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Software links mechanical, electrical and PLC activities

24 May, 2016

At the recent Hannover Fair, Eplan and Cideon – both members of the German Friedhelm Loh Group – announced a software platform that, they say, will simplify collaboration between mechanical and controls engineers and PLC programmers. The Syngineer software interfaces mechanical and electrical computer-aided design (MCAD and ECAD) and PLC programming software via a mechatronic structure.

The software, which is scalable to suit users of any size, models the mechatronic structure of a machine using its specifications, functions and components. It defines a machine’s requirements in a way that makes them accessible to all participating engineering disciplines. It simplifies synchronisation across the disciplines, thus shortening design engineering and development processes.

Speaking at the launch, Maximilian Brandl, president of Eplan and Cideon, explained that “with Syngineer, we’re establishing a collective view of the machine to be constructed. Coordinating and administrative efforts between various engineering processes are structured and automated so that design engineering and development processes are parallelised, making them considerably shorter.”

Brandl described mechanical, electrical/control and PLC engineering as “the three pillars of mechatronics” and predicted that mechatronics would be “the next quantum leap for efficient engineering”.

The three authoring systems – Eplan, mechanical CAD and PLC software – are linked via a browser add-on which connects them to the communication platform. Various MCAD systems could also take advantage of the same communication process.

The engineering processes of the various disciplines – which are usually handled sequentially at present – can be performed simultaneously. “Sequential engineering processes are a thing of the past,” said Brandl.

Components in the authoring systems are linked to Syngineer’s mechatronic structure using drag-and-drop techniques.

Eplan, which specialises in computer-aided engineering, and Cideon, which focuses on mechanical engineering processes and CAD software, have collaborated with 3S-Smart Software Solutions (Codesys), which has added it expertise in PLC software. 3S developed the synchronisation of PLC program modules as well as control simulation add-ons. The open communication platform will allow other authoring systems to be integrated in the future.

Brandl: mechatronics will be the next quantum leap for efficient engineering

Cloud technology is used to network the various disciplines. It supports communications in real time and between locations. A host installed in the cloud provides access via a browser.

Once the various authoring systems have been linked, design engineers can communicate online using a chat function. An automatic notification system informs them of changes in other areas. If, for example, an electrical engineer changes an electric motor to a different model, mechanical engineers and software developers working on the project will receive a notification. They can then double-check to see if this will affect their own work.

Eplan stresses that Syngineer does not compete with PDM or PLM systems such as SAP, but extends their functions. Discipline-specific processes will still be managed within the usual PDM/PLM system. Interfacing discipline-specific authoring systems with the communication platform transmits the “building instructions” for the mechatronic bill-of-materials to the PDM/PLM system.

Because of this, the mechanical and electrotechnical bills-of-materials no longer need to be synchronised manually to avoid duplicates. Eplan and Cideon have developed interfaces for many PDM/PLM systems.

The Syngineer system is currently undergoing pilot trials before being released commercially later this year.

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