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FactoryTalk Design Hub lets teams be teams

June 15, 2022

“The main question users have is how to bring their team members together, such as their human machine interface (HMI) expert and their motion control expert, and enable the group to benefit from their strengths.” Rockwell Automation’s Chris Como discussed the features and functionality of the company’s new FactoryTalk Design Hub.

The benefits of getting everyone on the same page were unappreciated and vastly underrated for a long time. However, its huge potential benefits gradually gained recognition, and unified views of projects and processes are quickly gaining momentum and speed—especially in digitalized and software-based industrial applications. One of the best examples of these common platforms is Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Design Hub software.

“A lot of things are moving to cloud-computing services because they allow access from everywhere, collaboration by remote users in a central location, on-demand scaling of computing power, cost savings and improved performance, all wrapped in a cybersecurity layer,” said Chris Como, principal platform leader for FactoryTalk Design Hub at Rockwell Automation.

Como presented “Bringing Teams Together in the New FT Design Hub” on the second day of ROKLive 2022 this week in Orlando, Fla.

Build up and out

To understand FactoryTalk Design Hub, it’s important to know that it’s one of three primary outgrowths of FactoryTalk Hub, which is Rockwell Automation’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering enabled by Microsoft Azure. After several years in development by a small team at Rockwell Automation, FactoryTalk Hub launched a unified experience with common login context and data. More recently, it built outward from this foundation by adding FactoryTalk Design Hub for streamlined automation system design, FactoryTalk Operations Hub for simplified, cloud-native operations management, and FactoryTalk Maintenance Hub for asset management and predictive maintenance.

“The main question users have is how to bring their team members together, such as their human machine interface (HMI) expert and their motion control expert, and enable the group to benefit from their strengths,” said Como. “FactoryTalk Design Hub gives them the central location they need, enables multiple personas, allows access to design software, provides version control, and enables system testing, experimentation and analytics.”

Three spaces for sharing

To establish this central collaboration space, FactoryTalk Design Hub creates a common, on-demand location for all of a user’s automation design needs and projects. Como reported that the overall, cloud-based ecosystem for FactoryTalk Design Hub includes three primary sections.

First, FactoryTalk Vault consists of role-based sharing of files by participants and organizations; organized solutions to maintain file histories and changes, and group project files together; and a version control system to further record changes to files, keep them safe, and recover files as needed. FactoryTalk Vault also enables in-depth analysis of controller projects; project upgrades using Logix Designer, V.16-34, software, and file-type conversions that provide the right file types without requiring installation of their software versions. Como reported that FactoryTalk Vault can presently be used by single users, and will be available in 3Q22 in an organizational version.

“FactoryTalk Vault lets users open all their design artifacts, and display and position them however they desire,” said Como. “They can create and store different functions, such as which programmable logic controller (PLC) or drive they want their HMI to interact with, which drawings they want to go with which project, or which simulation model goes with which artifacts.”

Second, the Design Tool section of FactoryTalk Design Hub covers file-conversion project upgrades, project analysis and future issues. Two of its main benefits are that it lets users upgrade all their projects at once, and also allows file-type conversions without installing associated software versions.

Third, the Design Engineering section of FactoryTalk Design Hub is layered above its two counterpart sections, and uses four main tools to perform system testing, experimentation, analysis and virtual commissioning. Como added these functions will be available to users later this year, likely in 4Q22. They include:

  • Controller programming with Studio 5000 Logix Designer software as part of FactoryTalk Design Studio;
  • HMI programming and development with upcoming FactoryTalk Optics software;
  • Emulation and simulation with Emulate 3D software as part of FactoryTalk Logix Echo; and
  • Enhanced capabilities by Rockwell Automation and its many partner organizations.

“We support what Logix Designer supports, and if a project is saved in FactoryTalk Vault, then users can go back and access it,” explained Como. “Function tiles available via the Design Engineering section include controller overview, hardware overview, controller task model, program composition, motion, tags, alarms, objects and inter-processor communications. Program composition lets users make sure functional specs are being followed without opening a project, while inter-processor communications show which devices like PLCs are talking to which other devices, and helps identify problems faster. For example, when we look at the P Alarm block, we can see all the upstream and downstream composition about what objects it’s interacting with.”

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About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.