By: Norbert Sasse, Head of Product Management, Motion Control BRC/PRM3, Bosch Rexroth AG
Heinrich Munz, Director of Technology, KUKA Controls GmbH
With a shortage of capital, time and employee expertise on the one hand and the challenge of technical development on the other, commercially-available components are a key factor when it comes to industrial automation. The software element of a system has considerable impact on its BOM (bill of material/total costs). The most effective way of reducing development costs is to standardize on a single software platform. Unlike proprietary solutions, this makes it possible to reuse not only software designs, but also the entire accumulated expertise of developers and system architects.
Thanks to their flexibility and scalable functionality, all-purpose, real-time operating systems are being increasingly used as the standard software platform for controllers. They also have another major advantage of containing debugged, tested code. Today, all kinds of systems have to communicate and share data with each other. Here, too, standards lay a valuable foundation, in terms of software interfaces and protocols (TCP/IP, http and FTP), and programming languages (IEC61131-3) for example. Standards allow developers to concentrate on their complex applications and to develop their solutions more quickly. After all, time is money.
However, providing real-time capability and runtime code optimized for the target hardware of the desktop Windows® XP or 2000 operating systems does represent a real challenge to the functionality of PC-based control systems. Hard real-time is necessary for all applications that demand the fastest possible response to process events with high simultaneity and low jitter (<1 ms). In addition to process technology, these include applications for motion control, handling, assembly (e.g., transfer systems in automotive factories), or any application where servo axes must be positioned quickly and precisely with short cycle times. The multi-tasking PLC runtime system of the new IndraLogic V controllers meet all of these requirements thanks to their extremely high speed (execution times for 1,000 PLC code instructions with word and bit processing of up to 30 Ás).
Rexroth made the strategic corporate decision not to implement Linux, opting instead to build on tried-and-tested software from established manufacturers, in this use, Wind River VxWorks®. This operating system is the recognized industry standard, thanks to its status as market leader. For that reason, the VxWorks programming and runtime environment has been implemented throughout Rexroth, so that today this real-time operating system is found in all its solutions from the IndraControl control platform to its latest release.
Simple reusability of existing code, standardized components and open interfaces were also of concern to Rexroth for its IndraLogic automation solutions, which are based on IndraControl. All Rexroth previous solutions using VxWorks or plug-in boards were to be replaced by the new IndraLogic V controller line which would also incorporate a scalable, integrated architecture teamed with standardized hardware and software interfaces. In particular, the migration effort, both manpower and software/hardware costs, was to be kept to a minimum. For this reason, Rexroth went looking for suitable technology partners. Technology from RTX and KUKA Controls was short listed, but the VxWin product of the latter won out in the end for both technical and economic reasons.
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