Explore the world of automation via app
Try it yourself: install an app with a camera function on your smartphone, whether it be a QR reader, photo TAN software, Messenger or travel cost billing software. The installation takes just a few minutes. Now think about how much work is involved if you want to integrate a camera function into a PLC program for an automation system, program the interface and forward the data in a legible form. This would normally take several man-hours. Thanks to ctrlX AUTOMATION from Bosch Rexroth, a completely new software architecture does all the engineering work for you. Machine manufacturers can thus integrate functions as an app in a straightforward, open and secure manner as you would with a smartphone and individualize their solutions with minimal effort.
Standardized PLC languages, PLCopen and G-Code are still highly efficient solutions for classic automation tasks. But as soon as a machine manufacturer wants to integrate other functions, for connectivity or visualization for example, these run-time systems are no longer efficient. Reprogramming existing functions in IT languages into PLC languages is time-consuming and extremely uneconomical. Worse still, they considerably slow down the development of new machines because there is a great shortage of PLC programmers throughout the world. This is where ctrlX AUTOMATION comes in:
- The new ctrlX CORE generation of control systems decouples the hardware from the software.
- The open Linux real-time operating system combines hard real-time requirements with far-reaching connectivity.
- The control system allows functions to be programmed in any IT and IoT languages and, for the first time, the use of modern app technology.
- The ctrlX Data Layer ensures seamless real-time and non-real-time data exchange between the individual apps across domains.
Combine services as easily as with a smartphone
The new ctrlX CORE control platform breaks down the previous boundaries between various device platforms. As a plug-in card, it can be used in IPC, in embedded control systems and in drive systems. Compared to existing control platforms, it offers much more computing power yet takes up the same amount of space. As a result, machine manufacturers can integrate numerous tasks which in the past needed to be installed on additional hardware.
ctrlX CORE is based on the world’s most stable and secure Linux real-time operating system and allows an entirely new degree of freedom when adapting and managing control functions. Via the intuitive browser-based engineering, developers are given access to a wide range of apps from the ctrlX WORKS software toolkit. Consequently, they can manage and expand control and function apps and, if necessary, complement them with any open source software. At the moment, the main priority is to collect, route or pre-process data across domains. Machine manufacturers can also buy the apps on development platforms or simply create them themselves – in any languages. ctrlX WORKS supports not only the standardized PLC languages like IEC 61131 or PLCopen but also high-level languages such as C++, the latest script languages like Python, Java or Node-RED and new graphical programming languages like Blockly.
Individualizing machines via app
Each app forms a separate software container. Adding or removing individual apps has no effect on the overall system. Machine manufacturers install only the apps that the customer wants and thus adapt the machine to the customer’s individual needs. The apps can provide and read data both in real time or non-real time as necessary. As with the camera example on a smartphone, various apps can access devices, use their data and forward them to other instances.
In order to make this possible, Bosch Rexroth has developed the ctrlX Data Layer as an information exchange or a central nervous system. Each app sends its data to the ctrlX Data Layer in a transaction-oriented manner and retrieves the required data there. Each value has a clear textual address. The automation platform thus also generates a real-time process image which can be transferred directly via OPC UA. ctrlX AUTOMATION thus puts in place everything needed to expand machines with artificial intelligence or machine learning.
Update capability means future viability
In consultation with the end user, the machine manufacturer can modify individual apps at any time without changing the initial planning. This reduces the complexity of updates and makes automation future viable for forthcoming communications standards and innovative functions. Updating functions is an essential part of the value proposition for 3D printers for example.
ctrlX AUTOMATION changes the rules in automation thanks to a new software architecture. For the first time ever, machine manufacturers can integrate, combine and update functions as easily, openly and securely as they would with a smartphone. The apps which can be programmed in various IT languages reduce the engineering outlay and open the door to a new, more flexible world of automation in the future.
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