Engineering we set up a kind of wizard that allows us to automatically combine different valve systems, modeled with Simcenter Amesim, and different parameters batches,” Labalette says. Simcenter Engineering helped to build the virtual test environment that simulates the complete interaction between positioner, drive and valve using digital twins developed with Simcenter Amesim™ software and Simcenter 3D. These digital models describe the characteristics of the components that are important for the application.
In the case of the positioner, for example, the models include the size and material as well as the speeds at which it delivers various quantities of air. The virtual test environment simulates how energy is transmitted from the positioner to the drive and then to the valve. Parameters are set for each application; these include the pipe diameter; the medium flowing through the pipe (oil or water, for example); ambient conditions such as temperature; and the desired valves and drives. “Using this virtual testing environment, we can run all these combinations sequentially and automatically at one time,” Labalette explains. “The postprocessing tool allows us to efficiently analyze thousands of different combinations and to very quickly find the best configuration.”
Creating digital twins of valves has been made feasible using Simcenter products. “For developing the SIPART PS2 we use Simcenter Amesim software and Simcenter 3D,” explains Labalette. “The Simcenter tools have been very useful in benchmarking complex system architectures in a very early phase of the project, reducing test efforts at the end of the project, and analyzing failures.”
“The challenge of developing a smart positioner is that the product is very open, and therefore we want to fit it to every processed path or drive that is on the market, so we have to fulfill a huge number of combinations of our device,” says Robin Burger, mechanical designer and simulation engineer in the R&D department at Siemens Process Instrumentation, and a member of the SIPART PS2 project team.
The R&D team developed the digital replica of the pneumatic valves using Simcenter solutions. Simcenter Amesim includes numerous libraries of the physical foundations of system functions to build the digital replicas. “We used Simcenter Amesim for very complex system simulation to measure and simulate performance before we generate mechanical parts,” says Burger. He used Simcenter Amesim to simulate systems that include the interaction of very different domains, such as fluid flows, thermal and mechanical processes, or electrical signal processing. “The advantage of using Simcenter Amesim is that it enables us to build up complex mechatronics models very quickly, using the predefined libraries and putting it all together to get high-fidelity and high-quality simulation models.”
Burger also used Simcenter 3D to simulate flow characteristics. “The flow simulation allowed us to tune the simulation in Simcenter Amesim,” Burger says. “We use the data from Simcenter 3D and include it in the Simcenter Amesim model to refine it. Using Simcenter solutions helped us to get more robust products and to quickly solve customer challenges.” The finetuning also helped Labalette save time in the pre-development phase and better understand the systems’ behaviors.
Predictive maintenance is one key strength of using simulation. Siemens Process Instrumentation is planning to make extensive use of virtual replicas of existing products and models of new products and test environments. In the future, for example, customers should be able to test Siemens products in their own applications, using virtual models to find optimal configurations. To this end, engineers are developing an easy-to-use, web-based test environment that can accommodate digital replicas of drives and valves from a broad range of manufacturers. The uses of digital replicas don’t end there. With status and performance data acquired from real-world physical counterparts, the engineers can also simulate how real equipment will continue to operate and therefore provide an early indication of probable failures.
“We want to have our strong Simcenter Amesim model running in the cloud in parallel to the real device, says Labalette. “Using machine learning, we want to adjust parameters of the model to match the real device’s behavior. In this way we will be able to accurately check in real time which part is working in the device.” With this predictive maintenance, problems can be remedied so that they do not lead to expensive downtime.