Lenze is increasingly using virtual reality as an effective engineering and training tool.

Engineering with virtual twinning

Why virtual reality at Lenze is by no means a game

Virtual reality in machine and systems engineering: high definition VR glasses add a twist to the new computer games hitting the market daily. Lenze, on the other hand, is increasingly using this technology as an extremely effective engineering and training tool. VR's main potential lies in making it easier to deal with the growing complexity of automation relationships, by giving programmers and design engineers live experience of their applications through a digital twin.

At the machine design and engineering phase the combination options of motors and various gearboxes are still relatively easy to grasp in terms of geometry and dimensions. However, the inherent complexity of sophisticated software applications or robot solutions is so rich in detail that it far exceeds human comprehension.  

Although on-screen simulation processes and 3D models yield initial deeper insights into complex relationships, the most important step is still missing - that of first-hand experience. Virtual reality closes precisely that gap.

Let's play a little first. While in VR hits like Resident Evil imminent perils lurk ever more realistically around every corner, the Lenze solution makes it very easy for the "player" to score well in his automation mission, which might be to implement a pick&place application in materials handling with a robot. The Lenze FAST software toolbox by the Motion Centric Automation expert already includes prepared software modules with standard functions for applications of this nature. Multi-axis robot kinematics movements for instance, can thus be defined without first having to grapple with the ins-and-outs of robot programming languages.

So far, so good. Yet notwithstanding programming ease, what about the subsequent impact of changing parameters on the real-life application? How does the robot arm movement change when the drive motors vary speed? Such questions are crucial to the collaborative systems or the direction cooperation between man and machine that we talk about in Industry 4.0 production.

If virtual reality is used during project planning, developers can gain an insight in the VR world into the effects of changed settings on the real situation thanks to the digital twin generated by the Lenze system. Programming can thus be tested and optimised without risk. Lenze also identifies a substantial gain in reliability – both in project terms in the shape of uninterrupted operation and personal safety later on in the event of potential malfunctions. Virtual glasses allow designers and software developers to impressively experience at first hand whether safety functions actually work in reality and how effective minimum clearances are at various machine speeds. 

Virtual reality can also be used at the training stage, even before planning and development, to ensure that all project participants are as well-informed as possible about the potential offered by the hardware deployed. VR glasses are very good at clearly representing complex applications – so a real-life learning environment can thus be experienced easily and vividly. Compared to conventional learning methods and forms of illustration, content can be learned easier and more intensively. In VR learning means actively moving around in the simulated reality, performing exercises under supervision and understanding how individual work steps function in a real machine environment or how a product is designed. The location of the trainee and what time it is does not matter, because VR will (in future) always be available everywhere, with no dependency on a real machine or product.

The benefits of virtual reality for machine and systems engineering can be experienced live during the Hanover Fair 2017 at Lenze in Hall 14, Booth H22. Visitors will have the opportunity to slip on VR glasses and move around virtually in a materials handling application with robot support.

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