Risk minimization through virtual commissioning

Virtual commissioning makes it possible to test machines and processes even before they are actually installed, thus ensuring system reliability at an early stage. Using a physics-based simulation software, Harro Höfliger's engineers create a virtual machine model based on the 3D CAD design data, which is then made available to the control engineers. They can use it to comprehensively test their software that runs on the programmable logic controllers (PLC). 

Virtual commissioning is done with hardware-in-the-loop. This means that the real PLC is used, which will later be installed on the machine. A simulation computer is used to simulate the machine's sensors and to implement the actuators according to the programmed process. 

 To a limited extent, it is also possible to simulate material properties. This enables, among other things, the identification of friction and recoil effects of the material flow in the machine. Virtual commissioning of the machine with 3D models is particularly suited for identifying potential collisions of moving parts within the machine. 


  • Simulation model of the trayloader

    Simulation model of a trayloader for virtual commissioning.

  • Physics view of the simulation model

    Highlighting of components with stored physical properties in the simulation model.

  • 3D view for virtual commissioning

    The tray loader is represented three-dimensionally in the simulation model. 

  • Highlighting in the model

    Actuators and sensors are highlighted in red in the model.

Early testing and optimization 

Control engineers are not the only ones who benefit from virtual commissioning with 3D models, enabling them to test and optimize all their code from their desks. There are also major advantages for the field of mechatronics: Its various disciplines comprising mechanics, electronics and software are already brought together in the virtual model - enabling experts to identify potential problems. They can examine processes at an early stage and work together on the perfect mechatronic solution for technically challenging units. As a result of this approach, feedback from software engineering can be incorporated into the mechanical design in good time. 

Finally, virtual commissioning with 3D models ensures cost-efficient solutions, because changes and optimizations to the machine can be made even before ordering parts. In the future, this method could also be used to modify and retrofit machines. Here it would be possible to simulate and test adjustments to the machine at Harro Höfliger before their implementation at the customer’s site.   


"Virtual commissioning makes it possible to optimize the machine in detail before it is installed." 

Dr.-Ing. Susanne Rösch is Department Leader Model-Based Engineering at Harro Höfliger. Together with her team, she is working on methods to advance mechatronic development using model-based methods and tools. She always has an equal focus on mechanical design, electrical design and software development.  

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