Brandon Fuller, Eagle Technologies
Advanced simulation technologies allow us to deliver more efficient machines at lower cost.
Of the new technologies transforming the manufacturing industry, advanced simulations are having the broadest impact on design and development processes. Simulations give engineers insight into the performance of a machine prior to production so they can spot flaws in the design or areas for improvement. They also make it easier for engineers to test new design ideas, thus stimulating innovation.
At Eagle, we have both the powerful simulation software necessary to accomplish this work, and a qualified simulation engineer to support our team as they scope out projects and test designs. Here’s how we use simulation in our design processes, and how our capabilities in this area lead to lower costs, more efficient machines, and faster turnarounds for our customers.
How does Eagle Technologies use simulations in their process?
Simulations are most useful in the early stages of our process, as we’re creating scopes of work, writing proposals, and working on aspects of the design. Our simulations are used in two departments—Applications and Engineering—to enhance our work and achieve better outcomes.
Applications: concepts, quotes, and proposals.
As we review projects and create design quotes, 3D simulations help us create more accurate quotes and estimates. We can include 3D simulations in our proposals to help our customers see how the machine will operate, and with fewer unknown variables, we are better positioned to deliver projects on time and on budget.
“3D simulations provide an exiting opportunity to deliver a more complete concept and offer to our customers. It is the best way to communicate the concept while verifying cycle times and throughputs.” –Brad Emswiler, Eagle applications group manager.
Engineering: execution, detailing, and designing.
Once our customer accepts our proposal and concept, our engineering team uses simulations to fine tune the automation design. Simulations ensure that we don’t have unexpected robot interferences or cycle time challenges during debug.
“3D simulations bring many benefits to our machine designs. They allow us to convey to our customers in greater detail how the machine will operate. They insure proper robot sizing, interactions and interferences. In some cases they allow for programming ahead of the machine being built!” –Jason Cleveland, Eagle VP, Engineering.
What simulation capabilities does Eagle Technologies have?
We use several simulation technologies based on the application. Generally, these fall into two groups: Robotic 3D simulations, and 2D discrete event simulations.
Robotic 3D simulations.
These allow us to build out full models of an automation system. Using a 3D simulation, we can see how much space our machine will take up on the factory floor once its built, how the various mechanics will interconnect, and where we might be able to save space or combine automated stations for a more efficient system. Eagle partnered with Rockwell Automation and Emulate3D to develop the simulation video shown in this article.
2D discrete event simulations.
In a complex design with many interlocking parts, it can be difficult to predict how a modification in one area might affect the functionality of another. Discrete event simulations allow us to measure the effects of a design change one variable at a time.
Although we have powerful simulation capabilities at our disposal, the benefits don’t show up as a line item on our project proposals. Instead, the costs we save our customers can be seen in superior machines built in less time with a more efficient use of components and space.
1. Demonstrating proof of concept.
In the past, trying a new design carried greater risk, because there was a higher possibility that it might not meet our customer’s expectations. With simulation, we have a greater range to test concepts and find new solutions to the design and layout of a machine. The more complex an automation process is, the more invaluable this ability becomes.
2. Saving floor space through a more compact design.
A more compact machine means components spend less time being moved from one automation process to the next, and that the overall footprint of the machine takes up less floor space. Finding space saving shortcuts during prototyping and development is costly, but with a 3D model, we can find ways to create a smaller product before production begins.
3. Performing reach studies to find the best components.
Each part that we use to build our machines has different parameters in terms of reach, load, and lift. Selecting the wrong component—an arm that is longer and takes up more spaces than necessary, or one that is more prone to wear down when used beyond its design limits—results in waste and poor performance. Simulation allows us to test the design intent in our model to find the right component for each application.
4. Confirming cycle times and throughputs.
Every design must match certain specifications in order to meet customer requirements. Without simulation, we would have to fully construct a design before we could confirm it was able to meet production requirements, and adjusting it if it came up short would be a more complex effort. With simulation, we can verify that our machines meet performance requirements before we build a single prototype.
5. Debugging and programming work can happen earlier.
Before simulation, a robot’s behavior couldn’t be programmed until it had been placed in the assembly. Using simulations, we can program the operation and timing of the robotic components, work out any hitch in the design, and have them ready to upload into the system as soon as the machine is complete.
6. Reducing the number of weeks needed to design a machine.
A few decades ago, creating machines at the scale and level of complexity we produce would have taken a full year or more to design, build, test, and deliver. With advanced simulations, that time has been reduced to four or five months. Simulations allow us to catch costly errors before the debug process, allowing us to move forward with releasing complete designs to manufacturing with greater confidence in our designs.
Simulation lets us build a better mousetrap.
To put it simply, simulation technology lets us do what we have always done more powerfully and efficiently than before. It gives our applications group better ways of communicating concepts to our customers so that our customers can fully visualize and understand our work from start to finish. It helps our engineering team begin programming and debugging prior to—or in concert with—machine assembly, which reduces debug time and accelerates testing. And by reducing risks, we are able to meet machine specifications and delivery schedules with fewer mistakes and road blocks along the way.
Ultimately, simulations let us to erase unknown variables. When we successfully create concepts and proposals that our customers can readily understand, streamline the design and development process, and meet all requirements and production schedules, we build confidence in our customers in their decision to work with us. And that makes all the difference.