Agnostic software architectures enable rapid innovation by nature of the free exchange of solutions between developers. If you joined us for our previous blog, Controls Platforms Beyond the Hardware, you’re aware of how CODESYS enables the use of Soft PLCs that use hardware-agnostic controllers.
For flexible, scalable, and cost-effective factory automation controls solutions, we regularly turn to the CODESYS development environment.
As our industry continues to latch onto the power of CODESYS, we were thrilled to join the discussion this week at The CODESYS Group’s annual online user conference: Fall Tech Talk 2023.
CODESYS Tech Talk Online User Conference offers “…advanced and exclusive insights into key industrial automation topics, forward-thinking technology, live Q&A, and virtual networking and chat opportunities for automation engineers, control engineers, and maintenance technicians.”CODESYS.US | Fall Tech Talk 2023
During the event, AC’s co-presenters (Automation Program Director, Trent Waddell & Principal Controls Engineer, Irawan Gunadi) delivered insights about AC’s expertise with CODESYS controls engineering for manufacturing automation.
Exploring CODESYS through Raspberry Pi
Today, we sit down with Irawan to talk about AC’s presentation at CODESYS Tech Talk and our role as a CODESYS System Partner.
We were curious to find out how Irawan and AC got started with CODESYS before becoming an official System Partner – currently the only CODESYS System Partner on the West Coast.
How did AC get started with CODESYS?
It actually started with a hobby of mine. I’m a single-board computer enthusiast, and Raspberry Pi was intriguing to me because of its flexibility as an industrialized controls platform. It gave me real world applications to explore. So, several years ago when CODESYS released their first control runtime for Raspberry Pi, it was the perfect time to dive in.
After writing and compiling a few programs, I could see that CODESYS with Raspberry Pi would be a great solution for some of our customers who need a sophisticated controller at a significantly lower entry cost. We’re talking about custom R&D automation projects where a gold standard industrial platform from Rockwell or Siemens is costly and kind of overkill. We develop controls on those platforms frequently, but they’re best for larger scale machine implementations and require an investment in the neighborhood of several thousand dollars before adding in the licensing costs.
For smaller custom R&D projects, we recommend a CODESYS SoftPLC for its low entry cost at hundreds of dollars. It’s a great alternative because the code we create in CODESYS is scalable.
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 scalability – all while maintaining real-time performance.AC Tech TalksTM | Controls Platforms Beyond the Hardware | CODESYS
So, if you start with a Raspberry Pi, how do you scale up for the customer from there with CODESYS?
If we start with a Raspberry Pi, then target a bigger system later on, we can easily move to a full-blown PC with multiple cores running on Linux or Windows. The actual controls code is like 90 percent identical between a Raspberry Pi and an industrial PC. It’s incredible to have that kind of scalability and reusability for such a low initial investment.
And, with CODESYS, we have the flexibility to scale up with the hardware as well. We can pick and choose from what’s available, rather than being locked into a proprietary system. For example, using Rockwell or Siemens control software means you use their matching hardware. So, when the supply chain is slow or blocked, you can’t move forward until that required hardware is available.
But with CODESYS, it’s an agnostic target development environment, so you can mix and match with any hardware designed for the IEC 61131-3 automation controls standard, which is most of the resources out there. The performance and the technology can both be scaled with CODESYS.
AC’s Controls Base Code – A Modular Structure Built for Industry Standards
During the presentation, Irawan explained how AC’s controls base code was designed for compliance with international automation controls standards like IEC 61131-3.
You mentioned the IEC 61131-3 automation controls standard. How does AC’s controls architecture account for that and other standards?
We designed AC’s controls base code as a modular system so we could reuse programmed code while complying with international industry standards and best practices, like:
> IEC 61131-3 standard for uniform PLC programming
> ISA-88 standard for designing batch control systems and processes
> OPC Unified Architecture IEC 62541 standard for control system communication and connectivity
Our base code consists of input and output control, function blocks, data structures, alarming, HMI screens, and unit and equipment modules for higher level machine states – all previously coded to comply with each of the required standards and processes.
We can quickly adapt our coded, resolved technologies to meet the customer’s requirements with:
> Functional safety
> Motion control
> Machine vision
> Barcode reading
Integrating CODESYS into AC’s Controls Architecture
Of particular interest to CODESYS Tech Talk users, Irawan described how AC integrates CODESYS into our modular base code.
