Seeing Is Believing: Simplified Machine Communication

July 24, 2008

In a Thursday morning breakout session at this week’s Siemens Automation Summit, Marty Jansons, Siemens marketing promoter, networking products, demonstrated SIMATIC iMap, an engineering tool for Profinet Component Based Automation. It permits plant-wide, cross-vendor integration of distributed applications. It also eliminates the time-consuming programming of the communications links between intelligent devices―and it considerably reduces the engineering cost for the user.

"Components are graphically represented technical objects, which can be machines, systems or devices," began Jansons. "iMap, currently a separate tool from Step 7 programming tools, can give you plant-wide visibility of all these components so you can update whatever machine code you need, plus have visibility for diagnostics and maintenance."

The SIMATIC iMap open engineering software, said Jansons, springs from the Totally Integrated Automation philosophy, and with cross-vendor capability, users now can integrate intelligent devices from different vendors into Totally Integrated Automation. SIMATIC iMap uses standard mechanisms such as OPC, XML and ActiveX.

Jansons demonstrated the progressive machine-to-machine integration of a model packaging line made up of independent bottle washer, filler, capper, labeler and palletizer controls "kits" connected via an industrial Ethernet backbone and managed switch.

"Users import the created software components into SIMATIC iMap and store them in a library,” explained Jansons. Via the open interface of SIMATIC iMap, "You simply click and drag to where you want to establish component interconnections for Profinet-compatible devices," he said.

The inputs and outputs of the components just have to be interconnected with one another by drawing lines between them―and all the required communications relationships are established. "Components are represented in the wiring diagram independent of the bus system so the project engineer can concentrate purely on the technological process," said Jansons. "You then just download those to the individual machines where they reside on the PLCs."

On-line testing and commissioning of the plant goes quickly using the graphical engineering tool. The required testing and diagnostics functions are already integrated. The entire intercommunication of the machine or plant is tested and diagnosed using the graphical information. If you want to make adjustments to the plant during start-up, the functions of the individual modules will not be affected in any way, so start-up is significantly simplified. Instead of changing the logic software of the individual devices and controls, you simply have to optimize the interconnection of the individual modules throughout the system.

Jansons demonstrated the tool’s ability to deal with a multi-brand component environment when introducing an Allen-Bradley controller-based palletizer controls kit. "If it's a non-Siemens component, you download an interface editor from the Profibus Trade Organization, save the component in an XML file and import it. The A-B controller talks via Profibus, so we need to introduce a gateway device, an Industrial Ethernet-Profibus link that allows the A-B controller to talk Profibus to the link, and the link can talk Industrial Ethernet to the network," he continued.

Janson concluded with a few real-world examples of such implementations. "A waste- and water-treatment facility conducted a small project needed to increase capacity to handle hurricane potentials," he recalled. "The tool simplified configuration and leveraged the tools for the needed Profibus-to-Profinet configurations."

A second example, pointing out the reusability value of the tool, comes from a cigar manufacturer needing to replace some of its machines―both because of maintenance issues and the requirement that the cigars be batch-tagged for quality control purposes. "The layout included 14 gantry robots," said Jansons. "One robot component was built and then reused 13 times to fill out the configuration. The time savings were significant."

A final reference came from a CD/DVD manufacturer with machines with different automation vendor products. "The gateway devices mentioned earlier allowed these protocols to get onto Profinet in order to leverage the iMap tool," concluded Jansons.

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