Parallel working solution for different engineering project disciplines

25 May 2016

Traditionally, the different disciplines of an engineering project – mechanical engineering, electrical and controls engineering and PLC/ software engineering – have been worked on within isolated silos. Maximilian Brandl, president of Eplan and Cideon, believes that greater efficiencies can be achieved by working on these tasks in parallel.

“We are seeing more companies adopting a mechatronic approach which we believe is important,” said Brandl. “If the different engineering disciplines involved in a project are approached together it is possible to achieve improved engineering efficiencies and effectiveness. Taking a mechatronic engineering approach will also allow engineers to add value along the whole value chain.”

The barrier to wider uptake of such an approach has, traditionally, been due to a lack of tools to combine the different engineering disciplines. Eplan and Cideon has addressed this with Syngineer, an open and scalable platform solution which synchronises interdisciplinary engineering processes in a cloud-based architecture to offer a joint mechatronic structure that is able to fulfil the requirements, functions and components needed by the different engineering disciplines of a single project.

It is designed to sit on top of existing CAD systems, being accessed via plug-ins. Currently there are plug-ins for EPLAN, Autodesk Inventor, Solidworks and Codesys software programming environments.

The Syngineer communication platform sees MCAD, ECAD and PLC software interfaced directly through the mechatronic structure. It simplifies synchronisation across disciplines and helps to accelerate design engineering and development processes through closer collaboration.

Brandl continues: “With Syngineer we are establishing a collective view of the machine to be constructed. Coordinating and administrative efforts between various engineering processes are structured and automated so that design engineering and development processes are parallelised, making them considerably shorter.” A prerequisite for this synchronised working solution is that all of the engineering disciplines taking part in the process need to first agree on a clear, uniform and transparent mechatronic structure with the requirements and functionalities being defined and documented within this structure.

The use of cloud technology enables the different project teams to communicate in real time and across locations. Changes or new specifications can be assigned directly to the respective disciplines involved and all those involved in a project will be informed of any changes. For example, the mechanical engineer and software developer will automatically receive a notification when the electrical engineer changes an electric motor for a different model. They are, therefore, able to see if this change affects their own work.

Syngineer does not compete with PDM or PLM systems, but instead expands their functionality with discipline-specific processes continuing to be managed within the usual PDM/PLM system. Interfacing components from the discipline-specific authoring systems with the communication platform results in information from the interface that transmits the ‘building instructions’ for the mechatronic bill of materials to the PDM/PLM system. Because of this, the mechanical and electrotechnical bill of materials no longer need to be manually synchronised to avoid duplicates when ordering.

“Mechatronics engineering is the next step for engineering,” said Brandl. “It will create another level of efficiency. It might also result in the generation of new mechatronic ideas because of its ability to provide better communication between departments.” The system is currently in the pilot phase but should be available before the end of the year.

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