IT in Manufacturing


Open interface for automatic code generation

April 2014 IT in Manufacturing

The automation interface in TwinCAT 3 automation software enables remote control of the TwinCAT engineering system and automatic generation of programs and configurations. Depending on the degree of automation, manual processing of control projects and the associated errors can be reduced or avoided. The quality of the software engineering is increased, while programming time and costs are reduced by the automation of project generation.

Automation of machines and plants is becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming. The resulting engineering costs are also growing in proportion to the complexity of the project. This is reflected, among other things, by the increased costs for developing a configuration and programming the PLC. These costs can only be reduced if the complete software or parts of it can be automated. Such automated code generation can also contribute towards a reduction of errors in the configuration.

Remote control of the engineering system

This is where the TwinCAT automation interface comes in – it provides the user with a programming interface that can be used for the remote control of the TwinCAT system. This allows almost all offline and online functions to be controlled externally. The error-prone and cost-intensive generation of I/O configurations and programs can be simplified in this way.

The automation interface consists of a large number of programming routines that are available to the user in the form of classes and methods. These enable TwinCAT projects to be generated, changed and saved in a standard and flexible manner – in conjunction with a source code database such as Team Foundation Server, if desired. The resulting application possibilities are extremely varied and can range from a simple application for automating everyday and recurring TwinCAT tasks to complex, user-defined engineering tools that only use the regular TwinCAT development environment in the background.

Automatic generation of programs and configurations

A further situation where the automation interface can provide valuable assistance is in environments where the TwinCAT configurations on a machine must be changed several times a day – for example because a different PLC program must be executed. An application can thus be tailored precisely to the user’s workflow via the automation interface. It also allows machine operators who are not proficient in using TwinCAT to change configurations at the simple push of a button.

The integration of the TwinCAT engineering system into the Visual Studio developer’s environment opens up a multitude of further application possibilities for the automation interface. This is because the openness of Visual Studio and TwinCAT enables customised plug-ins to be written by the programmer in addition to providing direct integration into the development environment and ultimately into the daily work routine.

For more information contact Kenneth McPherson, Beckhoff Automation, +27 (0)11 795 2898, k.mcpherson@beckhoff.com, www.beckhoff.co.za


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