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COPA-DATA is a partner in the DIMA project

COPA-DATA is a partner in the DIMA project

The software specialist COPA-DATA is one of the first providers of process control systems in the DIMA – Decentralised Intelligence for Modular Applications project, initiated by industry specialist WAGO’s automation sector. The objective of the project is to create a de facto standard for decentralised, modular automation of process equipment and efficient engineering. This provides industrial companies with the possibility to implement process equipment in a flexible way and individualise their production.

Fluctuating procurement and sales markets, flexible relocation of production sites and the increasing requirement for customer-specific individualisation of a product range are leading to ever shorter product and innovation cycles in the process industry. Conventionally-constructed process technology equipment in the areas of chemical processing, food and beverage, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are usually not flexible enough and cannot efficiently master the introduction of new products or amended production quantities.

WAGO, a global provider of electrical connections and automation systems, initiated the DIMA – Decentralised Intelligence for Modular Applications project to meet the demand for individualisation of process equipment and a high degree of modularity in the automation of production processes.

“Our aim is to considerably shorten the time between product approval and market availability. We estimate that some companies can save up to 60 percent of the development time of process equipment. But this can only happen if the equipment is created in a modular manner and we give the company the possibility to act more quickly and flexibly,” explains Ulrich Hempen, Manager of Industry and Process Market Management at WAGO Kontakttechnik GmbH & Co. KG.

The committees of the User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries (NAMUR) and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI) have taken on the DIMA approach and further specified it. The objective of the cooperation is the development of an international standard.

The idea of the DIMA concept is to compile an entire plant consisting of several autonomous equipment modules. An equipment module displays one or more standardised process steps, carries out procedures, operations or functions. A module provides its process technology function as a service to the higher-level process control system, zenon, taking on the role of a service provider. The process control system can call up the service offered by the module, thus acting as a service user. 

DIMA consequently uses the paradigm of service-orientated architecture (SOA). The modules have their own “intelligence” in the DIMA concept. Each module is equipped with its own WAGO controller, which executes services and monitors the module status. If companies wish to amend a production process, they only need to exchange one or more modules. The production quantity can be increased by means of numbering up, i.e. adding modules of the same type.

“The major advantage of the modularisation of equipment is the reduction of engineering work for the operator, both for commissioning and when making changes to the equipment. The operator can plan and construct modular equipment more efficiently, because a large part of the engineering can already take place in the module engineering phase. The modules then only need to be integrated into zenon”, explains Philipp Schmidt, Branch Office Manager at COPA-DATA Germany.

The technical implementation of the DIMA method requires a new definition for the description of process equipment modules: the Module Type Package (MTP). The following information is stored in the MTP: communication parameters for easy integration of the module into the equipment; services, such as the description of the process performance characteristics of the module, as well as graphics information for operation and observation. In addition, there are further descriptions, such as information on status, diagnosis, history and archiving.

To design the complete engineering or re-engineering process as efficiently as possible, COPA-DATA has developed an MTP handling and management system. With this system, companies can read in the MTPs, create all required variables and operating screens, and define their connection. All information with regard to name, size, position and variable connection of the screen objects in the operating screens come from the MTP. This guarantees that the operating screens of modules from different manufacturers, which are read in by different MTPs, correspond to the customer-specific look and feel in the control system. Users can also track in real time, which artefacts in zenon have been created by which MTP. This allows the connection of the different modules required in the process, even during ongoing operation. 

zenon also gives customers the possibility to select and export customised services and operating screens. This way, companies can to reuse and reduce project-related costs. In addition to the creation and connection of variables and operating screens, the services that are also included in the MTP are created as phases in the zenon Batch Control module. The parameters of the phases can be set as required and linked to one another in the form of recipes. The production process of the equipment can begin after this step. If necessary, the user can implement cross-module interlockings in zenon using the variables created, and set up additional messages.


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