How Control Software Expands Possibilities

While Demand Grows for Platforms That Include HMI, Logic and Communications, Today's Systems Make Machine Builders and End Users More Aware of Open-Architecture Benefits

By Rick Pedraza, Managing Editor, Digital Media

As the market for general motion control products nears a projected $7 billion annually, new developments in machine control software are allowing machine builders to interface with more different hardware devices. At the heart of this increase (the market was more than $5 billion last year and is projected to reach nearly $7 billion in 2010) is the demand for control software for Ethernet-based networks.

According to a recent report by ARC Advisory Group, Ethernet-based networks tuned for motion control are opening the door to high-end application performance by enabling levels of speed, capacity, and determinism unthinkable just a few years ago.

SEE ALSO: Software Tools for the Development of Motion Control Applications

"The growing tendency to use motion control software has created a demand for platforms that include features such as human machine interface, logic and motion control, and communications," states ARC's report. It notes that the advent of PC-based motion control systems that rely on software has made users aware of the need for open architectures.

Our roundup shows the emergence of a new generation of motion control software products that merge the best features of PLC and PC-based controllers. Many PC-based software platforms in our round-up offer functions that are more convenient than those in legacy systems, but transition costs can be very high, the study adds. This has been a major deterrent to users in the industrial automation sector because so many are already heavily invested in older technology.

However, proprietary control systems that are less vulnerable to virus breakdowns and have reduced dependence on hardware are gaining in market share as the recent trend toward integrating vision and motion systems software increases its adoption in applications requiring high-level precision.

Several new improvements include soft-CNC solutions that offer a complete environment with HMI, multiple-axis motion control, and PLC tasks on one platform without dedicated motion-control boards. Other advances include adding modularized instructions that perform simple to complex ladder logic, which reduces processes to a simple programming block with fill-in-the-blank parameters.

More of the automation suites below enable redundancy, tunneling, recipe management, SNMP, UA, and SAP connectivity. Machine builders now use newer motion software technology to increase machinery throughput by servicing machinery modules offline without process interruption. Motors, drives and I/O modules can be removed and reinstalled to the live network individually or in groups for off-line service or upgrades.

Product Roundup:

Integration and Collaboration
FactoryTalk Integrator and FactoryTalk Portal incorporate WebSphere middleware technology for increased application-to-application connectivity. Scalable software applications are designed for tight integration with the Logix control platform, as well as connectivity to third-party and legacy systems. Integrator simplifies integration with corporate IT systems by supporting open-industry communications and links to commonly used ERP applications. Portal consolidates web-based interfaces into one manageable and configurable launch point. Rockwell Automation; 800/223-5354;

Movi Moves
MoviTools MotionStudio software platform programs drives and other motion devices, configures communication parameters, and interfaces with a controller. It includes a library of application modules that can be configured for a range of applications, as well as an editor for creating custom visualizations and application-specific diagnostics. Capabilities include a choice of communication paths, central data storage, decentralized and application-specific diagnostics and remote maintenance.
(864) 439-7537

Leave It to a Professional
ioControl Professional is a self-documenting, flowchart-based programming and debugging tool that includes an extensive, plain-English command set, as well as a powerful scripting language. It offers commands for analog and digital control, complex math, conditional branching, string handling, serial device control, subroutines, PID loop control, data arrays, and other complex functions. It configures the Snap PAC's dual-Ethernet interfaces for segmented controller/input-output networking or Ethernet link redundancy.
(800) 321-opto

Gain Control
ISaGRAF Version 5.0 software adheres to the IEC 61499 standard, allowing users to build traditional control systems, including embedded controllers, DCS, PLCs, RTUs, CNCs and motion controllers where the interactions between devices will automatically be regulated and synchronized by function block diagrams, rather than by manually implemented algorithms. Features include a toolkit to adapt it to any hardware platform and operating system, and an IEC 61131 and IEC 61499 programming environment.
(450) 445 3353

Done in Five Clicks
OPC Extender enables any .NET component to connect to process data using the OPC Data Access standard without writing code. No specialized user interface visualization components are required. Live data can be up and going in as few as five mouse clicks. It enables rapid OPC client development in Visual Studio 2003 or 2005, and OPC-enables any component in your .NET environment.
Software Toolbox
(704) 849-2773

