Control Software Is Sweeter in Suites

When Bundled in Suites, Control Software Is More Interoperable and Offers More Options

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One advantage of using an all-inclusive software suite that includes control is pricing, says Ted Thayer, automation systems product manager for Bosch Rexroth (www.boschrexroth.com). "Another advantage is program organization for multiple machine components. Drives, PLC and HMI can all be accessed from a single project explorer tree."

Another primary advantage of suites is ease of use, says Charlie Norz, product manager – Wago-I/O-System (www.wago.us). "Comprehensive control software that includes typical functions, such as programming and visualization, is often very intuitive and can significantly streamline project commissioning," he says.

"When you have different software forming a suite, and you have that interoperability, there's an opportunity to develop a ‘common tagname database,’ which allows you to create and assign I/O variable names once and then use them over and over again across the entire suite of other software components—your HMI development package, your database integration software," says Ben Orchard, systems engineer at Opto 22 (www.opto22.com). "Each of these components is independent and doesn't rely on the others, but at the same time, can still access and use the established tagname database."

Customers can seamlessly layer other parts of the suite, and it also provides a consistent approach to configuration, reuse of common components across the suite, licensing, security and maintenance of solutions, says Prasad Pai, iFix product manager at GE Fanuc (www.gefanuc.com). "But if the control software is very dependent on the other parts of the suite for its basic operation," says Pai, "then the solution can be very expensive and closed for any external integration."

Instead of managing multiple licenses, a suite reduces that number to one, says Stephen Arnold, senior automation product marketing specialist at Schneider Electric (www.us.schneider-electric.com). "A large benefit to users relates to the ability to create a database for different hardware—PLCs, HMI—through one editing session," he says. "This helps to eliminate the errors that can be introduced by creating multiple databases individually for each piece of hardware.  Software suites offer the user a solution that will be better integrated and easier to employ than may be the case when using multiple, individual software programs that have not been bundled and tested together."

Support also comes from one vendor rather than multiple, says Bjoern Falke, product marketing senior specialist at Phoenix Contact (www.phoenixcon.com). "One disadvantage, however, is that you possibly lose some flexibility," he adds. "For example, you like the control software from Supplier A, but like a different HMI/visualization software from Supplier B. In that case, you would have to do more testing to make sure the two different packages work with each other. Sometimes you need special drivers."

The advantages of a software suite depend on the level of data integration between the software products and the consistency of the user experience, says Fabio Malaspina, product manager at Rockwell Automation (www.rockwellautomation.com). "Some control vendors develop products at different times by varying engineer teams for multiple purposes," he explains. "Unfortunately, these same products are often loosely packaged in a suite offering. This lowers productivity by requiring users to enter the same data multiple times in different software products, all with separate user interfaces."

PLC programmingLINUX AND WINDOWS
TopDoc PLC programming/documentation/maintenance software is available for both Linux and Windows operating systems. File formats, functions and features are common to both versions so users can move between the two operating systems. TopDoc is used to support SoftPLC open-architecture PACs. Features include ladder logic programming and documentation, PLC configuration, online monitoring/programming and reports. A console option provides access to the PLC via SSH for remote troubleshooting.
SoftPLC
512/264-8390
www.softplc.com
PcVueCONVERT AND USE DATA
PcVue v.8.2 is compatible with AutoCAD, enables the conversion of FactoryLink data and supports VMware, which allows a single PC to manage several virtual machines. Based on object-oriented technology PcVue is designed to reduce development and implementation time. The PcVue v.8.2 Smart Generator tool allows the use of data from software platforms such as Wago CoDeSys, Schneider Electric Unity, IsaGraf and Echelon.
ARC Informatique
781/569-0646
www.pcvuesolutions.com
virtualization technologyVIRTUAL OS
LabView 2009 with virtualization technology makes it possible to run multiple operating systems side-by-side on the same multicore processing hardware. NI Real-Time Hypervisor software combines the power of the LabView Real-Time Module with general-purpose OS capabilities to reduce overall system cost and size. Engineers and scientists can run Windows XP and LabView Real-Time side- by-side on the same controller.
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