The digital transformation of industry has been ongoing for years, as more companies digitize legacy equipment through network connections, employ edge and cloud computing for data analysis and insights, and purchase new equipment with greater interoperability and connectivity capabilities. Much of this activity is done with targeted goals in mind, such as less downtime, operating cost reductions, higher throughput rates, and increased manufacturing capacity.
With such target applications of digital technologies being the most familiar to manufacturers, achieving end-to-end digital manufacturing may seem like a distant goal to many.
To prove that complete digitalization of manufacturing processes—from planning and design through to final part production with feedback for continuous improvement—is not some far-off idea, but a goal that can be attained with current technologies, Siemens demonstrated each step of its Xcelerator software portfolio at IMTS 2022.
Using the creation of a new, lightweight wheel knuckle component for the eRod electric off-road vehicle as an example, Rahul Garg, director of industrial machinery solutions at Siemens Digital Industries Software, walked visitors through each step of how Xcelerator can be used to design, test, and create a product or component.
The Xcelerator portfolio includes NX for Manufacturing, which incorporates NX CAD (computer aided design), NX CAM (computer aided manufacturing) and CMM (coordinate measurement machine) inspection programming. Manufacturers can connect additive and subtractive manufacturing steps in this software, enabling the use of a single system to program complex 3D models, such as the light-weighted eRod wheel knuckle.
Beginning the process
Garg said the first step is to create a 3D scan of the original part. That scan is then brought inside Xcelerator’s design tools. Artificial intelligence in the design software assesses the original part scan. Based on the specifications input into the software delineating what’s required of the part, the software will determine what changes need to be made to the part to optimize its design and achieve the desired end goal.
“Within a few minutes, it will run through all the different permutations and combinations of the whole design,” explained Garg. “Then it will look at the manufacturability of the newly designed part. To really optimize the whole manufacturing process, the software looks at all the support structures that will be needed to make that part. All of that is done inside one integrated digital environment—from the scanning to designing, to the topology optimizations and simulations—to see how the part will be made and what resources will be required to make that part.”
The closed-loop manufacturing insights provided by Xcelerator allows users to see how the part will be made and it brings that information back to into the planning process to further optimize the process before actual production begins.
The video below shows how the end-to-end Xcelerator design and manufacturing software works.
Another key component of Xcelerator is its digital twin capability. In the demonstration at IMTS, Carson Huber, advanced application engineer at Siemens, explained that the digital twin used in this demonstration is an exact replica of the subtractive machining used to manufacture the part on the shop floor.
“This digital twin is actually being driven from the machine code,” said Huber. “Even if you’re using legacy code, you can use it to drive this digital twin.”
The complete digital process provided by Xcelerator enables end-to-end optimization of the part and production process because the digital world is a zero-cost manufacturing environment that is used to prove out designs and manufacturing processes prior to real world implementation, Garg said. “In this digital world, we can break the part, we can break the machine, we can break the tools and it doesn't cost us anything. We can check everything out before we actually take it to the physical machine—and it’s all done in one integrated environment to ensure there is no data loss and that no problems are possible in any transitions [between one software environment and another].”
SaaS and Sustainability
For some manufacturers, even after seeing these complete digital processes laid out step-by-step, the transition to end-to-end digital manufacturing may still seem a far-off goal. To address that, Siemens has made Xcelerator available via software as a service (SaaS) through its Xcelerator-as-a-Service (XaaS) offering. Siemens has done this to make the software more accessible from a cost standpoint to small and medium-sized businesses. SaaS offloads the software installation, maintenance, and upgrade factors to Siemens—issues that most smaller manufacturers are not capable of efficiently supporting on their own.
Further extending the Xcelerator portfolio’s capabilities, Siemens just announced it is collaborating with sustamize GmbH to create the new Teamcenter Carbon Footprint Calculator software. This software will provide access to the most up-to-date CO2 emission data for materials and energies, allowing manufacturers to measure, simulate, reduce, and track their product carbon footprint early in the development phase. According to Siemens, this will empower different departments to measure, optimize, and manage carbon footprints at each level of the product value chain.