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Siemens sees Mentor helping to build fast digital twins

An emulator that extends the reach of hardware acceleration into the world of multiphysics analysis could result from the merger of Siemens PLM Software with Mentor.

By Chris Edwards, Senior Editor, Tech Design Forum

In his keynote at DAC on Tuesday (June 20, 2017), Chuck Grindstaff, executive chairman of Siemens PLM, said the acquisition of the Mentor business would allow the software company to capitalise on the encroachment of electronics into most products, which in turn pushes the demand for electromechanical codesign. The flows now being envisaged employ the idea of the ‘digital twin’ in which an entire product is built in a virtual environment and simulated before it goes to manufacture.

“Integrated circuit technologies are the heart of innovation today. They offer ability to solve problems both centrally and on the edge of the network that were heretofore not possible,” Grindstaff claimed. “Whether systems or systems of systems, the IC is that core starting point. The digitalization of the company across the supply chain will make the difference between success and failure, from design and manufacturing through to operations.”

Merger timing

Talking about the decision to buy Mentor, Grindstaff said: “The reason why now and not ten years ago or ten years from now is to do with the speed of change. We are learning from what you have done in the IC space and leveraging that in the systems space.

“We at Siemens have a similar view to you all of how to produce a product. It’s a flow of information. How do you take the abstractions that we need and embed them in a product? We compile them into a more detailed form, then simulate, validate and ultimately manufacture it.

“We can take concepts like emulation. We have been very successful with emulation products such as Veloce. And we have future plans to extend those product lines.”

“By learning from the successes there we could apply concepts and move to the next level the simulation and emulation of entire systems. Customers will be able to figure out how things will behave before they are products.”

In an interview session after the keynote, Grindstaff expanded: “What we see in the systems world is similar to Wally’s experience with simulation and the need among customers for emulation. Simulation has been doing a good job for a while. But often you don’t get fast enough turnaround. Mentor turned that into an emulated approach to bring down those turnaround times.”

Long-term aim

A system-level emulator would be a long-term project in all likelihood. Grindstaff explained: “In the case of these big electromechanical systems, right now there is no single simulation platform that can do the full function analysis. Often, configuration complexity gets in the way. And there is no multiphysics compute platform that can handle things in the proper way.

“Right now, this is an idea. But I think we can apply some of these concepts that we have in systems simulation and get a vehicle simulator. If we can do that, it will be groundbreaking. We would not take the exact same hardware and configuration. But we would use the concepts and experience base.”

Wally Rhines, Mentor chairman and CEO, added: “We have some history of this.” He pointed to the use of system simulation in mobile development during the 2G and 3G rollouts. “Ikos had the unique advantage of being able to load it in a van and drive it around the basestation [coverage area].”

Flexible manufacturing

In his keynote, Grindstaff pointed to fundamental changes in manufacturing and business models that lie behind the moves being made by Siemens. The German conglomerate has examples in wind turbines, he noted. “Siemens makes a lot of stuff. And some of them are very big things, such as wind turbines. When you look at wind turbines, the business model has changed. Instead of just selling one to a customer, you are selling capacity. To do that they have to be instrumented to make sure the entire wind farm is optimized. We can transition from simply selling a product to selling a capability.”

3D printing coupled with robots provide ways to build flexible production spaces where time in the plant is shared among many different products “instead of building dedicated production facilities”.

“3D printing is on the same improvement path as Moore’s Law. The way you make products will be different and the way you design products will be different,” Grindstaff said.

“Industrial robots are changing. What you did in the past was tell them what to do. We moving towards robotics with distributed decision-making and advanced analytics. They can be given much higher-level tasks: ‘pick up things that look like this’. We don’t program the specifics of a joint articulation. Instead it’s the job that the manufacturer wants done on the shopfloor.”

The merger, Grindstaff said, would allow the company to serve customers across that entire ecosystem “where we are connecting everything to everything else”.

Originally published on the Tech Design Forum

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