Space-Saving Control
IndraMotion MTX platform offers a compact controller-based CNC solution for high-production machining centers, handling systems, or simple auxiliary units. Up to eight axes in two NC channels process up to 200 NC blocks/sec. The system has 16 inputs/outputs and capacity to integrate additional I/O ports. Features include network communication via Ethernet or fieldbuses such as Profibus and DeviceNet, and SERCOS. A Profibus-DP master/slave interface is available.
Bosch Rexroth
(847) 645-3600

Agile as a Cat
TwinCat remote synchronization software streamlines system design of multi-axis machines. The software includes special techniques for synchronizing NC axes (distributed axes) and electronic gearing of axes on separate controllers. Functions automatically make corrective adjustments for drift between two connected systems. Several industrial controls programming environments are available that comply with IEC 61131-3 global standards.
Beckhoff Automation
(952) 890-0000

Root-Out the Problem
Intune v.5 predictive maintenance software provides a tool for process analysis, web-based reporting, and problem correction. A complete scripting engine supports VBScript and JScript, turning raw data and statistics into metrics for optimized control and predictive maintenance schemes. Reports feature ActiveX controls for interactive, customizable analysis and a web server to view and manage all reports over the LAN. Performance monitoring and assessment indicates gaps between current, and identifies and prioritizes the root causes of process control problems.
(440) 443-3900

Can You Hear Me Now?
ASComm.NET communications software provides a runtime-free option for creating Windows-based control and supervisory control applications in Visual Studio.NET. It supports multiple industrial protocols, including A-B, Modbus, GE, and AutomationDirect, and provides the communications link between Windows-based .NET applications and industrial controllers, PLCs and instrumentation.
Automated Solutions
(707) 575-9631

Good Documentation
DirectSoft5 PLC programming software features modularized instructions that perform simple to complex ladder logic. Categories include memory, discrete and analog helpers, math, communications, and CTRIO high-speed counters. The IBox instruction feature is compatible with DirectLogic DL05, DL06, D2-250-1, D2-260, and D4-450 CPUs with supporting firmware. Documentation can be exported to touch panels to use as tag names in the panel project.
(800) 633-0405

Alone or in Groups
MPI 3.04 motion control software facilitates integration of real-time motion with vision or high-speed I/O. Features include an integrated C library; low latency command-to-motion execution; and a deterministic network master with node self-enumeration, redundant fault tolerance and event management. Motors, drives and I/O modules can be removed and reinstalled to the live network individually or in groups for off-line service or upgrades without process interruption. Sixty-four-bit position resolution allows advanced control of high-resolution axes such as precision linear motors.
Danaher Motion
(866) 993-2624

Embedded Control
SoftPLC version 4.1 runs on embedded Linux with real-time extensions. The open-architecture control software features ladder logic control, including A-B program/document imports; communications interfaces to virtually all HMIs, drives, and industrial networks; and a rich set of I/O drivers for interface to devices and bus networks. An embedded PLC/SCADA firewall secures communications.
(800) softplc

Design and Deploy
LabView 8.20 graphical development platform for control, test and embedded system development allows object-oriented programming, user interface development, code connectivity to DLLs, and .NET web services. Features include advanced analysis and control; distributed system management; new targets for HMIs; high-speed file I/O; and the ability to use M-files written in MatLab language syntax . The platform provides Ethernet-based communications for distributed systems and open communication to existing hardware and software through native Modbus and OPC support.
National Instruments
(800) 258-7022

PC-Based SoftLogic Controller
Adam-5510KW softlogic controller features a MultiProg-IEC 61131-compliant softlogic control engine with large memory capacity, multiple communication interfaces, and user-friendly configuration tools. Features include a graphical programming interface; cross-programming language compiling capability; and built-in Modbus/RTU master and slave. It supports up to 128 local I/O points and handles typical Modbus/RTU remote I/O modules. Three serial ports, including one RS-485 and two RS-232/485 ports, are included.
(513) 742-8895

Intuitive Configuration Software
H-Designer configuration software guides users through all aspects of project creation using Windows formats and fonts. The configurator selects between thumbnail and detailed zoomed views, and the software supports ladder programming or macro creation, allowing data changes to the controller and I/O setting/resetting.
Beijer Electronics
(888) 350-1306