Thanks to a little time working-from-home at the start of 2021, I decided to embark on a small prototype of a 3D factory simulator.
I had used commercial simulation software before such as CIROS, Siemens NX, and Factory.io, All of them are great software- much broader in scope than this little project — but since all of these are paid software, and I like the challenge of writing software from scratch, i figured i would see what i can come up with myself…
I set myself a few goals to achieve
Any Physical or Soft PLC with OPCUA should be able to communicate with the virtual environment
The environment should be physics based
The environment should be flexible enough to be expandable to multiple use cases
Tech Stack :
The engine of choice was Godot. I chose Godot as I had used it a year or so earlier, and it was completely cross-platform, and open-source allowing me to develop on both my mac and windows systems. VirtualPlant will build and run on Windows/Linux/Mac — and is to my knowledge the only Factory simulator to do so.
The communication to PLC’s would be handled by node-opcua. I chose to abstract this to a second language as (1) I had used node-opcua previously (2) Theoretically, the abstraction means future communication drivers can be written without the need to edit the program itself.
Godot communicates with the drivers via WebSockets
(Basic) 3D work was completed in blender.
Some early test work, getting the physics to behave nicely, and testing a very simple OPCUA driver, which I eventually re-wrote
For the 2019 WorldSkills UK Mechatronic Team Selection competition in March, I wanted to design a modular production line that — that produced popcorn (and drinks)
The System needed to be capable of dispensing & weighing popcorn kernals, transferring them into a popcorn popper, and then popping them
The system (as seen in the GIF) was comprised of 5 tasks, spread over 3 days (14 hours build time)
The competitors build up the system, starting with the simplest system, and then moving on to the more complex features as the days progress.
The system ejects a pot from a magazine, checks if it is the right way up usign an analog IR height sensor, then transfers it to the filling area, on station 2. It then either fills with popcorn, or liquid, depending on the choice selected from the HMI. — The the pot is transfered back to the 1st station, and then onto the 3rd station. At this point the system allows you to pump the popcorn down to the popcorn popper, and then the popcorn popper is turned on using a networked plug socket (240v)
About two years ago I started my role as the Mechatronics Training Manager for Worldskills UK
The role involves training and planning training sessions, and competitions with a group of competitors (6 max), with the ultimate goal of selecting a team of two to progress to international competition.
As part of my role, it is increasingly important to log the progress, times, and scores of various tasks, to be able to benchmark competitors against each other. This, coupled with a need to collect reviews and provide feedback to each of the competitors, and provide an opportunity to share files with competitors, led me to the task of building a dedicated tracking and metrics site.
I embarked to build the site, and, due to my choice of stack, decided to name it “nodeSkills”
Jack and Danny have been training hard for the last 3 years for their place in team. They successfully gained a well-deserved BRONZE medal in Euroskills Budapest 2018 — You can see a reaction interview with them here.
– register your learners for WorldSkills UK Competitions by 7 April!
WorldSkills UK Competitions are now open until 7 April, and you can register your learners to take part here. The competitions enable learners to build on their knowledge and develop their technical and personal skills. For employers and training providers, the competitions are a mechanism to benchmark their activity, raising standards in training programmes across the UK.
The Apprenticeship Levy can be used to support your learners’ involvement in WorldSkills UK Competitions. Participation in the Competitions can be used to contribute to the 20% off the job training requirement for apprentices. Find out more here For the last 65 years, WorldSkills UK Competitions have been helping young people from all backgrounds to Go Further, Faster, in their careers, find out more at Hwww.worldskillsuk.or #SkillsCompetitions #GoFurtherFaster @WorldSkillsUK