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3D tool allows machine-builders to test controls virtually

31 July, 2020

The Canadian software developer Maplesoft has released a tool that connects directly in real time to most common automation platforms, giving machine-builders simulation-based debugging and 3D visualisation capabilities, and allowing them to perform simulated testing of their controllers. MapleSim Insight shows them how different control strategies will affect their machines, allowing them to adjust and fine-tune their designs virtually, and cutting the number of costly physical prototypes they will need.

Although simulation-based testing of machine control strategies is a key to virtual prototyping and commissioning using digital twins, it can be cumbersome to implement. Many automation tools provide limited options for machine-level, simulation-based controller testing, and often require development activities to be moved to a new platform.

MapleSim Insight works with any automation tool that supports compiled function mock-up units (FMUs) – such as the Rockwell’s Studio 5000 or MathWorks’ Simulink. The machine model is first developed in the MapleSim tool, and then exported as an FMU – an open standard format for sharing models.

The software connects to the automation tool, and displays results in real-time, showing how the model behaves as the controller is running. It provides both 3D visualisations for quick feedback, and 2D plots to get precise answers for testing and debugging.

MapleSim Insight gives machine-builders simulation-based debugging and 3-D visualisation capabilities that connect directly to their automation tools

“Digital models are invaluable for the design and testing of a system, acting as a virtual test bench for the machine’s control software,” explains Maplesoft’s senior director of product development, Chad Schmitke. “But hooking the model into your preferred controller platform can be very difficult, and often one of the critical pieces for debugging – the visualisation of the mechanism itself – is lost.

“Now, with MapleSim Insight, visualising and interrogating your model is as simple as running an FMU in your preferred automation environment,” he adds. “You get the robust back-end code to emulate the physics, coupled with the plotting and visualisation necessary to interpret what is happening.”

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