Computing is at the core

IT for manufacturing simulation processes is among the key themes of Hannover Messe 2009, reports E&T.

Mainstream IT is increasingly permeating many specialist applications once the preserve of proprietary, bespoke systems. At Hannover Messe 2009, the Digital Factory fair gives an overview of customised software tools for product development, planning, production, and after-sales service. One trend in this sector is the modularisation of software applications; another is IT-supported co-operation across departmental, corporate and national boundaries.

The Digital Factory's special show, RapidX, will feature live demonstrations of advanced product development. The special Digital Factory display - themed 'Mechatronics in the Process Chain' - focuses on the cross-disciplinary development of mechatronic products. Mechatronics in mechanical engineering refers to the development and production of control devices and cabinets, the simulation and realisation of cabling, as well as energy efficiency and virtual commissioning.

The interaction of a number of engineering disciplines necessitates IT-supported integrated processes. EPLAN Software & Service, and industrial enclosures and switchgear cabinet manufacturer parent company Rittal, are partnering with KOMAX Kabelverarbeitungssysteme and Steinhauer Elektromaschinen to demonstrate product development processes live in Hall 17.

Live demonstrations

The demonstration focuses on the development of a switchgear cabinet and its contents for a machine tool, and the manufacture of its cabling and housing. Product development, simulation, calculation, virtual testing, and production without the need for physical prototyping are all state-of-the-art industrial manufacturing processes that will be showcased via a series of 'stations'.

The first station in the process chain is the EPLAN Engineering Center (EEC), the control centre for the conception, planning and development of industrial installations that integrates mechanics, electrical engineering, and control technology. Based on mechatronic components and using product data from the data portal, engineers generate a set of hardware documentation and the SPS program. The second station shows the traditional form of product development: EPLAN P8 is used to design the hardware, while EPLAN Fluid supports the development of pneumatics and hydraulics, cooling, and lubrication systems.

The modelling of the cabinet housing is the subject of the demonstration at the third station. Standard components from Rittal are assembled virtually as three-dimentional objects; the parts are then inserted virtually into the mounting panel, and necessary cable entries and fixings are added to the panel. Out of this process comes the production documentation for manufacturing the conductors and cables and fabricating the sheet metal components.

With software supplied by Rittal, tests are demonstrated at the fourth station to discover best practice for cooling the built-in electrical systems. Simulation delivers the required energy efficiency without over-dimensioning the cooling system. Depending on the main direction of air flow as determined by the simulation, it is now possible to manufacture and install cooling baffles, for instance, on an ad hoc basis.

Regular guided tours will be conducted by independent experts Thomas Pflug, executive secretary of the industry association NC Gesellschaft, and Ulrich Sendler, director of the Sendler/Circle IT-forum. Throughout the show, industry specialists will be available at the various stations of the process chain to answer visitors' questions.

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) generate data to improve manufacturing productivity and efficiency levels. As a result, MES is becoming a tool for realigning business operations in the economic downturn. On 22 April, an event in the Hannover Messe Convention Centre titled 'MES - Efficient Production', highlights this topic's importance.

Guided tours will give an overview of the full spectrum of innovative software solutions. In cooperation with the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) and Trovarit AG, Deutsche Messe Hannover will again offer tours focusing on the areas of product development, planning, production and after-sales service.

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