Conversation with: Alex S., Mechanical Engineer
Topic: Simulation in Automation
When adding a new piece of equipment to your manufacturing line, one small mistake in the design can cause a variety of issues from project delays to lower production output. Before simulation and 3D modeling software was available, the design iteration process would require a string of builds to ensure everything fit and worked properly. Today, amazing advances in 3D manufacturing simulation software allow our engineers to have precise answers before we ever begin to build your solution.
We sat down with Alex, one of our expert Mechanical Engineers, to talk about simulation in the design process, and how it helps us ensure each customer gets the right automation solution for their operation.
“We’re very detail-oriented at Wes-Tech, and most of what we do is custom made, so having the ability to simulate ahead of time ensures we can meet customer production requirements. We use simulation to make sure our design is correct before we ever begin building equipment.”
One of the main types of simulation the Wes-Tech team uses is process simulation. This enables the designers to forecast how the machines are going to work before the mechanical design begins. In additionto ensuring components will move together properly, process simulation is a way to validate cycle time to ensure the projected build will meet customer throughput needs.
As technology pushes forward, customers are often looking to improve cycle times so they can produce more product in the same amount of time. This can require new and different pieces to be added to the line. However, the more complex the solution, the more difficult it is to visualize how everything moves together to achieve the end goal.
“For example, a robot may fit in the footprint that is available, but you can’t just put it in and hope for the best. The robotic arm has multiple axes, and the complex movement of these can add fractions of a second to cycle time. Those fractions add up over a 24/7 run cycle and can lead to lost time and money if they have not been properly accounted for.”
Simulations can help bring everything together in a 3D model to see how it will work. Wes-Tech engineers utilize modeling software to simulate the way parts will move along the conveyors, how the robots will interact with the equipment, and can even add in simulations of the human workers.
Another facet of simulation is mechanical design simulation, or finite element analysis. This process helps ensure that what the team is designing can withstand mechanical and thermal stresses applied to it. Designs can be quickly put through mechanical simulation, allowing alteration of the design so it is optimized for the specific application. This process ultimately reduces cost to the customer by ensuring that what Wes-Tech has designed is going to work exactly as expected, and that the components will last a long time in the customer’s specific environment.
Proper application of simulation software takes knowledge and experience to interpret the data output. The value of simulation tools depends on an engineer’s ability to understand what the results tell them. An excellent simulation engineer can analyze numbers from the computer and use their experience and knowledge to determine the validity and reliability of the results. And it can help to quickly work through possible solutions.
“I really like the idea of being able to creatively explore different avenues to achieve multiple potential solutions to a problem. With simulation modeling, I can try multiple solutions quickly, and that helps us get to the best result.”
The Wes-Tech team has found that customers are often excited to see the possible solution in action, especially for complicated robot cells, and that it is validating for them to see how everything will fit together. From visualizing robot moves to seeing machine flow, and analyzing the effect of physical stresses on machine designs, simulation helps the Wes-Tech team ensure our customers get exactly what they need.
When you need to get to the right solution, and you want to be sure it works before the build even starts, call Wes-Tech. Our engineers are ready to put their expertise to work, in simulation and in the build stage, to help improve your manufacturing operations so you can gain a competitive advantage.
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