The recent years I have been mentioning several times addressing the term model-based in the context of a modern, digital enterprise. Posts like: Digital PLM requires a model-based enterprise (Sept 2016) or Item-Centric or Model-Centric (Sept 2017) describe some of the aspects of a model-based approach. And if you follow the PLM vendors in their marketing messages, everyone seems to be looking for a model-based environment.

This is however in big contrast with reality in the field. In February this year I moderated a focus group related to PLM and the Model-Based approach and the main conclusion from the audience was that everyone was looking at it, and only a few started practicing. Therefore, I promised to provide some step-by-step education related to model-based as like PLM we need to get a grip on what it means and how it impacts your company. As I am not an academic person, it will be a little bit like model-based for dummies, however as model-based in all aspects is not yet a wide-spread common practice, we are all learning.

What is a Model?

The word Model has various meanings and this is often the first confusion when people speak about Model-Based. The two main interpretations in the context of PLM are:

  • A Model represents a 3D CAD Model – a virtual definition of a physical product
  • A Model represents a scientific / mathematical model

And although these are the two main interpretations there are more aspects to look at model-based in the context of a digital enterprise. Let’s explore the 3D CAD Model first

The role of the 3D CAD Model in a digital enterprise

Just designing a product in 3D and then generating 2D drawings for manufacturing is not really game-changing and bringing big benefits. 3D Models provide a better understanding of the product, mechanical simulations allow the engineer to discover clashes and/or conflicts and this approach will contribute to a better understanding of the form & fit of a product. Old generations of designers know how to read a 2D drawing and in their mind understand the 3D Model.

Modern generations of designers are no longer trained to start from 2D, so their way of thinking is related 3D modeling. Unfortunate businesses, in particular when acting in Eco-systems with suppliers, still rely on the 2D definition as the legal document.  The 3D Model has brought some quality improvements and these benefits already justify most of the companies to design in 3D, still it is not the revolution a model-based enterprise can bring.

A model-based enterprise has to rely on data, so the 3D Model should rely on parameters that allow other applications to read them. These parameters can contribute to simulation analysis and product optimization or they can contribute to manufacturing. In both cases the parameters provide data continuity between the various disciplines, eliminating the need to create new representations in different formats. I will come back in a future post to the requirements for the 3D CAD model in the context of the model-based enterprise, where I will zoom in on Model-Based Definition and the concepts of Industry 4.0.

The role of mathematical models in a digital enterprise

The mathematical model of a product allows companies to analyze and optimize the behavior of a product. When companies design a product they often start from a conceptual model and by running simulations they can optimize the product and define low-level requirements within a range that optimizes the product performance. The relation between design and simulation in a virtual model is crucial to be as efficient as possible. In the current ways of working, often design and simulation are not integrated and therefore the amount of simulations is relative low, as time-to-market is the key driver to introduce a new product.

In a digital enterprise, design and simulations are linked through parameters, allowing companies to iterate and select the optimal solution for the market quickly. This part is closely related to model-based systems engineering (MBSE) , where the focus is on defining complex systems. In the context of MBSE I will also zoom in on the relation between hardware and software, which at the end will deliver the desired functionality for the customer. Again in this part we will zoom in on the importance of having a parameter model, to ensure digital continuity.

Digital Twin

There is still a debate if the Digital Twin is part of PLM or should be connected to PLM. A digital twin can be based on a set of parameters that represent the product performance in the field. There is no need to have a 3D representation, despite the fact that many marketing videos always show a virtual image to visualize the twin.

Depending on the business desire, there can be various digital twins for the same products in the field, all depending on the parameters that you want to monitor. Again it is about passing parameters, in this case from the field back to R&D and these parameters should be passed in a digital manner. In a future post I will zoom in on the targets and benefits of the digital twin.

Conclusion

There are various aspects to consider related to “model-based”.  The common thread for each of the aspects is related to PARAMETERS.  The more you can work with parameters to connect the various usages of a product/system, the closer you are related to the digital enterprise. The real advantages of a digital enterprise are speed (information available in real-time), end-to-end visibility (as data is not locked in files / closed systems).

PARAMETERS the objects to create digital continuity

 

 

 

 

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