Virtual Commissioning

Validate industrial controls in a simulation environment

Virtual commissioning is the testing, verification, and validation of automation control systems by using a digital model of the automation equipment and plant. In desktop and hardware-in-the-loop simulation, the interaction between electromechanical components, control system, and the process can be tested in various scenarios before deploying software to the prototype or production equipment.

Virtual commissioning allows engineers to:

  • Identify and eliminate design errors early in the process
  • Reduce development and validation time
  • Reduce risk and potential damage during commissioning of the physical system
  • Rapidly and nondestructively test a wide variety of operation scenarios

A model of the plant and control system enables more than virtual commissioning. Engineering teams can reuse models throughout the design, implementation, integration, and operation of the equipment. They can apply their models in the form of digital twins for tasks such as monitoring machinery or performing predictive maintenance. Simulation software, such as Simulink®, lets you simulate systems, design industrial control algorithms, verify and validate designs, and generate code for industrial controllers within a comprehensive engineering software environment.

Typical Model-Based Design workflow used by industrial automation and machinery companies that use Simulink to design, validate, and implement industrial control algorithms

Typical Model-Based Design workflow used by industrial automation and machinery companies that use Simulink to design, validate, and implement industrial control algorithms

Virtual commissioning based on Model-Based Design, using MATLAB® and Simulink, typically includes the following steps:

  1. Modeling and Desktop Simulation
  • Design controls model and plant models of the physical system, including CAD import
  • Prototype new functionality in combination with legacy machine software
  • Automate system tests
  • Optimize parameters (such as software, mechanics, hydraulics)
  • Automatically generate code from models (IEC 61131-3 Structured Text and Ladder Diagram, C/C++, HDL)
  1. Hardware-in-the-Loop and Real-Time Testing
  • Emulate the behavior of the physical system (plant model) in real time
  • Design and test hardware-independent functionality
  • Debug real-time algorithms directly from Simulink (using “External Mode”)
  • Connect the virtual machine to the PLC over an industrial fieldbus
  1. Code Generation for PLC Platforms
  • Generate C/C++, IEC 61131-3, or HDL code
  • Integrate automatically generated code into the PLC software through the vendor’s IDE
  • Perform online debugging from Simulink and Stateflow using “External Mode”
  1. Digital Twin Use in Operation
  • Perform model-based health monitoring and predictive maintenance
  • Reproduce errors from field data
  • Train operators on new systems

Virtual commissioning enables machine builders and industrial equipment builders to test their embedded software early in the design process—before the physical machine or prototype is available.

Software Reference

See also: control design software, embedded code generation, state machine, formal verification, parameter estimation, physical modeling, PID control, rapid prototyping, real-time simulation, simulation and Model-Based Design, state diagram, system design and simulation, verification, validation and test, control systems, PLC Coder, Virtual Commissioning with Simulink (3 videos), Virtual Commissioning of Production Machines (6 videos)