B&R’s Hannover surprise: a process control system

05 June 2009

With a broad spectrum of functionalities, B&R’s APROL process control system unites levels of automation into one complete, homogenous system and promotes reliable and efficient operation through the entire life cycle.

Felix Tücking shows B&R’s APROL process control system at Hannover Messe
Felix Tücking shows B&R’s APROL process control system at Hannover Messe

“You’re in the wrong Hall,” was the reaction of some as they visited the B&R stand in Hall 15 at Hannover Messe.

“Interkama is in Hall 7.”

Right in the middle of the immense B&R stand, full of PLCs and servo drives, was a strange device the company was showing publicly for the first time: a process control system called APROL. Felix Tücking was there to show visitors what the DCS (distributed control system) could do.

Photo: Felix Tücking shows B&R’s APROL process control system at Hannover Messe

As it turns out, B&R has been offering the Linux-based system for several years. They describe as a ‘a complete and thorough system from the field level to the management information level.’ They’re even starting to sound like DCS salesmen.

Surely some would note here the parallel here with what Siemens has done with its Simatic S7-400 PLCs, which are the building blocks for its own Simatic PCS 7 process control system. B&R uses its System 2005 and X20 I/O to build a DCS out of its PLC parts. Of course, it must be said that Siemens has been in process automation for a long time, and had its Teleperm process control system decades before it came up with the idea to use PLCs.


B&R says its System 2005 is the “classic design” for process automation, which provides I/O modules and controllers for meeting the high demands in the field. The system uses interface modules to connect with popular fieldbuses such as CANopen, Profibus DP, Modbus TCP/IP, and Powerlink.

The slice-based I/O and control system X20, developed for machine control, is suited for the decentralised requirements of process control systems that have widespread distributed intelligence. There is already a wide range of I/O components and attachment modules to ensure “the right connection all the time.”

Another standard function is the integration of safety-relevant components. The IEC 61508 safety standard explicitly recommends blocks for programming safety logic, and B&R is quick to point out that it has blocks in the integrated library which are validated and conform to the PLCopen Safety standards.


Users interested in watching trends in their control systems will be happy with APROL, because the system can produce up to 100,000 trend curves. There are also markers, rulers, and a variety of diagrams for selection. Users can also enter comments on the trend curves, as if they were jotting notes on a piece of paper.

Photo: Integration of Automation Studio provides APROL users with unlimited use of a number of powerful functions from the B&R software tool.

The context data browser shows all corresponding historical events. Up to 20 trend curves can be viewed at the same time and time offsets can be specified for each trend curve to determine the “golden” batch. All relevant events can be displayed right on the curve characteristic by showing and hiding recorded markings (e.g. for the batch start and batch stop).


For system simulation, APROL provides as an option MATLAB/Simulink software, which is integrated in Automation Studio. In some situations, this can lead to shortened development times for the system by commissioning virtual systems with real automation systems.

The WinIO protocol ensures consistent I/O images and serves as the basis for I/O Switchboard or WinMOD. This means that a complete simulation of the system is possible from the start of the project.

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