Database 'toolbox' cuts enterprise development time

Good old-fashioned cooperation is still more powerful than PC-based software and computers.Chrysler Corp. (Auburn Hills, Mich.), Rockwell Automation (Mayfield Heights, O.), Dassault Systemes S.A. (Suresnes, France) and its recent acquisition, Deneb Robotics Inc. (Troy, Mich.), as well as Progressive Tool & Industries (PICO, Midland, Mich.


Good old-fashioned cooperation is still more powerful than PC-based software and computers.

Chrysler Corp. (Auburn Hills, Mich.), Rockwell Automation (Mayfield Heights, O.), Dassault Systemes S.A. (Suresnes, France) and its recent acquisition, Deneb Robotics Inc. (Troy, Mich.), as well as Progressive Tool & Industries (PICO, Midland, Mich.) spent two years collaborating on software that not only helps design products, but also simulates how to build them, generates control code and diagnostics, and can assist in running the machines and facilities that will manufacture them.

The software, Control Program Generation and Analysis (CPGA), replaces much of the time-consuming control code programming for plant-floor workcells. This can shorten the usual engineering process from years to a few months or weeks, save millions of dollars, and allow products to reach markets far more quickly. Chrysler's developers add that CGPA also allows process data sharing, which helps produce and validate control programs before tooling construction begins.

"CPGA technology will reduce the time it takes to program a typical workcell by thousands of hours, shave two to four months off the development time of passenger vehicles and save upwards of $20 million per assembly plant," says Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler's vp of Advance Manufacturing Engineering.

Though CPGA-based software from Rockwell Automation won't reach the general manufacturing market for another 18 to 24 months, Chrysler and Rockwell demonstrated CGPA's ability to slash design-to-manufacture time at the International Manufacturing Conference and Exposition in Detroit earlier this year. Chrysler will use CPGA software first, but Rockwell Automation will subsequently market it to a variety of manufacturers.

Saving with simulations

CPGA aids digitally integrated enterprises by helping engineers build a database of manufacturing resource properties (machines, tools. etc.), says Rich Ryan, president of Rockwell Software, a division of Rockwell Automation. As designers develop products with 3D CAD modeling software, the properties database is referenced for process resources. Simulation software integrated by Deneb Robotics allows designers to simulate production lines and these data are used to generate code for PLCs to automate the line.

CPGA builds on the Digital Manufacturing Process System (DMAPS) that Chrysler introduced with Dassault in 1995. The software also grew out of the control program generation and analysis (CATIA) computer-aided design system that Chrysler first began using in 1984. CPGA combines CATIA's product and tooling designs with DMAPS' process and resource model, which produces control program logic. CPGA also uses Deneb's Igrip software to create 3D workcell simulations for analyzing and validating the control code.

Igrip works with Rockwell Automation's RSLinx and RSLogix as CPGA's programmable logic controller (PLC) emulator to "drive" the work cell simulation and validate the PLC code. Since Igrip, RSlinx, and RSLogix all operate under Microsoft Windows NT, they essentially form a virtual factory on a PC, say Deneb's developers. They add this eliminates the need for any PLC hardware during the validation and analysis phase.

"Control code generation is the last step in integrating all the virtual manufacturing advances we've made into one system and allows for seamless communication to workcells on the plant floor," says Mr. Ewasyshyn.

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