World Supply Chain Problems Increase Demand for Hardware Agnostic Control Platforms
AC is seeing a greater diversity of clients embrace manufacturing automation platforms that side-step proprietary hardware requirements. In recent decades, as technology continues to evolve into Industry 4.0, IIoT, and ever-expanding distributed architectures, interest in software-centric platforms is spiking.
Add to this the post-COVID supply chain disruptions which have shined an even brighter light on the need for controllers that are not tied to proprietary hardware suppliers but can still maintain a real-time industrial control platform that can run on widely-available industrial PCs, single-board computers, and other target device platforms.
In North America in particular, traditional platform leaders, like Allen Bradley and Siemens, dominate the industry and have a huge base of developers. But their implementations come with much higher entry costs and require interdependent proprietary hardware and software technologies, some of which cannot be readily sourced.
Exploring Controls Platforms Beyond the Hardware
Customers with pressing development needs are pivoting around PLC hardware supply barriers by seeking software-based PLCs (Soft PLCs) because of their programming flexibility, portability, and scalabilty – all while maintaining real-time performance.
And with the growing adoption of the IEC 61131-3 open control PLC programming standard in North America, a broader base of automation controller developers can write code for Soft PLCs using either traditional languages, like ladder diagram (LD), or even modern development languages using structured text (ST), like Python and C++/C#.
Thankfully, there are a great diversity of automation controls options accessible today by a wider programming base and at lower entry costs. This is where adaptable and scaleable automation software platforms, like CODESYS, shine.
What is CODESYS?
CODESYS is a comprehensive automation software ecosystem developed by German software company, 3S-Smart Software Solutions (the CODESYS Group).
CODESYS began in Europe but is widely used internationally for automation applications within many diverse industries, from railway, oil and gas, and building controls, to commercial manufacturing automation applications.
In a nutshell, CODESYS summarizes their flexible ecosystem on their Why CODESYS? page:
“CODESYS combines classic PLC programming with the capabilities of a professional software for development, commissioning, and management of automation tools. Without any additional tools, the entire application can be configured, programmed, tested, and operated in a single user interface – including typical engineering tasks:
> Configuration of different fieldbus and real-time Ethernet systems
> Creation of modern visualization screens for operating modular units and complete machines, plants, and systems
> Planning and execution of complex applications for motion control, CNC, and robotics
> Programming of safety applications in accordance with DIN IEC 61508 SIL2/3
> Connection of industrial controllers to an existing infrastructure, for example consisting of PLC, DCS, server or cloud systems
> Administration of the control landscape with a cloud-based server platform”
Because CODESYS is free to demo, developers are able to immediately learn, code, and test their solutions before licensing is required. CODESYS licensing costs are much lower than traditional proprietary systems. And their expansive library offers nearly one hundred downloadable engineering components available for SoftPLC alone.
The open programming environment has a large and ever-growing base of developer support to kickstart your project quickly by customizing solutions from existing code.
AC is the Pacific Northwest’s CODESYS System Partner
Through decades of implementations and migrations with many automation platforms, AC has created a transposable architecture for platforms like Rockwell, Siemens, and CODESYS. Our architecture, combined with depth of experience, helps us quickly understand your platform needs and quickly develop new or cross-compatible solutions.
> We can help you jumpstart your development through our engineering and Design for Manufacturing (DFM) expertise by targeting the best solutions to leverage AC’s existing base architecture.
> We can help you achieve a high level of performance and functionality even if you’re facing hardware and budget restrictions.
> When you’re blocked by the supply chain and/or device limitations, we can explore hardware alternatives.
AC is also the only CODESYS Partner in the Western US currently providing the following developer services:
> Application Development
> System Integration
The CODESYS hardware-independent and agile development platform enables AC to engineer software-based PLCs (Soft PLCs) for clients seeking automation hardware-independence or key functionality, some of which is identified at a high level below.
AC is Solving the Toughest Automation Challenges in the Industry
Leveraging Key Functionality of CODESYS
High Adaptability & Scalability
CODESYS is highly adaptable, so our clients can select the hardware they want to use at a low entry cost, even as low as a few hundred dollars starting with a single-board computer. This is a key competitive advantage over traditional platforms that can start at several thousand dollars or higher. If greater performance is needed down the road, with CODESYS, we can easily scale up from a single-board computer to an industrial PC.
Because CODESYS is a subset of our broader IEC 61131-3 base automation libraries, we can develop custom solutions quickly and efficiently. By leveraging required libraries, such as with HMI and motion control packages, we can customize each automation project to our client’s specific needs. The modular design that CODESYS software enables means that no unnecessary software licensing is required. When it comes to project funding, this savings can add up quickly.
CODESYS also delivers key workflow advantages, such as:
> Vast scalability; code developed in lower grade hardware is directly reusable and portable when higher platform performance is required
> Implementations are not limited to ladder diagrams; we can use structured text, ladder, or a hybrid approach
> Strong support of object-oriented implementation and inheritance
> Controller simulation doesn’t require chaining hardware configuration
> Unit Testing Library enables feature and regression testing before code consolidation
> Version control is directly available using CODESYS Git or CODESYS SVN
Supporting Your Custom Automation Solution from Roadmap to Service
When it comes to raw performance, CODESYS also delivers extremely fast control loop processing speeds – scan times are measured in microseconds, not in milliseconds as is common with traditional hardware. And once CODESYS compiles, it generates native machine code optimized by high performance x86/x64/ARM processors. Its real time field bus technology enables high speed motion performance. Depending on application requirements, we also use CODESYS for analog PID loops – functionality which isn’t achievable on other platforms.
Flexibility for Diverse Automation Solutions
So whether our clients have simple to advanced automation needs, CODESYS offers a wide range of solutions.
We have developed solutions for diverse industries and applications that cover a broad range of scale and scope:
> Sensor bonding machines for complex electronics fabrication
> Thermoplastic manufacturing machines
> Environmental and emission control systems
> Logistical and sorting machines for identifying, routing, and retrieving goods
> Semi-automatic inspection machines
> Pressure sensor assembly machines
> Expected service life product testing machines
Lean on AC’s Manufacturing Automation Expertise
Are you ready to explore how using CODESYS can free up your automation platform from hardware-dependence? Or are you starting out with a new implementation and can see that CODESYS might be the right solution that offers you scalability and performance now and in the future?
AC is here to help you identify the advantages of various automation platforms. We are always guided by our mission to help you find right-fit solutions that make sense for your specific project. In other words, we have a lot of tools in our toolbox, but our goal is to help you pick the right tool for the job because one size does not fit all.
To ensure a right-fit solution, many of our clients prefer to start with a Proof of Concept engagement to clearly identify the scope and requirements of your project. A PoC facilitates early communication, optimal planning, and alignment on a clear set of objectives and solutions.
Questions? Not sure if CODESYS or a Soft PLC approach will do all you need it to? Connect with one of our project engineers today.
Talk to an Engineer about Your Custom Automation Needs