Premier Integration creates a single design environment for devices from multiple vendors to communicate without time-consuming and costly programming.
By Tim Norman, senior product manager, Hardy Process Solutions
New industrial automation projects often involve integrating devices from multiple manufacturers. Yet customers discover the complexity of device integration can be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming aspects of deploying new capabilities.
The Rockwell Automation® Logix control platform allows simplified device integration, configuration, operation and maintenance through a holistic approach based on Studio 5000® software integration tools. Called Premier Integration, the goal is to create an environment in which devices from multiple vendors can communicate and exchange data with each other efficiently without the need for time-consuming and costly programming.
Premier Integration combines controller programming, device configuration, and machine operation and maintenance into a single, user-friendly software environment to help engineers reduce integration and configuration times. It also gives operators access to critical machine data, including diagnostic information for improved maintenance, machine uptime and productivity.
Rockwell Automation continuously has improved upon the capabilities of:
- AOPs (Add-On Profiles).
- EDS AOPs (Electronic Data Sheet AOPs).
- Faceplates and AOIs (Add on Instructions).
With these tools, the company has created ease of integration opportunities for Encompass™ third-party products that connect to its control platforms.
However, not all device manufacturers take full advantage of the benefits of Premier Integration, which include:
- A standardized development environment with Studio 5000.
- Reduced project design time and costs.
- Reduced complexity in deployment.
- Significantly reduced programming time.
- Operational consistency and ease of use with data available on the network.
- Reduced long-term troubleshooting and maintenance costs.
- The ability for devices to exchange data via FactoryTalk® industrial automation software.
Below are the elements of Premier Integration as well as the respective benefits to customers and manufacturers who deploy these tools.
Before addressing Premier Integration software tools, devices first must connect to the Logix control platform. Hardware integration takes two primary forms:
1. Plug-In modules for Allen-Bradley® PLC backplanes that enhance a base unit controller’s capability. With these modules, an embedded I/O’s functionality can be extended with the following benefits:
- High performance with no network latency.
- Plug-in installation speed and simplicity.
- Ease of troubleshooting.
2. External devices that connect via EtherNet/IP™. Rockwell Automation provides a similar experience to connect to Allen-Bradley controllers via EtherNet/IP. Benefits include:
- Hardware versatility without restrictions of plug-in card device architecture.
- Devices that can be located anywhere on the network.
- Multiple devices that can communicate with other controllers and other devices on the network using FactoryTalk.
Custom AOPs allow the Logix control platform to recognize devices and provide a graphical front end within the environment to set up and configure the new device. In the simplest terms, they work like device drivers in PCs in that they not only make the device work, but they also can provide device information, connection information, I/O tags and predefined configuration screens. AOPs offer a variety of benefits:
- They are available in pull-down menus within Studio 5000 with automatic import of device profiles. These menus provide access to device information to make setup and use simpler (compared with working in HEX and triggering bits in code to perform a task).
- They provide easy-to-use device mapping and configuration.
- They help to avoid common errors.
- They facilitate installation of multiple devices by copy and paste duplication and by assigning unique device names.
- They provide device-specific tag names and configuration settings.
- They help aid in the reduction of support calls during initial hardware installation.
Manufacturers must work with Rockwell Automation to obtain custom AOPs. As such, they should start work during device development and budget AOP development time and cost. As an alternative to having custom AOPs developed, some manufacturers elect to use EDS AOPs.
EDS AOPs are text files the device manufacturer develops. The customer must register them with Studio 5000. Once registered, they can provide tag names and configuration settings comparable to a custom AOP. Also note:
- Device manufacturers develop EDS AOPs to support their specific device features and configuration.
- Software such as EZ-EDS from ODVA can help streamline EDS AOP development.
- EDS AOPs help to reduce customer programming times and costs significantly.
Faceplates and AOIs
Faceplates provide a User Interface (UI) template created for a specific device that links commands and functions presented on a human-machine interface (HMI) to the controller logic that performs the commands. Faceplates help reduce HMI screen development time dramatically with global objects that are easier to modify to meet the needs of the customer application and the desired look of the UI.
AOIs provide the digital communications link between the faceplate, the Logix controller and the device. AOIs encapsulate a logic for commonly used device control and simply need to have a single input triggered to run the entire routine. In addition:
- Faceplates provide a standard user interface, so all users have the same device values displayed.
- Faceplates can reduce customer programming time by as much as 70% over trying to write controls themselves.
- AOIs standardize control. Customers won’t need to take programming shortcuts that may omit controls or take full advantage of features and functionality for the device.
- With the combination of a faceplate and an AOI, customers can install, configure, operate and visualize devices without writing a single line of code.
Manufacturers must develop their own faceplates and AOIs. However, the development of these software tools allows customers to take plant operations to the next level. Collecting I/O data and delivering that data to plant personnel in the form of diagnostics, faults, alarms and error messages facilitates complex decision-making. Finally, complex industrial automation processes are easier to develop to help streamline plant operations.
The ultimate goal of Premier Integration is to allow multiple devices to connect seamlessly by communicating on a standardized platform. Visualization allows enhanced decision-making and insights into production and processes based on real-time data to increase overall equipment efficiency (OEE).
By collaborating via the holistic Premier Integration development environment, Rockwell Automation streamlines the process for end users and Encompass Partners alike.
Hardy Process Solutions, San Diego, California, is a participating Encompass™ Product Partner in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™ program. Hardy provides process weighing and packaging equipment, including tension and compression load cells for a variety of industries ranging from food processing and automated manufacturing to chemicals and plastics production.
The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.