Around the central CAD workstations with various design software, hardware is available for programmable logic controllers by the most common manufacturers. In the context of virtual commissioning, these are used to test software without the need for a real plant. Both classical and modern programming are shown to students in course components and put into practice.


  • Training for virtual plant commissioning
  • Training in the application of software programs
  • Research on virtual process planning and digital twins

Modelling software for virtual plant commissioning

The software products are differentiated by the concept for the production of machine and plant models. At the Nuremberg Campus of Technology the following products are used for instruction and research:

Siemens NX with Mechatronic Concept Designer

The MCD is used to simulate smaller plants. Its feature is the extension of static 3D-CAD construction by physical characteristics such as gravity, other forces, or their cause-effect relationships.

The following projects were carried out by students at the NCT:

-          A System of conveyors and rotary tables with photoelectric sensors

-          Simulating a pendulum in 2D and 3D with the capability to record the position over time.

The advantage of the MCD is that the user can simply work with it without requiring advanced physics knowledge.

According to the product specifications, products of a machine or plant can be configured in Siemens NX Mechatronic Concept Designer in advance, without having to produce time-intensive, physical prototypes. This ensures high product quality and less time required from the start.


In contrast to a physics simulation, in WinMOD with SIMLINE a so-called behavioural model is the basis for a machine or plant model. The behavioural model is initially independent of the visual representation of mechatronic components. Movement patterns, for example, the movement of pneumatic cylinders, can be controlled by specifying a time value.

WinMOD is especially suited for representing production processes. The manufacturer claims it is useful for real-time simulation of the automation of production and conveyor technologies.

Siemens SIMIT

In principle, an advantage of SIMIT is the straightforward integration of other Siemens software products and vice versa. At the NCT, SIMIT is currently being used in conjunction with the TIA portal and NX-MCD. SIMIT’s basic structure is very similar to MCD’s, however, the physical simulation mentioned above can be replaced with a behavioural model of the mechatronic components. This enables the calculation of extensive constructions consisting of thousands of components in a few milliseconds.

This is how Siemens promotes the extraordinary applicability of the product for production lines and processes that are subject to constant changes in the industry. Such changes can be preliminarily tested, which in turn leads to an optimization of commissioning time.


Siemens Simatic S7-1500 with TIA Portal

Due to its modular design, this controller allows flexible adaptation to a wide variety of system layouts. The SIMATIC S7-1500 central modules execute the user program and connect the controller with other automation components. These include signal, technology, and communication modules. The controller is the next generation after the Simatic S7-300, and enables the most demanding machine concepts to be implemented.

Siemens Simatic S7-300

This controller is specially designed for innovative system solutions in the manufacturing industry.
At the NCT, the controller is used for a motor test bench in order to flexibly transfer speed and torque values to the drive and to examine various starting or braking behaviours. The software and hardware is characterized by real-time-capable calculation for jerk-free acceleration and motor behaviour, for example in order to achieve very fine positioning controls.  It also has a modular design that can be easily expanded to meet specific requirements. Additional investment and maintenance costs can therefore be avoided.

Beckhoff CX 5120 with TwinCat

The special feature of the Beckhoff CX 5120 controller is that the regular Windows operating system is used and therefore all Windows software can be applied. For example, data from Excel tables can be easily transferred to the PLC.

With the TwinCAT system, a so-called real-time environment can be implemented in combination with Windows, thus eliminating delays due to unexpected program activities. The controller is particularly suitable for both the “flying saw” application and for digital cam profiles. It is therefore used at the NCT for a test bench with two servomotors to implement the synchronization of several electric drives.

Rockwell ControlLogix

The Rockwell ControlLogix is a classical controller with a modular construction. At the NCT, the controller is used for a motor test bench in order to flexibly transfer speed and torque values to the drive and to examine various starting or braking behaviours.