Web-based engineering for automation of the future

5th November 2018
Posted By : Lanna Cooper
Web-based engineering for automation of the future

At this year's SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg, Germany. In Hall 5, Stand 338 Weidmüller will be presenting a new and flexible automation solution based on the latest open web technologies for use in machinery and plant engineering. 'u-control' forms part of the 'u-mation' automation portfolio. The term 'u-mation' relates to a range of different automation portfolios that have been put together by Weidmüller to create a precisely compiled solution, tailored to the customer's particular application.

With 'u-control', open and manufacturer-independent web technologies (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript) were used as a basis for the development of the engineering software. The browser becomes an application platform for the user, and allows for flexible system configuration, programming in accordance with IEC 61131-3 as well as connection to interfaces (HMIs) within a web-based engineering tool.

There is no need for the time-consuming installation of the engineering tool, as this software is already integrated into the control unit. Thanks to the web technologies, the control unit together with an extremely wide range of different hardware as well as the software can be monitored, programmed and updated from anywhere in the world via a direct connection ('u-control' device) or an indirect connection (Internet). The only requirement is an HTML5-compliant browser.

In today's control systems, the engineering (programming, HMI interface design etc.) is usually performed using separate software based on Microsoft Windows. This creates a dependency on these operating systems and the associated technologies. In practice, this often equates to a dependency on the location, the device and not least on the operating system.

Unlike the existing systems, 'u-control' offers increased flexibility in this regard, based on standardised, web-based technologies (HTML5 etc.) with engineering software that is integrated into the embedded hardware.

In concrete terms, the key to ensuring device independence lies in relocating the engineering tool to these web technologies. The engineering software can be accessed directly via a network or via a Cloud, with the additional option of programming without any connected hardware. Thanks to this web-based engineering, the customer is provided with a solution that is location-independent (factory or office), platform-independent (Linux or Windows) and browser-independent (IE, Firefox, Chrome).

The engineering tool integrated into the control unit has been set up such that the programming is based on IEC 61131-3, the globally applicable standard for programming languages for programmable control units. The structures and commands are familiar within automation technology, and can be used by the customer immediately.

During the development process, Weidmüller attaches great importance to ensuring consistent and intuitive operation using drag&drop in order to reduce complexity. In the future, the tool will automatically adapt to different output devices (responsive design), thereby allowing for optimal operation of the web-based interface.

Another key focus is the issue of security. 'u-control' was developed taking into account the latest security standards, e.g. the concept for guaranteeing security known as Security by Design (SbD). This concept involves ensuring that systems are hardened against external attacks from as early as the hardware and software development phases.

In addition to the unique selling points already mentioned (device independence, platform independence and browser independence), other noteworthy features include above all the compact design and the possible retroactive installation of industrial software applications on the control unit. The control unit can therefore be adapted to meet the particular requirements of the customer application. These software apps can also be installed retroactively on the 'u-control' hardware, representing a unique combination on the market.

The Weidmüller automation solution 'u-control' is equally relevant to both machine and plant operators wanting to make the most of the new web technologies.

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