Mechatronic building blocks integrate SCADA with CAE

01 September 2007

Combining zenOn SCADA/HMI software with the Eplan electrical design package allows users to automatically engineer the control and visualisation aspects of the system.

Machine design engineers who use the Eplan Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) platform now have the
ability to program the logic and visualisation of the control system from within the CAE environment. In other
words, they can not only design the machine but program it as well—without specialist knowledge of the control system implementation, according to the people at Copa-Data.

Control system operators—zenOn users, that is—can use the link to Eplan to trace control system faults back to the circuit diagrams and other documentation that will help them keep the system running.

Even maintenance engineers can benefit, because, during runtime, they can find faults and replacement parts almost immediately by tracing them back from zenOn to the designs in Eplan.

Two points of integration
The zenOn SCADA/HMI software and Eplan integrate at two points, the Eplan platform and the Eplan engineering centre. During the design process, the engineer can directly access zenOn from the Eplan platform.

Similarly, the Eplan viewer or indeed the full Eplan suite can be accessed directly from zenOn during runtime to track alarms and debug systems. This exchange of data makes automatic engineering possible.

Integration with the Eplan Engineering Centre allows users to invoke zenOn 6.21’s documentation wizard to produce SCADA documentation. This documentation can then be managed alongside the electrical plans, fluid plans and such.

During project design, the Eplan platform is a common environment for the different Eplan products that deal
with computer aided engineering in the different disciplines such as Eplan Electric P8, Eplan Fluid Dynamics, and Eplan Cabinet for cabinets and enclosures.

zenOn has already been used with Electric P8 in several projects. An electrical design including part specifications and connections can be exported from Eplan Electric P8 via Eplan Platform to create zenOn projects, STRATON projects, or both simultaneously.

STRATON is an IEC 61131 product of Copa-Data’s daughter company Copalp. It consists of the workbench (the programming interface), a runtime (the runtime environment) and a communication system. This code,
perhaps originally written for a hardware PLC, can be imported from Eplan to create a fully functioning PLC on an industrial PC or embedded hardware.

Getting rid of errors
Timm Hauschke, product manager for Eplan, considers the fact that sequential engineering processes are still standard in mechanical engineering is a frequent source of errors. ‘This causes long lead times, poor co-ordination and above all, many errors arise from manual copying. The consequences are more engineering time and unnecessary site visits.’

The Eplan engineering centre divides a process or a machine into several modules, during which functional units are defined as cross-discipline mechatronic objects, for example an electrical design and the related
visualisation functions in zenOn.

These are then compiled into a set of ‘mechatronic building blocks.’ This ‘divide and conquer’ approach not only simplifies design engineering, but also encourages the reuse of design elements.

Standardising functional components into sets of building blocks can lead to noticeable improvements in productivity because blocks can be reused.

Copa-Data product manager Axel Netuschil says he’s excited about the new automatic engineering possibilities, ‘At the push of a button, Eplan users can generate all discipline-specific documentation such
as circuit diagrams, fluid diagrams, PLC programs and project information in the zenOn system.’

The functional engineering approach not only structures complex plant or machine processes into clearly structured modules, it also reduces the dependency on highly specialised engineers that are often contracted by the day, he says.

Nearly-automatic engineering Automatic engineering is central to zenOn, with the emphasis being on
‘parameterisation’ rather than programming code line by line. The system is designed using a step-by-step
wizard similar to those found in consumer products that uses existing data about the interfaces, variables, and functions of components in Eplan to automatically create a SCADA project.

The engineering team doesn’t need to program SCADA, just understand what is required of the system, and then set the parameters.

Components such as motors, switches, and sensors can be automatically generated in zenOn by importing the data from Eplan. In Eplan there is an ‘export to zenOn’ function and in zenOn a new project is created automatically using these data. This means that the system does not need to be manually configured.

The same is true of STRATON. A control system designed in Eplan can be imported into the STRATON workbench and the project is automatically created. This can be compiled for the appropriate platform and run as a soft PLC/controller.

If Eplan users can do this, do they have any need to go into zenOn to do programming?

In some cases no programming within zenOn or STRATON is necessary and the complete project can created from Eplan. The PLC programming can be created within Eplan and converted immediately
into a working PLC in STRATON. The part list, component definitions, and their electrical connections can be imported in a single operation into zenOn to produce fully functional SCADA projects.

In other cases, the engineering team may wish to supplement the ‘ready made’ projects, for example by adding standard SCADA / HMI visual indicators such as level meters or colour coded status ‘lights’ to convey important information to specific operators at a glance.

Both zenOn and STRATON provide open interfaces such as XML, ActiveX and COM. The same sort of integration is equally possible with other programs from CAE to ERP systems.

Operation and maintenance
Design is one thing, but operation in the field is another matter. The Eplan and zenOn integration can potentially reduce the operation and maintenance resources that need to be allocated over the product lifecycle.

Operators can look up alarms and error messages in the Eplan platform directly from zenOn and then track and remove errors ‘at a glance.’ During runtime, an operator uses a zenOn terminal. When an alarm occurs, the zenOn operator clicks on the alarm notification (in an alarm list or on the visualisation screen) and traces the fault back to Eplan. This is achieved by calling a small application called the Eplan Viewer from zenOn. zenOn tells the Eplan viewer where the fault has occurred and opens the circuit diagram to show it. The operator determines the location and the source of the fault in seconds rather than spending hours
reading through documentation and inspecting plant.

For example, a faulty valve actuator could be tracked back to the electrical engineering plans in Eplan Electric P8. In the past, the operator would need to alert the maintenance team, who would then spend valuable time tracking a fault through electrical plans to find the valve.

The runtime link between zenOn and Eplan also makes maintenance tasks easier to manage. The master data and maintenance data required by zenOn Industrial Maintenance Manager can be automatically generated when a motor is added within the Eplan platform. For example, a motor could be included in an
Eplan design that needs checking every 5,000 hours. This motor could be automatically registered within zenOn, which will alert maintenance personnel at the correct time to check the motor. At this time, the maintenance engineer could also review the motor specification, where it is sourced from, and locate it on the SCADA visualisation and electrical plans.

Product Manager Axel Netuschil, Copa-Data, has found Eplan users curious about the new possibilities offered by zenOn integration. ‘The direct combination of zenOn and Eplan platform saves a lot of time, money and energy. Instead of looking for error sources manually after an alarm, the source can be opened directly in Eplan. Users can react quickly and accurately with the support of zenOn.’

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