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FEATURE CAD/SOFTWARE


Mediseal’s blister packaging line Supporting machine development


Integrated automation has become a buzz word in the field of automation technology. Often used, it typically refers to the ability to start multiple software tools from a single program and, for B&R Industrial Automation, this represents just one of the many features of a perfectly integrated solution. Here, Simon Goodwin, general manager, illustrates how the Automation Studio integrated software development environment supports a machine through its entire life cycle, laying the foundation for the complete integration of a development tool into all business processes


N


ot too long ago, controllers were programmed using special electronic


programming devices that combined a PC and a programming application. Quite a lot has changed in the automation industry since then. Simply programming the controllers – today using software packages on conventional computers – is no longer sufficient to automate a machine or system. Visualisation applications, drive technology and safety systems have become essential components of a modern automation solution. Integrating all these components into one tool, however, falls far short of providing the best possible support for machine manufacturers. In order to pursue the idea of


integrated automation even further, a number of trends in the field of machine and systems manufacturing must also be considered.


TIME TO MARKET Technology oriented consumer markets tend toward increasingly faster cycles of innovation. To feed this hunger for new technology, machine and systems manufacturers must develop and automate new machines in ever shorter intervals. This means the development tool provided by their automation partner must be able to keep up with this trend. In addition to integrating the


various tools, B&R also understands the importance of adapting the development tool to the line of automation products. This is the only way to utilise the full performance of


32 SEPTEMBER 2014 | DESIGN SOLUTIONS


the products (be it the classical controller, Automation PC or visualisation), and to avoid time-consuming compromises.


BATCH SIZES For some time, B&R has been observing a trend toward ever smaller batch sizes. Here, too, changes in the consumer market with respect to product variety and customisation have a direct effect on machine manufacturing. This ‘mass-customisation’ requires machines that are highly flexible. This begins during manufacturing with custom options packets for end customers and continues on-site at the end customer, where the range of functions is expanded by enabling further options. The development tool must be able to handle all these machine variants efficiently. Open interfaces to ERP systems are indispensable.


MACHINES: THE LINK IN THE VALUE CREATION CHAIN No matter how flexible, a single machine is rarely responsible for manufacturing a complete product – generally, it is only one link in the value creation chain. This chain is created either by the addition of half-finished components that are produced separately from the machine or through line integration, in which different machine generations are connected directly to the respective machines. In this case, it makes sense to link them in order to optimise the overall capacity. In the past this was done with electrical signals (digital or analogue), but today’s


fieldbus systems open up efficient new ways of linking machines to optimise data flow and streamline cabling. In order to provide machine manufacturers with the best possible support, a modern development tool must be able to integrate standard fieldbus systems and offer affordable and direct access for proprietary protocols in the form of libraries.


Mediseal, a


manufacturer of packaging machines for the pharmaceutical industry, has benefited from the Automation Studio engineering environment


INCORPORATION INTO PROCESSES Even though the development tool plays an important role when automating a machine or system, it is not a central element in the machine manufacturer’s process landscape. It would be inappropriate and impractical to ask machine manufacturers to adapt their processes to their automation supplier’s development tool. It must nevertheless be made as simple as possible to incorporate this tool into the processes. The development tool must have an


/ DESIGNSOLUTIONS


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