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Smart engineering

Smart engineering With Automation Studio 4, B&R has set a new standard in 'smart engineering', combining useful automated functions, functionally equivalent architecture models and collaboration tools with the convenience of object-oriented programming.

When it comes to automation system development, software engineers are looking for tools that provide optimum utilisation of all the resources involved in the software development process. This focus on efficiency should cover not only the hardware aspect of the system design, but also the IT infrastructure and ultimately the most efficient deployment of the development team's resources.

Alongside efficiency, software engineers are also looking for tools that provide a high level of sustainability - taking efficiency beyond the project currently being developed to focus both on the whole product lifecycle and on subsequent projects. So how does Automation Studio 4 address all of these requirements?

Automation Studio 4 introduces the concept of project modularisation, an approach that not only allows the various development tasks to be assigned to different members of the development team, but also allows each individual project to be divided into modules. These modules increase efficiency by allowing multiple developers to work simultaneously in a single parallel step to shorten the development time for the current project. The modules also ensure sustainability since they can be reused in other similar projects to accelerate new developments and reduce overall testing and development costs.

This latest version of Automation Studio makes it simple to manage today's increasingly complex programs. This begins with the hardware configuration, which is frequently the first step in developing a new system. The majority of this work is performed in the new System Designer. The system's topology view is created by arranging photorealistic images of the hardware components - a graphic representation of how the components would be arranged in a control cabinet - and then connecting them. In the background Automation Studio uses the device properties listed in the hardware catalogue to carry out configuration checks and set the first parameters.

Additional parameters can be set simultaneously for any number of components selected in the tree view, and the configuration can be edited by copying/pasting, dragging/dropping or inserting either individual hardware icons or entire branches. The system automatically fills in the required configuration parameters in the background, which shaves off a considerable amount of time typically spent in this phase, while also eliminating the possible errors that can creep into the design with a conventional system. All this establishes Automation Studio as an elegant top-down conceptual design tool that makes it quick and easy to evaluate design variations and verify them. The details can be worked out successively once the fundamental decision has been made.

Mechatronic system development
Mechatronic-oriented developers are supported by the consistent integration of mechanical, electronics and automation software. Automation Studio 4 provides a bidirectional interface to the database system of the leading electronic CAD system on the market, EPLAN Electric P8. This not only preserves the freedom to choose a planning system, it also enables the integration of fluid planning systems for hydraulic and pneumatic elements as well as CAD engineering systems for mechanical integration of the automation hardware.

Similar interfaces between Automation Studio 4 and various simulation programs offer a multitude of possibilities for intermediate testing independently of the hardware, which is often not yet ready in this phase of the design. The results of these simulations can then be imported into Automation Studio 4 to serve as a starting point for concrete development. In this way, the software development process is based on tested processes right from the start.

When it comes to communications, with Automation Studio 4 B&R has seamlessly integrated the OPC Unified Architecture communication protocol. This provides its own convenient and easy-to-use functions to aid software developers. Moreover, its open architecture is establishing it as a market standard, which ensures compatible communication with numerous third-party systems.

In addition, widely-used Web technologies are directly supported in Automation Studio 4 with its own dedicated libraries. This makes it easier to create applications for visualisation, process monitoring and remote maintenance, and to implement location-independent operating and production concepts.

By making software projects easy to expand or modify, Automation Studio 4 helps system developers to build sustainability into their designs. Individual system elements are clearly distinguished and managed under the integrated source control system to ensure the best results during every phase of development. These do not endanger to the rest of the system and provide a valid basis for decisions on how to proceed, which helps keep projects on track from start to finish. At the same time, the development environment covers control, visualisation and motion control to prevent inconsistencies between the various elements of a system.

Further, Automation Studio 4 includes all the necessary interfaces and transfer mechanisms needed to ensure that the finished product can be managed in this development tool throughout the entire product life cycle. This ensures that valuable input can be found when and where it is needed, contributing to the sustainable development of future product generations.

Taking advantage of object-oriented C++ programming, the smart editor supports programmers with context-based suggestions drawn from both the included function libraries and sections of code that have already been programmed. This significantly accelerates the system development while at the same time ensuring the code is easily reusable, which ultimately reduces the effort required for subsequent modifications. Visualisation templates for designing user interfaces in Visual Studio are also reusable and easy to modify, shortening the time required to complete this development task. Features such as standardised screen dimensions in particular help to accelerate development.

It can be seen, then, that Automation Studio 4.0 enables users to create a clearly structured software architecture not only during initial development but throughout all other phases of development, such as creating variants and options or performing program maintenance. Its smart features aid developers in creating elegant solutions that are a easy to work with.
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