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`Revolutionary` software will allow engineers to work in parallel

28 December, 2012

At the recent SPS/IPC/Drives show in Germany, B&R Automation unveiled a “revolutionary” new version of its Automation Studio engineering environment that allows different teams to work simultaneously on the same project, cutting engineering costs and times to market. It will support the series production of modular machines in varying configurations.

According to B&R, there is a widespread misconception that production lines represent strictly sequential processes – despite a trend towards increased complexity and parallel operations taking place in machines and systems.

“Machine manufacturers cling stubbornly to the same methods they`ve been using since the earliest days of PLC programming,” says Dr Hans Egermeier, manager of B&R`s Automation Software business (above). “They turn software development of complex mechatronic systems into a Herculean task.”

B&R argues that the lines separating PLCs, CNC, robotics, intelligent axis control, HMIs and communications are becoming increasingly blurred. Modular software is therefore vital to meet the challenge of controlling entire machines without becoming unwieldy or inefficient. In the same way that mechanical engineers use standard parts and components, this modular software uses libraries of standardised functions, processes and control algorithms.

The autonomous application modules can represent a single function, a machine component, or an entire machine module. Internally, they contain a hierarchy of function blocks, entire programs, or combinations of the two.

The modules can encapsulate development tasks and distribute them to different developers. For example, this will allow customers to program parts of a system where they have a specialist expertise. As soon as the modules are ready, they can be tested individually in simulated environments. The new software will come with pre-programmed libraries and function modules – such as axis controls – that can be integrated into a project.

Other innovations in the new version of Automation Studio include a graphical hardware configuration tool, support for OPC-UA, and open interfaces with third-party design and simulation software, including Eplan 8. In addition, the runtime version is optimised for multi-core processors and supports the use of multiple operating systems.

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