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Factory simulation vs visualization – what is the difference?

A short guide on when to use visualization and when to go for simulation.

May 8, 2015

Factory simulation vs visualization – a short introduction

At Visual Components, we’ve often been asked about what is 3D simulation and how does it differ from visualization. While the terms may sound similar, there is in fact a huge difference between them.

In the context of factory and production line design, visualization refers to creating a visually pleasing 3D model of the production line. Elements are usually quickly placed together and placed where needed in order to convey how the production line could approximately look like.

Simulation serves a different purpose. The goal is not to make a production line look nice, rather it is to give an exact representation about how the line will function. Whereas in a 3D visualization, all the elements look real, in a 3D simulation they also function as if they were real. For example robot movements can be programmed with precision in order to get statistics out of the model.

Choosing the correct tool for designing your factory thus comes down to a key choices – speed or precision.

When you need to do things fast

Sometimes you just need to quickly sketch an idea about a production line for presenting it to your client as a conversation opener that will be reworked in the future.

In this case, a visualization tool (for example 3D Realize) is adequate. You can simply drag and drop the elements together in minutes in order to get an overall idea about how the production line will look like and when components will be in it.

You can also easily make changes, such as replace or move components, later on and use the visualization as a foundation for building a more detailed, realistic model.

The production line may look and even functions as if it were real, but you are probably cutting some corners for simplicity’s sake. As such, creating a visualization does not require a degree in engineering and can be done by almost any employee.

When you need millimeter precision

Once you are pass the planning phase, and are actually about to build something, you are going to want to know exactly how every component in the production line is going to perform.

In order to build a detailed 3D model of your production line, you are going to need some heavier tools (for example 3D Simulate) that also provide you with statistics regarding your production line.

The statistics can help you study utilizations, cycle times, reachabilities, collisions, bottlenecks etc. You are in essence looking at a true virtual representation of a real factory where robot movements are no longer conceptual, but precise.

It’s no surprise then that simulations require a lot more effort to create and a lot more technical expertise and are typically done by engineers.

What do you need to achieve with your 3D model?

An animation where your production line comes to life can be exported from both a visualized and a simulated model. The tools to choose depend on what is your purpose when creating a 3D model of your production line.

When you are working on a conceptual level, visualization is usually enough. It gives enough tools to quickly draft a beautiful model of the production line.

Once you start executing your plans for a production line, you are going to need simulation tools that provide you with an exact model and statistics about how your production line is performing or going to perform.

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