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Home >Automation suite helps to program multi-axis projects

Automation suite helps to program multi-axis projects

06 January 2015

With the industrial market increasingly making use of technologies more familiar in the consumer tech sector, Andy Pye looks at some of the latest developments in PLCs, touch screens and displays

Using its MC6 motion controller, at November's SPS Drives exhibition in Nuremberg, German drives specialist Stober launched a software tool for programming multi-axis applications. The AS6 Automation Control Suite is based on the Codesys 3.5 system and incorporates motion control and PLC functions. It supports programming languages meeting the the IEC 61131-3 specification and also includes a robot command set.

Codesys is a hardware-independent programming software or complete programming system from 3S-Smart Software Solutions for the international standard PLC programming languages meeting IEC61131-3. Due to its popularity, this Windows software tool represents a market standard for hardware-independent development systems, especially in automation. Programming of the application is carried out on a PC.

Motion control makes some things easier and many things possible: the centralisation of all the control engineering drive functions in one program operation makes programming of several axes easier in many cases. For complex interlocking functions with high positioning or settling accuracy requirements the use of one or more motion controllers is essential. Plus the motion control architecture facilitates commissioning and any service required for malfunctions.

Stober has developed several multi-axis function blocks for the suite, including cam and CNC modules. The cams can be loaded during runtime, while the CNC module supports up to 11 degrees of freedom. The modules allow drive parameterisation and axis parameter management to take place within projects. For special applications, Stober can also supply tailor-made modules. Additionally, the suite offers a quick-start tool that allows certain functions to be tested in less than three minutes. The suite can be updated in real time, avoiding compatibility problems and ensuring that it is always up to date.

And just like Codesys, these multi-functional devices are designed to be platform-independent and can be universally used for various tasks and axes.

AS6 in a nutshell:

  • High performance multi-axis modules
  • Universal application for different tasks and axes
  • Standardized operating masks in service mode for clear, quick programming
  • Quick start-up within 2 to 3 minutes
  • Error diagnostics by integrated test functions
  • Drive parameterization and axis parameter management directly in the project – ideal for modular machine concepts in particular
  • Using the Stober cam monitor, cams can be loaded during the runtime (for high productivity or a quick product changeover
  • The CNC module features up to 11 degrees of freedom, dynamic G-code for highly flexible machines with complex kinematics and convenient track pre-processing
  • Windows software
  • Modern HMI design
  • Multi-functional modules
  • Automation functions according to IEC 61131-3
  • PLC functions
  • CNC interpolations and transformations
  • Complete robot command set
  • All data and documentation of Stober products are integrated
  • Directly executable tests for simple troubleshooting
  • Basis for communication: EtherCAT
  • Integrated drive diagnostics for minimal downtimes

Small gestures, big opportunities

According to Juniper Research's 'Human Interface & Biometric Devices Emerging Ecosystems, Opportunities & Forecasts 2014-2019',  the mobile phone has long since graduated from being a device that purely enables person-to-person communication. Its role is far more expansive as it has become embedded into consumer lifestyles, being used to surf the web, take photos, connect to social networks, play games, get directions, manage our social and professional lives and so much more besides. The proliferation of the smartphone in particular has been a game changer, impacting on what phones are used for as well as expectations of the UI (user interface).

This brings with it new expectations of functionality as phones are increasingly used in a broader range of environments for a broader range of functions. Expectations for HMI in industrial environments are increasingly driven by what is experienced in the consumer world. Expect some major developments in this arena: as user identification, PIN and password requirements become more stringent, biometric authentication is likely to grow in popularity. As well as being unique to the user, it is also impossible to lose or forget and although there will always be hacks, it offers greater security than other methods of identification in the majority of cases.

Improved camera sensor and processing technologies will unlock potential for facial and iris scanning

Improved camera sensor and processing technologies will unlock potential for facial and iris scanning. VAC (Voice Activated Command) recognises words and actions commands accordingly. The general public is most familiar with VAC via automated phone options used by many large public-facing companies such as banks, utility service and healthcare providers, who already use it to direct calls to relevant staff.

Face recognition technology is highly likely to gain a foothold alongside other authentication applications. The emergence of emotion recognition helps handsets to distinguish between a live face and a photograph. Fingerprint sensors are increasingly incorporated into new handset launches. The integration of heart-rate monitors in fitness wear such as the (now discontinued) Nike Fuel+ wristband reflects the fact that heart rhythms are also as unique as fingerprints, and presents the possibility of dual authentication through heart rate and fingerprint recognition.

Elsewhere, wave technology is widely used in modern lifestyles with the general public being familiar with the technology through auto flushes on public toilets, automatic doors and security lights. In homes, motion sensors on some games devices such as the Xbox Kinect, and Nintendo’s Wii Fit have helped to cement the role of wave and motion technology in modern lifestyles.

ISA101 HMI standard nears completion

HMI is the critical link between operators and automation systems. The human operator depends on the output of the HMI to provide feedback on the physical process. It is the tool operators use to adjust operating parameters. An HMI that is easy to understand and gives clear options to end users will produce fewer errors, increase operator productivity, and reduce stress. Improved HMI design can prevent significant losses to a business in terms of time and materials wasted.

The ISA101 HMI committee was formed to establish standards, recommended practices, and technical reports relating to human-machine interfaces (HMIs) in manufacturing and processing applications. The forthcoming standard is aimed at those responsible for designing, implementing, using, or managing HMI applications.

Committee members include end users, integrators, and suppliers. At present, the committee is comprised of 230 members from many different industries and countries.

The ISA101 committee expects to be able to publish the standard imminently - originally in the fourth quarter of 2014! "We’ve had our ups and downs, but industry is really waiting for this,” says Maurice Wilkins, vice president of Yokogawa’s Global Strategic Marketing Center and co-chair of the ISA101 committee. "That being the case, we have to go back and address all the comments,” Wilkins says.

One issue that has come to the fore more recently years is mobility — a topic that was hardly on the radar when the ISA101 committee first formed eight years ago. No one can now imagine a successful company that does not have remote access to business systems; the same will soon be true for automation.

Mobility is often provided through wireless and cellular networks. Although security is a concern, wireless networks are rapidly becoming an accepted medium of communication in industrial environments. Cellular networks are an attractive alternative to wireless in many cases, particularly as speeds are increasing while costs decline.

Moreover, the growing trend of "bring your own device" (BYOD) means companies can save money on hardware and software. However, BYOD also means authorized users will be accessing HMI data from a wide array of devices such as iPhones, Androids, iPads, tablets, and PCs.

Key Points

  • Using its MC6 motion controller, Stober launches a software tool for programming multi-axis applications
  • Aimed at those responsible for designing, implementing, using, or managing HMI applications, ISA101 HMI nears completion
  • Expectations for HMI in industrial environments are increasingly driven by what is experienced in the consumer world