Rockwell Automation's "Connected Components" booth at Rockwell Automation Fair 2009 in Anaheim, Calif., is all about simplicity. "Our job is to make things really simple for OEMs," explained Rockwell Automation business director Co Nguyen. "Simple to develop, simple to buy, simple to use and simple to maintain."
OEMs serving the small-machine market face economic and competitive pressures. With projects often awarded to the lowest-cost provider, machine builders must maximize manufacturing speed and efficiency by streamlining the design process. Control-system design is responsible for a large portion of a machine's development time and budget. Reducing costs in this area can provide a critical competitive advantage.
The Connected Components Building Blocks (CCBB) toolset from Rockwell Automation is designed to make it faster and easier for machine builders to implement common control-design tasks. "The building blocks make it a lot easier to go through the wiring diagrams and codes," said Nguyen. "The quick start gets them up and running faster. These are proven solutions. We're pulling components together and connecting them. It's a natural continuum for us."
The CCBB tools range from simple position, speed and temperature control to various error-proofing and safety-related applications. "We've spent a lot of effort putting the safety building blocks together," said Nguyen. "And we show the OEMs how to connect them. We know safety."
The primary benefits of the tools include reduced time to market, lower total development costs and global parts availability.
"It's about time to market," said Nguyen. "In a development environment, getting to market sooner is a big differentiator. Logistics and our network of distributors allow OEMs to get parts anywhere. And if an OEM has a purchasing department, we can pull together a bill of materials, so they place just one purchasing order."
The bill-of-material tool provides engineers with a starting point for most of the equipment commonly used in a Connected Components application, and ProposalWorks software then helps identify the appropriate components for an application by adapting the bill of material to suit the specific power and size needs, existing inventory and facility capacity.
Most OEMs can readily identify what a particular machine needs to do, but need help determining the best way to automate it. For example, engineers can use pre-written blocks of application code for the programmable controller that can be modified to help meet the precise needs of a given machine. By utilizing pre-designed and tested machine control programs, designers can better use their time adding value by optimizing their machine operation and eliminating the time spent writing the basic foundation functions needed when building a program from scratch.
Speed control is an essential task in many OEM applications, Nguyen said. Engineers can use pre-configured drive-parameter files to set up simultaneous control to multiple drives for speed matching. These files allow designers to add their code, rather than spend time on control design.
Panel layout and wiring configuration also can be time-consuming. Supplied wiring diagrams give the designer an example of product connections. "Reloading parameter data is a common requirement when troubleshooting machines," explained Nguyen. "But it often requires extensive configuration time." The Parameter Backup and Restore feature allows engineers to configure the controller to perform this function from the controller display, without requiring a computer.
Pre-developed HMI screens also monitor the status and fault codes in the drives and provide users with diagnostic and fault-code references to help simplify troubleshooting.