Realising the open virtual commissioning of modular automation systems

To address the challenges in the automotive industry posed by the need to rapidly manufacture more product variants, and the resultant need for more adaptable production systems, radical changes are now required in the way in which such systems are developed and implemented. In this context, two enabling approaches for achieving more agile manufacturing, namely modular automation systems and virtual commissioning, are briefly reviewed in this contribution. Ongoing research conducted at Loughborough University which aims to provide a modular approach to automation systems design coupled with a virtual engineering toolset for the (re)configuration of such manufacturing automation systems is reported. The problems faced in the virtual commissioning of modular automation systems are outlined. AutomationML - an emerging neutral data format which has potential to address integration problems is discussed. The paper proposes and illustrates a collaborative framework in which AutomationML is adopted for the data exchange and data representation of related models to enable efficient open virtual prototype construction and virtual commissioning of modular automation systems. A case study is provided to show how to create the data model based on AutomationML for describing a modular automation system.