trend to model-based software development is making an impact in the field of
industrial automation. Using B&R
Automation Studio Target for SimulinkÂ®, development models
constructed in the simulation environment provided by The MathWorks can be implemented
on a B&R industrial controller at the push of a button.
"The key innovation is the ability to interface the code
automatically generated from Simulink tools directly into the B&R
Automation Suite's development environment," says Robert Muehlfellner,
automation director for B&R Industrial Automation.
He says that models developed in Simulink, plus the code
automatically generated out of the models, can be seamlessly executed on the
B&R controls in real time. This capability is built on Real-Time Workshop,
one of the components of MatLab Simulink, which generates C code.
"It allows us to use our ability to have our controls to be
programmed in C, which is uncommon in the controls world with PLCs or PACs,"
says Muehlfellner. "From Simulink, a real-time task is created that can be
executed within our controls. In the Simulink toolbox, the user defines input
and output variables which can be tagged to I/O points or used by visualization
tools. Users see the model executed on the control as a black box."
Once models are built and mapped into the automation
architecture, inputs, outputs and other control parameters represented as tags
sense changes within the model. Other functions in the model are compiled into
a C program which can be executed in real time on the B&R controls, and is
integrated with other control tasks using the input and output tags.
Users of Simulink's Real-Time Workshop are typically working
on a much lower level, and can leverage the product's automatic code generation
algorithms. But the idea is to combine the best of both worlds - classical
PLC-type programming and seamless integration of the C modules generated by
The target for this solution is more complex processes in
areas such as the automotive and semiconductor industries that benefit from
advanced model-based design. Engineering is done typically by process engineers
comfortable with programming in Simulink, and the C code encapsulated for use
within the B&R controls programming environment cannot be easily modified. Interfacing
is achieved using the input and output tags, and can be accomplished using either
ladder logic or structured text programming.
Advanced simulation is particularly useful for applications
where users need to create sophisticated process control models or rapid
prototyping. If a process requires special cascaded control loops or real-time,
process engineering gauges, engineers often turn to advanced simulation tools
to draft their control algorithms. But it can be difficult when they need to
convey that information to a controls engineer who implements a solution in PLC
code, tests the code on a real machine, gathers results and makes adjustments
to the code using an iterative process.
"The problem of conveying what needs to be done, from the science to the
controls engineering, is no longer an issue," says Muehlfellner. "The core
process can be drafted using the tool kits available in Simulink. The
simulation tool can be used to automatically generate the control code which the
user can execute in real time on the controller, view results and test the
The transformative nature of designing and making things was the overarching, common theme at separate conferences held in Boston by two giants in the PLM space: Autodesk, with its Accelerate 2015, and Siemens’s Industry Analyst Conference 2015.
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