Integrated development tools that help users manage every aspect of machine and motion control development projects is a top priority for automation control software products. The goal is to provide engineers with a comprehensive set of compatible tools that use a common “look and feel” and provide a consistent graphical user interface for handling all types of automation control tasks.
These software packages often provide a single set of programming tools for motion and logic control and HMIs — and connectivity tools for seamlessly interfacing with both machine control and factory data networks. By combining these tools into a unified development environment, often using Windows-based programming or IEC 61131-3, the idea is to leverage a common software interface to increase familiarity, reduce software training and help users become more productive.
INTERACTIVE SOFTWARE FOR MOTION CONTROL
Motion Assistant 2.0 from National Instruments is the latest version of this interactive software for prototyping single- and multi-axis motion control systems. Version 2.0 supports importing motion profiles from CAD and drafting programs using DXF files, and provides users with instant access to the profiles. It simplifies implementing profiles in the company’s programmable automation controllers or generating code for PCI/PXI plug-in motion controllers. These new software features are designed for engineers who build machines for engraving, cutting profiles in sheet metal, glass, wood, foam or cloth and scanning applications in the semiconductor, life sciences and electronics industries. After saving a motion profile as a DXF file in programs such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks, engineers import the profile and save motion-specific commands in an XML file format without writing additional code. They can dynamically import this file into LabVIEW software or C applications with NI motion hardware.
OBJECT-ORIENTED C LIBRARY FOR MOTION
Version 3.04 of the Motion Programming Interface (MPI) from Danaher Motion is an object-oriented C library for motion engineers. It offers software for high-performance controls, drives, motors and I/O and tools to facilitate simple integration of real-time motion with vision or high-speed I/O. Key features include low latency command-to-motion execution, which is ideal for integration of real-time motion with vision or high-speed I/O. The system now offers a highly reliable, deterministic network master with node self-enumeration, redundant fault tolerance and event management. Software tools offer complete, real-time data access to networked controls, drives and I/O, plus software field connectivity into all system components for upgrade and debugging. New to MPI 3.04 is a feature called SynqNet HotReplace™. Engineers use HotReplace to increase machinery throughput by servicing machinery modules offline without process interruption. Motors, drives and I/O modules can be removed and reinstalled to the live network individually or in groups for off-line service or upgrades.
XML-BASED AUTOMATION STUDIO
Automation Studio™ from B+R Automation is an integrated Windows® development tool for control, visualization, motion and communication that provides customers with production and service support during programming and commissioning. Its open and modular architecture allows for standardized, open data management using XML. The software provides scalability, a multi-platform capability and a single configuration and programming tool that covers all tasks and system platforms. This software tool offers solutions for open and closed loop control, positioning, visualization and communication. Support for object-oriented projects results in simple set-up and configuration of powerful tasks. B&R says it doesn’t rely on complex IEC syntax expansions that don’t conform to the standard but use simple component configuration versus complex language syntaxes. Automation topology is displayed intuitively in the software using both logical and physical forms which makes it easier to structure software functions with machine functions.
MINT AUTOMATION SOFTWARE
The Mint language from Baldor offers a fundamental tool for progress in any automation application involving motion. This high level language makes it easy to write and develop modular programs and, in addition to support for HMI, communications, I/O handling and complex mathematical functions, offers integrated tools for complex motion control programming. Mint’s motion control functions include several hundred keywords, effectively providing templates or pre-written software functions for common motion/movement related functions, and greatly simplifies complex machine design projects. The software also comes with its own license-free, multi-tasking operating system. MintNC is a comprehensive Windows front end for fast profiling applications. This software package provides the ability to import information using industry-standard CAD formats including G-code, HPGL and DXF to generate the required real-time motion commands. Tools are included for creating application-specific user interfaces using standard programming environments such as Visual Basic or C.
TOOLS IMPROVE INTEGRATION AND COLLABORATION
Rockwell Automation has added two new tools to its integrated production and performance software suite. FactoryTalk Integrator allows manufacturers to connect their plant-floor applications with higher-level business systems for more responsive and informed decision-making. These tools allow plant systems to transmit data and exchange transactions with virtually any other system. The architecture helps feed common types of information required by a manufacturing execution system (MES) system such as work orders, schedules or recipes, directly from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and improves manufacturing responsiveness and efficiency. The FactoryTalk Portal increases productivity by consolidating Web-based interfaces into one manageable launch point. Its Web-based framework allows manufacturers to build scalable portals designed to improve employee productivity through personalized and collaborative access to information, applications and people. The software eliminates the need for multiple reporting interfaces by consolidating the MES reporting space into an enterprise-level portal adapted for the manufacturing environment.
DEVELOPMENT TOOL USES .NET
QuickBuilder from Control Technology Corp. is a graphical development tool built using the latest .NET technology. It combines all aspects of an automation project into a single desktop application and offers a holistic approach to solving automation projects. The software workspace is divided into multiple windows that gives the user a comprehensive view of the project. and allows easy access to project elements. Window sections can be resized and/or hidden to fit individual work preferences, and users can set and store layout configurations. The software combines the company’s state-based Quickstep language with a graphical implementation of the modular IEC 61131-3 standard. The graphical layout, drag and drop functionality and step completion wizards all simplify the programming process. Programming capabilities include task control for up to 96 per controller and specialized motion functions.