Siemens' Automation Roadmap for Machine Control

July 21, 2008
Siemens' New Key Strategic Products in Areas of Total Integrated Automation

Forgoing the traditional PowerPoint presentation that often causes attendees to try to take too many notes and by default listen too little, a handful of Siemens product managers and specialists provided a mid-level review and display of new and soon-to-emerge products relevant to factory automation in a Wednesday morning session at this week’s 2008 Siemens Automation Summit.

The presenters focused their attention on what key strategic products in areas of Total Integrated Automation the user community finds most important:

  • Performance―How fast is fast enough for a particular process?
  • Ethernet―Its impact on existing fieldbuses and what’s needed for its factory-floor use.
  • Wireless―Its pervasive adoption in industrial environments―faster than any other protocol.
  • Engineering tools―Their ease of use and ability to reduce costs.
  • Track-and-trace—For visibility into what is and, perhaps more important, isn’t going on in your manufacturing processes.
  • Maintenance and asset management—Providing a quick response capability and maximizing uptime.
From a new S7-mEC modular embedded controller to a wireless operator interface complete with e-stop, Siemens’ Bob Nelson reviewed what new machine automation products are on the horizon.
Of particular interest was a wireless operator panel, complete with e-stop capability. The panel without this capability is “imminently available,” said Bob Nelson, Siemens marketing manager for PLCs and I/O. 

“Embedded automation is a key area that merges the traditional controller and PC platform into a more robust, high-performance platform,” continued Nelson. “The result is a platform flexible enough to let users integrate their own intellectual property, some C code, a vision system or their own products or solutions into it. Meanwhile, the PC platform still is perceived by many of our customers as not reliable enough for industrial control,” Nelson added.

As a result, Siemens will introduce a modular embedded controller, the S7-mEC, which retains the S7-300 form factor while running, not on a custom ASIC typical of S7, but on an Intel dual-core chip with embedded XP and a WinAC RTX real-time operating kernel. This arrangement better handles determinism and reliability concerns that arise with more standard Windows operating systems in industrial settings.

The unit will be extendable to support 700 signal modules; optional PCI104 cards for Profibus, DeviceNet, Modbus and other protocol connectivity; and WinCC software support with flexibility to drive displays from the controller. The added functionality reportedly will be phased in over the remainder of 2008.

Other notable new products include the 1FT7 and 1FK7 servo motors with field-replaceable servo encoders, which the Siemens experts say can be changed out in two minutes.

In addition, the Sinamics Simple single-axis servo controller will be introduced for more common needs at a lower cost. The unit should handle the mid-level applications that are more involved than a general-purpose controller would handle, but that do not need the full capabilities of the company’s higher-performance controllers.