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Digitization The Future of Construction

Author / Editor: Ralf Steck / Alexander Stark

The digital revolution also affects the designer's job description and self-image — and those of them who are not prepared to surf this wave are swept away by it. Basically it is important to be prepared for current trends such as big data, artificial intelligence or automation - even in the die casting sector.

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Digitization not only determines production but also the way in which the designer will work in the future.
Digitization not only determines production but also the way in which the designer will work in the future.
(Source: Siemens PLM Software)

The trends in construction are naturally guided by the general trends: connection of different data sources, intelligent, cross-linked products, big data, artificial intelligence, automation and additive technologies. If you take a look at each of these trends, the image of product development in the age of digitization becomes clearer.

Related to: Eliminating Efficiency Killers in the Casting Sector

Connection of All Data Sources: The Digital Twin Is Born

In the past, the design department was leading the development of new products. If electrical or electronic components had to be integrated into a device, this often only happened after the mechanical design was completed — or the device was already built. Among other things, this meant that the space for cables was often not accessible and subsequent changes to the mechanical design were required. The same applied to pneumatics and hydraulics.

The world has changed completely since then: Software and electronics are no longer a necessary evil for controlling or moving mechanics, so "non-mechanical" disciplines are taking on more and more functional tasks today. Compare a dial telephone, which still transmitted the numbers by mechanically generated sounds, with a smartphone, which apart from some keys has no moving parts and whose functionality has been completely transferred to the software.

Comment: Gyro Gearloose or Miss Emily Quackfaster? Most engineers and technicians have already tinkered with everything in their youth, were enthusiastic about technology and built things with great enthusiasm. Who was their role model, the ingenious inventor Gyro Gearloose or Miss Emily Quackfaster who fought red tape?
Systems Engineering involves breaking away from technical implementation and defining functions in a mathematical description. Topology optimization means that the engineer only specifies numbers and the software does the actual design work. The new tools are really fascinating, but you have to make sure you take the protagonists of product development along. At the end of the day, the computer has one big shortcoming: it has no creativity and judgement, the best ideas will continue to come from people.
Let the designer continue to have his Gearloose jet drive moment and let Miss Quackfaster do the optimization — then the results will really be ideal, and everyone involved will enjoy their work.

This change requires completely new tools that enable the different disciplines to work together on a common data model. The widely propagated digital twin — the complete representation of all aspects of a product — is the inevitable result when the function of a product can no longer be mapped using 3D geometry but is transferred into lines of code and circuits. The different disciplines — which generate their data in different authoring systems adapted to the respective requirements — must be able to make this data available to the other disciplines at any time.

Gallery with 7 images

Of course, it is also necessary to have access to the colleagues' data. Not only does the electronics have a three-dimensional shape and therefore have to be integrated into the 3D geometry of the product. The software developer will also need to know at some point where a sensor whose signal is relevant in its code is physically located, for example. A common data model that makes all product data available at any location — in the right form — is the prerequisite for efficient work on such closely integrated products. In addition, this data model must always be consistent, so the data is able flow in real time; manual data transfer or adaptation is simply not possible. This is the only way to produce a product in one piece.

Related to: Digital Twin – Future of Manufacturing

High Product Variance Due to Country-Specific Rules

Not only the functional diversity of our products is increasing, but also the multitude of regulatory requirements that have to be met — especially in globalized markets. The regulations differ considerably between countries and economic areas in some cases; the manufacturer of a product must take all regulations of all countries into account and find common denominators if he is to be able to market his product in as many markets as possible without country-specific adjustments. While the global mains voltages of 110 and 220 V can be relatively well absorbed, different regulations apply to cars in many markets, for example, with regard to the field of vision that the driver must be able to see — including the size of the rear-view mirror.

Such complex requirements can only be managed with software systems that constantly test and monitor compliance with these requirements parallel to the design process.

Automatically Align Design with Requirements

Because these requirements also affect the functions to an important part, a complete list of requirements, which is to be monitored automatically, inevitably results in a functional description in the sense of system engineering. All functions must be defined and linked in such a way that the design can be automatically matched with these requirements — this is only possible with the help of an abstract function description that is detached from geometry, circuit diagram or code.

Gallery with 7 images

The result is a software tool in the form of a platform on which data can flow freely and in which systems engineering and requirements management play a central role. However, this also results in advantages at the other end of the process: If data is available everywhere, it can be used for service and other areas of the product life cycle even after the product has been manufactured.

This means, of course, that the data of the digital and the real twin must always match. Until now it is often not even certain that the product is completely identical to the digital model at the end of production — for example, if freeform surface models are created "freehand" from the CAD data by a model builder, as is all too often the case, or even if changes are necessary in production that are not transferred to the digital model.

A return channel is necessary — from production, but also from "real life", in which machines are maintained, rebuilt, modernized and optimized time and again over the years without this really being documented. Technologies such as tablets, with which 3D models can be taken to the installation site of the machine, or augmented reality glasses, which enable the direct, three-dimensional comparison of digital model and real machine, will make such feedback much easier in the future.

This article first published by Schweizer MaschinenMarkt

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