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Efficient integration of software development tools

Efficient integration of software development tools The lines separating mechanical, electrical and software engineering are becoming increasingly blurred. Clearly, the development tools used in these fields need to work as closely together as the engineers themselves. B&R and EPLAN are taking a proactive role in shaping this trend by developing a seamless interface between B&R Automation Studio and EPLAN Electric P8. The simple goal is to make these tools even more valuable for the users.

The result is that efficient integration of Version 4 of B&R's Automation Studio engineering tool and EPLAN Electric P8 is now a reality. These two tools provide unparalleled support for the automated exchange and synchronisation of hardware configurations, I/O mappings and process variables. This is made possible by an automated round-trip engineering feature. With an interface very different from conventional import/export interfaces, users are able to intervene in the process at any time - this is, however, something that is not often necessary.

Development processes
All types of development processes are supported. It makes no difference if a project is started with software development or electrical planning. It is even possible to handle projects in which extensive work is done in both of these disciplines at the same time, as is often the case with an efficient approach to project development. An intelligent comparison mechanism gives users a clear overview of differences between project versions at any time in addition to providing guidance when merging different project versions together. For projects large or small, the tight integration between Automation Studio and EPLAN Electric P8 offers maximum transparency and ease of use.

"Our users can easily carry over hardware configurations and I/O mapping tables from B&R Automation Studio, reducing the time and cost of development by avoiding unnecessary input repetitions and redundant workflow," explains Rainer Burgard, Key Account Manager at EPLAN, in the German town of Monheim. B&R hardware contained in an EPLAN Electric P8 project can be integrated into the hardware tree of an Automation Studio project at the push of a button. An intelligent side-by-side comparison tool provides a clear overview of which components the two projects already have in common and where changes have been made.

Intelligent import and export mechanisms make day-to-day workflow using multiple software tools considerably more streamlined. Yet B&R and EPLAN take it even a step further: the electrical plan and automation project are synchronised using 'round-trip engineering' features.

Automated data exchange
These features ensure that the two projects are always aligned and up-to-date. This has clear advantages: "Automated data exchange prevents errors that might otherwise occur in the course of interdisciplinary communication, thereby improving the quality of the end product. This contributes to reduced maintenance costs later in a system's life cycle," explains Heinz Fürnschuss, the B&R technical manager responsible for developing the EPLAN interface. "Modifications can be made more quickly, more easily and more inexpensively, since the system documentation and software are always current and synchronised."

Integrating various tools in the development process brings a wide range of benefits. In addition, working on different processes in parallel reduces development times and improves response times. Automated data manipulation increases quality by doing away with errors that can occur when making changes manually. The constant synchronisation of project data makes subsequent service work easier, and reduces costs later on down the road.

For B&R, it couldn't be clearer: the key to the successful development of future machine and system manufacturing projects lies in the efficient integration of the best development tools available.
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