Common development environment fosters design team compatibility

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Rockwell Automation explains the benefits for machine builders of using its common development environment for Logix-based automation systems

Common development environment fosters design team compatibilityRockwell Automation is recognised as an industry leader when it comes to the programming, troubleshooting and timely deployment of automation systems. Many of these plaudits are as a result of the common development environment it offers for its Logix-based systems.

This approach to programming, maintenance and deployment, also available in its enhanced midrange offering, can provide users with multiple benefits across all aspects of the Rockwell Automation Logix family, from lower-level devices such as drives and motion, through the core Allen-Bradley CompactLogix L3 programmable automation controllers (PAC), up to the top, operator-interaction and visualisation layer.

By offering a suite of tools – with the same consistency look and feel – that interact seamlessly with each other, coupled to a single, common data source, it is possible for all engineers working on a project to have access to all the information they need, when they need it and at the right version number, without having to rely on pushing or pulling information to and from other teams and team members.

If we were to look at typical engineering project that involves a variety of automation assets, it is not uncommon to see multiple teams using disparate software from multiple vendors, working on discrete areas, such as motion, automation and visualisation, and then only coming together at each of the testing phases. Although potentially effective with regards to the final outcome, this approach is certainly not the most efficient in terms of time, engineering effort, costs and resources.

At the heart of the Rockwell Automation programming environment in terms of visualisation is its FactoryTalk View Studio package. By linking into the PAC – which remains the core repository for data and programming throughout the developmental stages – users can access faceplates to hook directly into data structures; they can then define the linkages by browsing the tag database, which then creates a reference to the data in the PAC. This is a significant step forward over a traditional approach, where code and tags from controllers are exported to a separate HMI database, worked on and then re-exported back to the controller – a time-consuming two-stage process.

Single location for code and tags

With the Logix approach from Rockwell Automation there is just a single location for the code and tags, so everything can be referenced and updated with any need to move data from one place to another. Once any changes have been undertaken, the graphical objects on the HMI will see this change in reference and will be updated with the new information, including any additional parameters.

Recognising that motion is another vital element in the design phase, MotionAnalyzer from Rockwell Automation offers users the same look and feel as other software packages, as well as seamless, two-way integration with the Logix package and SolidWorks for simulation purposes.

Motion Analyzer makes analysis, optimisation, simulation and selection of motion control systems faster and easier by giving engineers a powerful set of tools to assess their design prior to committing to capital outlay. Tools available within the package include: System Thermal Modelling, System Efficiency Analysis, Ratio Design Analysis, Supply Voltage Tolerance Analysis, 3D CAD Integration, System Tolerance Analysis, Controlled Stop Analysis, System Tuning Simulation and Lifetime Estimation.

Implementing a mechatronic design approach that fosters collaboration between mechanical, electrical and controls engineers has been shown to reduce design risk and improve machine performance with minimised development costs. There is also the possibility of detecting design errors and weaknesses that may not otherwise appear until much later in the development process, thus helping design teams simultaneously increase innovation while decreasing the risk inherent to design changes.

Commissioning also put tremendous pressure on the engineers as they fault find and troubleshoot installation prior to production testing. During the commissioning phase, engineers often need the ability to access devices remotely, either due to geographical locations or restricted installation. Having the ability to undertake operations remotely by taking over screen control allows commissioning engineers to operate the machine and test the operator interfaces as if they were actually there, with little of the productivity losses associated with running backwards and forwards to the machine.

Built-in PDF reader

Start up and maintenance are also part of the mix, and thanks to a built-in PDF reader and web browser in the terminals operators can have access to content-rich textual and graphical information as well live video with audio for the provision of remote remedial actions.

By utilising the PAC as the information hub for the project, multiple steps in the design process can simply be removed. Analogous to operating in the Cloud environment, there is always a single data set that is always the very latest and is accessible to all team members that need it. By providing this common development environment, Rockwell Automation helps to remove the metaphorical ‘brick wall’ between the design teams, and makes the design process a far more effective and efficient concurrent activity.

To find out more about Rockwell’s Logix-based automation systems, visit the website at

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