Vrchlabí shifts into higher gear
Cooperation between man, machine and technology as an optimised future-oriented solution
he Vrchlabí plant is continuing to digitise component production. By implementing and using the principles of Industry 4.0, it is consolidating its position as a technologically highly advanced production plant. Consequently, the staff has used the so-called digital twin here to expand the production line by an entire workplace during full-scale operation. “Owing to space constraints, we couldn’t install the new unit next to the existing one; besides, neither adjustments nor test operations are possible during normal operation. The digital twin technology has allowed us to use a detailed virtual image of the line to simulate processes or procedures and continuously expand the production line during operation”, says Christian Bleiel, head of PK – Component Production.
The digital twin
Before creating an exact digital twin of a real workstation, a 3D model was designed on a computer. The entire process involved a thorough imitation of robotic arms, sensor logic and safety features. In this way, the implementation team faithfully simulated all mechanical and kinematic processes of the device. The twin’s software functions succeeded in mediating communication between all of the production line’s hardware components and software-guided control processes. Using this setting, the engineers developed, tested and optimised control electronics while calculating how much space they needed for a new workplace. They also eliminated the collision of robotic arms and determined the ideal composition of the production cycle. Using a computer model, the project implementation period was cut by about three weeks to achieve savings of approximately 40m2 of production space. The robot control programmes for the digital twin had been developed before the machines and their accessories arrived at the plant. ED
Following the example of Industry 4.0
New parts for CNC machines are supplied by an automatic robot controlled by Internet of Things (IoT) sensor technology. And how does everything work? Logistics workers collect a crate of parts in the warehouse, and an automatic transport robot picks it up and transports it to one of the CNC machining lines. On the way back, the robot takes an empty crate with it, which reports its return to the warehouse. Thus, the robot delivers more than 50,000 parts to machining tools per day, exactly when needed. The entire process increases not only production productivity but also occupational safety (logistics employees are no longer moving around inside the production area). Investments in this project will pay off for the carmaker in less than three years.