Math Drives Maplesoft’s Innovation
A focus on mathematics and precision fuels the development of simulation and virtual commissioning technology.
One has to wonder if Pythagoras and Archimedes had any idea about the path of knowledge they were launching when laying the foundations of mathematics. Thinkers of all stripes took those foundations and ran with them, bringing the world into our era of continuous innovations with mathematics as the bedrock of their designs.
As lovers of math and precision, Maplesoft understands the importance of ongoing innovation, and aims to use its know-how in math to advance education as well as engineering and manufacturing.
“Maplesoft is known for mathematics,” says Chris Harduwar, vice president of business development. “The company got started more than 30 years ago out of the University of Waterloo by developing software that does symbolic math equations. From there it really took off, and now we are in thousands of universities around the world as part of the curriculum. This is a modern learning tool, and not only in the hands of students, but also in the real world that can be applied to designing vehicles for Mars or in the manufacture of an electric toothbrush.”
In fact, one of Maplesoft’s key strengths is in developing and using mathematics-based software to advance engineering and research. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Maplesoft Engineering Solutions works to maximize the power of clients’ engineering knowledge to reduce development risk, create improved products and get to market faster. Working with automation companies, the company implements virtual commissioning using model-based digital twins, allowing even smaller companies to realize the benefits of virtual commissioning. Maplesoft also uses system-level modeling in engineering design projects.
Clients that use this technology include NASA, Toyota, Boeing, Canadian Space Agency, DreamWorks, Ford and Renault. MapleSim is the company’s advanced system-level modeling tool that is helping clients drive innovation efficiently and effectively.
“MapleSim is a product based on our mathematical history,” Harduwar explains. “It simulates mechanical and physical mechanisms, so it can simulate a machine that is building products and create a digital twin of that machine. Primarily, a company could use it to simulate a complex machine before they actually build it.”
Faster and Improved Output
With industrial automation, companies can use the Maplesoft technology for virtual commissioning and creating digital twins of machines, robotic systems and other complex assemblies. This enables them to reduce or eliminate issues before the machines are built.
In terms of virtual commissioning, companies using automation software for their machines can test the control code against the virtual model before the machines are complete. Harduwar notes clients often use this tool prior to building a machine’s prototype to eliminate issues before the first run. Through the use of digital twins, manufacturers can do predictive maintenance or simulate failures on the twin to see how the machine behaves.
Companies can use Maplesoft’s programs for virtual commissioning and creating digital twins.
“We are testing multiple scenarios on the engineering desktop,” Harduwar explains. “These tools allow for a lot of innovation, while also making a machine faster, produce higher output or reduce costs. With a simulation, you could eliminate a certain amount of parts and see if the machine can do the same job at a lower price to produce.”
Maplesoft developed its strengths in simulation by working with the aerospace market. When clients such as NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory utilized the company’s solutions, Harduwar notes, Maplesoft realized ways to continue to refine its tools to meet clients’ high-level demands. Maplesoft also provided its simulation tools to automakers in Germany, Japan and North America so they could test new concepts for vehicles.
“Industrial automation is picking up this workflow to test the design of other types of machines now,” he adds. “Today, you can get a Coke bottle with your name on it — a machine had to be programmed to do that. It works because machines are now so capable of switching over quickly and producing different names and sizes.”
Getting Real Results
Younger generations are usually quick on the uptake of this technology, Harduwar notes, and this is a good thing considering more younger people are entering the manufacturing industry in greater numbers. Some companies may be used to operating in a certain way, but those that adopt technology like Maplesoft’s understand the importance of adapting and moving forward to remain competitive.
“What we are seeing is, yes, change is hard,” Harduwar says. “This is such a different way of doing manufacturing or setting up a design work flow. It can be hard to implement a new way of doing things into a process, but we help our clients easily get started. We do pilot projects, show them how a simple simulation can be created and how to get real results from it. We do a lot of education in the market on the true benefits of something like this. Some engineers might just want to use Excel, but a spreadsheet doesn’t take into account the true physical behavior of machines today.”
If manufacturers want to achieve their goals of having machines that run quickly and efficiently, while reducing costs, they need to understand how to update the designs of their machines for the better, Harduwar stresses. By putting more intelligence into machines and digitally connecting every tool involved in workflow, operations become much smarter. This is how manufacturers succeed against competition and deliver best-in-class products.
“Our goal is to be a leader in the modernization of the machine-building market, and we are doing this with automation and virtual commissioning,” Harduwar says. “It is still at an early stage in the industry for this, but our strength lies in the software and mathematics, as well as in the people who work side-by-side with customers and machine builders. This is how we learn from them and ensure they have the best-in-class solutions. Our clients help us to accelerate what we offer and be a true leader in industrial automation, but our history of mathematics solutions also is key.”