Portal to a simpler engineering environment?

08 April 2011

Suzanne Gill reports on the launch of a new software engineering framework from Siemens, the TIA portal, which promises a single engineering environment to help industry better support the need for more agile production methods.

At the SPS/IPC/Drives event in Nuremberg last November, Siemens Industry Automation and Drive Technologies launched its new software engineering framework called the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal, which the assembled media was told was ‘The logical consequence of Totally Integrated Automation.’

The thinking behind the offering is that users are able to use a single engineering environment for all their automation tasks, using a single engineering framework to develop and commission automation systems in a familiar environment.

Simon Keogh, of Siemens Industry Automation & Drive Technologies in the UK, explained to CEE some of the reasons behind the development. “Manufacturers today are having to face the issue of ever shortening product lives, and the demand for smaller batch quantities. This means that today’s production facility needs to incorporate more agile production methods. This requires high availability and more data relating to the productivity to be made available.” With TIA Portal Siemens believes that it has delivered this intuitive solution.

Keogh continues: “At a time when companies are facing increasing competitive pressures, the ability to quickly create, manufacture and deliver products to market will be crucial to success, and we believe the TIA Portal offers significant advantages in terms of operational efficiency gains and cost reductions to support modern automation and drive technology applications.”

The TIA Portal will form the basis of all future software engineering packages from the company for configuring, programming and commissioning automation and drives products within its Totally Integrated Automation portfolio. Examples include the new Simatic Step 7 V11 automation software for Simatic controllers, and Simatic WinCC V11 for Simatic HMI and process visualisation applications.

The TIA Portal framework is the result of several years of development. Approaching its design, Siemens studied many typical engineering applications and analysed and evaluated its customer requirements worldwide. As an integral component of all software engineering packages from Siemens, the TIA Portal framework provides advanced shared services across all the configuration interfaces ensuring uniform navigation for the user and consistent system behaviour. It is based on object-oriented software architecture and centralized data management, providing seamless data consistency by automatically avoiding data entry errors. Users can find data and programme blocks across an automation project using a project-wide cross-reference system, which reduces the time to troubleshoot and debug a typical software project.

As an example, all devices and networks in any automation system can now be configured within one shared device and network editor. Project navigation, library concepts, data management, project storage, diagnostics and online functions are standard features and are made available to the user in the shared framework.

Additionally, all data management for controller parameters, blocks, tags or messages now only need to be entered once – promising significant time and cost for software engineering on an automation project.

User views
So, what do users think of the development? Siemens has had numerous beta sites using the system which has helped to guide its design process. Engineers from one of the process industry beta sites commented on their experiences of TIA Portal. Kai Nickel from the electrical division of metal processing company, Butting, said: “To my mind an engineering system must fulfill three key criteria – It must be simple, it must be comprehensive, and it must to comprehensible. The TIA Portal is very easy to navigate, it provides a highly structured device manager and above all the visualization and the programme run in a single user interface.”

Thomas Janssen, also from Butting is equally convinced. He said: “In my opinion the TIA Portal will change our everyday work by making a lot of things easier. I can access information a lot faster and from entirely different directions. I can see the drive technology, the visualization systems and the straight programming levels which simplifies a lot of things and makes them easier to organize.”

The new single software framework will enable all Siemens’ programmable controllers, HMI operator panels and drives to be configured in the same development environment, reducing interfacing and configuration costs for the common tasks of communications setup between controllers, drives and HMI devices. The user will be able to drag and drop a tag from a programmable controller – such as the signal of an I/O (input/output) module – to the screen of an HMI device. The tag will be instantly assigned within the HMI and a controller-HMI connection is created automatically in the background with no manual configuration required.

The new Simatic WinCC V11 engineering software is also based on the new TIA Portal framework. This includes configuration of machine-level applications using HMI operator panels with support for current Simatic TP and MP model panels, support for the new Simatic HMI Comfort Panels, and for larger PC-based SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) process visualisation systems. Configuration and commissioning of the Sinamics inverter drive family is planned in future TIA Portal enhancements.

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