What is emulation, and what existing and future needs does it address?
Ready for Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is bringing digital transformation to all organisations. It’s affecting education, it introduces new tools and technology, and it changes the way we work.
As part of the nine technologies transforming industry, emulation bring greater opportunities for lowering costs and reducing production downtime. Virtual models of real-world systems can be created and used for different applications, and support entire life-cycles.
What is Emulation?
Alot of people get confused between simulation and emulation, usually seen as quite interchangeable terms. While simulation provides a way of testing the basic behaviors of a system, emulation goes further than this. Emulation allows you to duplicate an exact component or system like the real thing. The only difference is that it exists in a virtual environment, rather than the real world.
Timeline Towards Emulation
The use of emulation today stands at the very front of supporting automated systems in engineering:
Circa.1968 – PLC Programming
The automobile industry was the first industry to use PLCs in their manufacturing process. Their “Standard Machine Controller” showed a 60 percent reduction in downtime.¹
Circa. 1980s – PC Adoption and Simulation Expansion
The desktop computer gave users an interface to PLCs directly, as well as software improvements to monitor machine motions alot easier.¹
During this period, the field of simulation expanded to develop modeling and analytic tools.² It’s used to test scenarios based on pre-defined metrics.³
¹ c3controls.com PLC programming then and now: The history of PLCs.
² D.Goldsman, R.Nance & J.Wilson (2010) A brief history of simulation. Research Gate.
³ I.McGregor (2002) The relationship between simulation and emulation.
Circa. 2000s – Emulation Concept
Emulation models designed to bridge the “credibility gap” of a real system. Used to further test control systems under realistic conditions.¹
Today – Digital Twins and Emulation Application
Digital Twins and Emulation can be widely adopted across the full production life-cycle of an automated system to test and verify before any physical commissioning. The visual, physics, interface connections and behaviours can all be replicated like a real system. Time and cost investing in building accurate virtual models is paid off by the reduction in real commissioning time and costs. More efficiencies are gained while reducing resource use.¹
Needs in Education
- Engineering and technical education institutes need to adapt their courses to teach the skills required in the Industry 4.0 context. Virtual commissioning (within emulation) and PLC Programming and Robotics are core to this.
- Physical labs are a limited resource and expensive. Using a virtual lab environment provides a safe, low cost option that’s completely accessible and scalable.
- Learning basic technical or engineering skills such as mechatronics, hydraulics, kinematics will be provided more and more on virtual tools to give a better understanding.
Learn more about Simumatik’s Open Emulation Platform in Education.
Needs for Professionals
- The paradigm change from massive to custom production will require flexible production systems, even more automated, with a minimum lead time from design to implementation with a reduced commissioning time.
- The integration of new technologies such AI and big-data in the industry will add complexity to the systems which will require more testing. Physical testing is very costly.
- To support a sustainable industry and integrate new technologies, old systems need to be retrofitted (upgraded) to be adapted and enlarge their life. Emulation models can be a key tool to enable this transformation minimizing risks and costs.
Learn more about Simumatik’s Open Emulation Platform for Professionals.