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Hardware configuration has never been so easy

Hardware configuration has never been so easy

With copy and paste capability and photorealistic software views, System Designer in B&R's Automation Studio streamlines and simplifies your hardware configuration.

Traditionally, a system's hardware configuration is set up and maintained in a tree structure, where each component must be selected and positioned manually. This approach has two critical disadvantages, however: it is both time-consuming and prone to errors. Wouldn't it be much more convenient to simply copy and paste devices along with all their parameter settings in an intuitive, photorealistic software view? With System Designer in Automation Studio 4, B&R has created just such an environment.

B&R introduced Automation Studio, the first integrated development tool for industrial automation, back in the 1990s. Since that time, B&R solutions have all been developed within a consistent and fully integrated software environment. The hardware configuration is an important stepping stone in the path to a finished automation application since it is essentially lists the hardware on which the software will eventually be required to perform.

The hardware configuration includes everything from controllers and automation PCs, analogue and digital I/O modules, drives and motors to HMI devices for operation and visualization - in addition to safety configurations consisting of safety controllers and safe I/O modules.

"We've observed a strong and sustained trend toward ever-increasing machine complexity," says Dr Hans Egermeier, manager of B&R's Automation Software business unit. "Over the past few years, modular machine designs and mass-produced machines with countless configuration options have become the norm." To meet these challenges head-on with optimal efficiency, B&R has developed System Designer - a powerful and convenient hardware management tool integrated as one of the many new features of Automation Studio 4.

Although the familiar method of the tree structure for hardware configuration remains available in Automation Studio;s System Designer, B&R has also built in some convenient techniques from the world of IT to make development even more efficient. For example, you can simply copy/paste or drag-and-drop an individual hardware node or an entire branch to modify the configuration. The system automatically updates the necessary configuration parameters in the background. This shaves off a considerable amount of time previously spent in this phase while also preventing potential errors from ever occurring.

It is also possible to select parameters for any number of system components in the Physical View and set their values all at once. "Copying hardware components along with all of their associated parameters and settings greatly simplifies reusability," explains Egermeier. "Devices can be grouped in any constellation and duplicated all at once as a single unit." Machine variants and options can be configured with virtually no effort at all. All of these features provide additional support for designing modular machines.

The real revolution in user ergonomics for automation designers, however, is System Designer. The system topology is laid out in the visual editor by arranging photorealistic images of the hardware components in a virtual control cabinet. This method not only provides a substantial boost in efficiency, but also helps prevent mix-ups that could result in an invalid configuration. In the background, Automation Studio uses the device properties listed in the Hardware Catalog to carry out plausibility checks and configure the first parameters. As in the hardware tree - which is automatically synchronised as you work in the graphical editor - groups of devices configured once can easily be duplicated via drag-and-drop, with continuous updates running in the background alleviating all of the headaches otherwise associated with laying out a hardware configuration.

"System Designer's fully graphical 2D virtual control cabinet view makes configuring hardware a very quick and simple affair," says Egermeier. "The exceptionally intuitive overview of even the most complex architectures is especially helpful when implementing changes." All of the connections between hardware components are saved in XML format, which makes them available for automated troubleshooting and performing diagnostics. XML data is also open for use in third-party tools. For example, a bidirectional interface with Europe's leading electrical design software, EPLAN Electric P8, means configuration data can be entered or modified in either system and quickly sync-hronised. This mechatronic approach reduces the overall workload while eliminating a notorious source of errors.

Automation Studio 4 offers automation engineers an extensive Hardware Catalog to simplify the configuration process. It contains all of B&R's products and features intuitive filter and search options. Third-party components can be added by simply importing their device description files (provided by all major manufacturers). A simple selection in the Hardware Catalog also allows you to connect hardware components to any of the most widely used fieldbus and industrial Ethernet systems currently available.

Hardware configuration with System Designer in Automation Studio 4 accelerates the process of generating hardware data for use in automation software. It creates scalable hardware constellations ready to be reused with minimal effort.

By providing software developers with powerful abstraction technology, System Designer does a much better job than conventional development tools at allowing them to focus on their core responsibility - turning a system's processes, movements, user guidance and visualisation features into functions that bring the machine to life.

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