What does it look like to bring CODESYS into AC’s modular controls architecture?
We take our AC base code and add the internal CODESYS libraries we need. These libraries include all the repeating stable pieces of our AC CODESYS base code for controller code and visualization.
During our CODESYS Tech Talk presentation, we showed some screens of what our modular base code looks like (see the image below) using the CODESYS Control Application to program the PLC using IEC 61131-3 standard and developed for ISA-88 topology.
On the left, “Unit” is our machine level module followed by “EM” for Equipment Modules. The smallest breakdown would be the Controls Module (CM).
Translated to the right is our base template for the CODESYS Visu HMI. We customize this template based on the process required by the client’s application.
Standard functionality is templated within the interface, including:
> A high level machine control panel displayed on all screens
> A dashboard displaying real-time machine status and metrics
> A Manual Screen for each Equipment Module used to access machine maintenance functions
> Access to Parameters and Recipe for customization features
> And an Alarming interface to identify and recover from alarm states
Integrating CODESYS into AC Machine Builds
From our earliest project through to our ongoing development, AC has developed a variety of automation machines by integrating CODESYS into our modular controls base.
How long has AC been using CODESYS?
What type of machine controls has CODESYS been used for?
We started training and experimenting with CODESYS back in 2015.
By 2017, the right application surfaced when we were moving fast to design a semi-automatic flexible PCB sensor bonding tool. We needed a quick and low-cost control system that would work with the hardware we needed. It had to be robust enough to handle lots of coordinated vacuum and pnuematic actuators, but scalable if the client needed to develop fully automated machines. It seemed the perfect opportunity to adopt CODESYS for our controls solution.
Since then, we’ve completed six more builds with CODESYS in the last year alone, and all for very different applications.
During our online presentation this week at the CODESYS Tech Talk event, we shared a glimpse of these different builds with CODESYS inside as the controls platform (see below).
AC Machine Builds with CODESYS Inside
Integrating CODESYS Without Development Delays
What does the future look like with AC & CODESYS?
Why does CODESYS fit into our controls approach?
One of the reasons we can execute six CODESYS projects in one year is because of the demand for speed of development and not having to wait for proprietary hardware.
The supply chain is still set back from the pandemic, and those hardware delays can have a big impact on our customers’ automation plans. Because hardware availability hasn’t fully recovered yet, sourcing for proprietary platforms isn’t as feasible as it was a few years ago.
But there’s no waiting or roadblocks with CODESYS because it’s an open platform that is agnostic to all industry-compliant hardware. We’re able to recommend a robust solution and keep development schedules moving.
And because our controls architecture “plays nice” with international standards and processes, compliant software like CODESYS is much easier and quicker to adopt.
By integrating CODESYS into AC’s controls base code, our capabilities are almost identical with the Rockwell and Siemens counterparts. Our Visu and Ignition HMI also enable seamless connectivity to CODESYS with the same look and feel as other AC platforms.
So, the future looks bright. CODESYS is a win-win for AC engineers and our customers need for powerful and cost-effective factory automation controls solutions that can be scaled to their needs in the future.
AC West Coast System Partner for CODESYS
AC’s presentation at the CODESYS Tech Talk online conference highlighted our role as a trusted and experienced CODESYS System Partner for the US West Coast.
Tell us about AC as a System Partner with CODESYS.
It’s something we wanted to do – become a trusted CODESYS System Partner. Right now, AC is the only System Partner serving the US West Coast since we were added to their network early last year.
Consultation and system integration is where we shine. We work with our customers to develop controls systems, but we also provide one-on-one coaching. With the challenging supply chain landscape, customers want to talk about the potency and value of CODESYS before moving forward. There’s still not as much awareness about it, especially compared with the gold standards in the industry for larger scale builds and industrial applications.
We can provide training as well, but CODESYS does such a great job at enabling technical learning and there are so many resources for code projects, that we typically do more consulting.
With the incredible cost/benefit value, especially for R&D Automation, CODESYS will continue to be a powerful tool in AC’s controls toolkit. We’re definitely excited to develop new solutions with CODESYS in the years to come.
Thanks to the CODESYS Group for welcoming AC to their CODESYS Tech Talk 2023. And thanks to Irawan Gunadi and Trent Waddell for sharing AC’s CODESYS experiences with the online attendees. Here’s to next year!
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