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18 September, 2020

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Phoenix licences PLCnext to Yaskawa for next-gen controls

14 September, 2020

The drives, robotics and mechatronics manufacturer Yaskawa has announced that it plans to use Phoenix Contact’s PLCnext runtime control environment as the basis for its next-generation machine controller and PLC platform. The two companies say they have a shared goal moving away from proprietary systems to offer an open and future-proof ecosystem for industrial automation.

Phoenix is licencing its PLCnext technology to Yaskawa and the two companies have agree to collaborate on further joint developments. Yaskawa plans to use PLCnext in motion control and robotics products, initially in Europe and the US.

“I am pleased that we are now further intensifying our long-standing, trusting business relationship and expanding our partnership in the field of industrial control technology,” says Yaskawa Europe’s CEO and president, Bruno Schnekenburger.

It is not clear yet how the development will affect Vipa, Yaskawa’s German controls business, in which it took a controlling share in 2012. Vipa merged with Yaskawa Europe last year.

Yaskawa says it regards PLCnext as “the most open industrial automation software platform available today”, combining IEC 61131-3 programming, modern programming languages, safety hardware and software and control system security. It will use PLCnext to further enhance and develop its i3-Mechatronics machine controls portfolio.

Phoenix first announced the Linux-based PLCnext platform at the 2016 SPS show in Germany, describing it as an open control platform that would “allow engineers from different disciplines to work together simultaneously on projects, each in their preferred development environments”.

This Axioline controller is one of the latest from Phoenix Contact to support the PLCnext platform. It can be programmed in high-level languages a well as traditional PLC languages and has three Gigabit Ethernet ports, two of which are TSN-ready.

The first products were launched a year later with Phoenix’s then chief technology officer, Roland Bent, hailing the development as “the start of a new era in automation”.

PLCnext combines open control technology, modular engineering software and an online community, and is designed to adapt easily to changing requirements. The platform includes a digital marketplace for software as well as supporting cloud integration.

“The openness of the PLCnext ecosystem enables a large number of providers to offer highly flexible, secure, and modern automation technology,” says Ulrich Leidecker, COO and president of Phoenix Contact’s industrial management and automation business. “This technology partnership with Yaskawa is a milestone for the automation industry, because the more partners that engage in an open automation ecosystem, the more beneficial it becomes for every single participant.”

John Payne, senior vice-president of motion for Yaskawa America argues that combining PLCnext with Yaskawa’s proven motion control engine and controller hardware “will create a control platform that is open, flexible and powerful – all based on proven PLCopen toolboxes for logic control, machine control and control of delta and articulated arm robots. This new platform will combine control for logic, motion and robotics with solutions for Industrie 4.0 applications. It will also enhance the control product offering from Yaskawa with solutions for network safety and control system security.”

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