In the field of electro-technical vocational training, in particular in the safety-related area of digital machine controls, appropriate training materials that help to convey a correct and safe planning of the installation and use of safety controls in prevailing industrial practice are absent. The SafetySim research project aims to bridge these open issues with machinery simulation for more realistic training experience in the area of Safety-PLCs applications (PLC: Programmable Logic Controller).
This cooperative research project of the Institute of Visual Computing of the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences (HBRS) and the Federal Institute for Professional Training (BIBB) with the support of industrial partners in teaching resources for vocational training, aims at development of machinery simulations and training applications to learn safety-relevant aspects in the operation of machines equipped with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in the field of electrical engineering.
To achieve the above objectives, a multi-user 3D simulation-based training system supporting functionality of the Safety-PLC is about to be developed. Simulation system, which can realistically mimic environment for the safety devices (incl. necessary sensors/actuators) in a physically and electro-mechanically correct way, need to be realized. The corresponding signals should be processed through the I/O adapter under development, in a way that the signals can be exchanged between standard commercially available Safety-PLC and the simulation software.
The didactic approach should allow multiple "faults injection” in simulated safety devices and actuators e.g. contact gaps, broken wires, welded contactors and short circuits. The realization of this kind of physically-correct behavior represents further technical and scientific challenge as it should be executed in real-time on a standard PC. Additionally, all reactions of the Safety-PLC to the induced faults should be enabled for monitoring and analysis for the trainees under real-time conditions. Incorporating modern didactic learning concepts with existing possibilities in evaluation of the learning outcomes and the targeted focus on learning safety-related errors (e.g. broken wires, faulty contactors / relays, etc.) provides unique selling points of the system.
The simulator prototype should be developed and implemented in three IHK training courses "Elektroniker/in für Geräte und Systeme" (Electronics technician for devices and systems), "Mechatroniker/in" (Mechatronics technician) und "Elektroniker/in für Betriebstechnik" (Electronics technician for industrial engineering), in order to complement those advanced learning modules, in which the trainees do work with electrical installations, track and detect errors, train machine safety, train spatial and logical relationships and learn thorough approaches to safety-related issues.
The development should be continuously evaluated by means of usability tests and, if needed, adjusted accordingly based on these results.