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Mobile automation goes modular

With its mobile automation portfolio, B&R has opened up the advantages of its industrial automation solutions for this promising industry. (Photo: Grove)

B&R offers a combination of general automation expertise and specific experience in the area of mobile applications. The MA170 decentralized control and bus nodes for automotive applications combine proven technology from traditional machine and systems manufacturing with a robust housing for mobile performance. The result is a modular system whose flexibility is unmatched anywhere else on the market.

One thing that special purpose vehicles and self-driving commercial equipment have in common with industrial machines and systems is this: Given unlimited resources, every user of automation technology would choose a custom solution for each and every product in their solution. In reality, however, few can afford the added cost and logistical complications of implementing and maintaining a customer-specific, let alone project-specific, solution.

The logical solution is modularization. The modular revolution began reshaping the field of industrial automation around fifteen years ago. Today, few engineers could imagine an approach that didn't involve a controller using a selection of standardized input and output modules to communicate with a system's many sensors, actuators, motors and fluid valves. In order to simplify cabling, these compact I/O modules are arranged decentrally and positioned as close as possible to the respective consumer.

Frequently, they are grouped into islands of I/O modules and drive controllers that communicate with the PLC via a bus controller. This arrangement allows the PLC to communicate with a virtually unlimited number of field devices. The size of this network and the particular equipment used can be tailored to the requirements of each specific application, while at the same time utilizing the cost advantage of components produced in large quantities.

The best of both worlds

B&R is a driving force in the advancement of modular, decentralized automation concepts in industrial automation. The resulting range of products – designed to create decentralized automation solutions for mobile applications – now also brings the advantages of this leading modular industrial automation system to the world of commercial equipment and stationary automated systems. The MA170 decentralized control and bus nodes are one of the first innovations pioneering this movement developed specifically for automotive applications.

Equipped as needed with analog, digital or supply modules, they are an integral component in assembling an optimal solution for a particular application. Special modules add options such as WLAN or GSM connections, GPS positioning or condition monitoring with intelligent vibration analysis modules. These robust devices offer a vast range of functionality in surprisingly compact dimensions.

MA170 rendering
The MA170 control and bus node for automotive applications includes a robust IP65 housing, shock and vibration resistance and is suited for operation between -40 and +85°C. (Photo: B&R)
MA170 modular platform_rendering
The modular design of the MA170 decentralized control and bus nodes – unique in the world of mobile automation – grants users an unprecedented level of flexibility. (Photo: B&R)

POWERLINK for reliable data communication


POWERLINK ensures flawless data transmission, even in large volumes such as data generated by camera systems. It also allows communication with stationary systems over a simple WLAN connection.

With an integrated CAN bus and the higher layer ISOBUS and J1939 standards, these modules provide reliable compatibility with third-party components and existing systems in the field. The real-time capable Ethernet POWERLINK interface provides high-speed communication between modules and with HMI systems. POWERLINK ensures flawless data transmission, even in large volumes such as data generated by camera systems.

It is also possible to use a simple WLAN connection to communicate with stationary systems such as equipment in a workshop. This opens up a whole array of diagnostic options.

The soon-to-be-available safe I/O modules for the MA170 will allow safety-related signals to be transmitted via openSAFETY – the bus-independent safety standard. With no extra cabling, this addition will provide risk reduction up to SIL3 for mobile systems.

Central control unit MA170

The MA170 control and I/O system node has a cast aluminum IP65 housing. It operates reliably, even in the expanded temperature range, and is shock- and vibration-resistant for operation outdoors or in the engine compartment and functions as a central control unit.

Replace the PLC with a bus controller module and it functions as a decentralized I/O node for remote parts of the machine or for removable sub-machines. With up to forty-four configurable I/O channels and two slots for interface modules, up to 500 million variants can be produced by combining differently equipped units.

Unify management of entire projects using Automation Studio

The software for mobile automation systems is written, tested and configured for use on specific hardware in the B&R Automation Studio development environment.

The software for mobile automation systems is written, tested and configured for use on specific hardware in the same development environment as all other B&R solutions – B&R Automation Studio. With this advanced software, each program or task can be developed separately and merged into an integrated project without ever having to use another software tool. Whether it's visualization, operation, open and closed loop control or logging – everything is handled in a single engineering environment.

So far, nearly twenty years of experience have gone into perfecting this development system. B&R now makes this know-how available for developers of mobile solutions in the form of function libraries and tools for simulation, analysis and diagnostics.

The devices themselves run on Automation Runtime, B&R's operating system that has proven itself for many years on the products in its standard portfolio. Automation Runtime automatically detects MA170 devices and perfectly integrates their inputs and outputs with those from other devices. This provides all the benefits of decentralized I/O, yet still allows all I/O communication to be managed with centralized control software. This saves time and money while creating a very streamlined, intelligent solution.

Solutions that exceed expectations

B&R's mobile automation solutions offer the flexible modularity and reliable high-performance demanded by construction, agricultural, emergency response and municipal service vehicles. Mobile installations and stationary equipment exposed to outdoor conditions also stand to benefit.

B&R's portfolio of mobile automation solutions is 100% compatible with all other B&R systems. This ensures seamless integration between mobile equipment and an overall solution for traditional machine and system automation.

Taxer Stefan #4

"B&R's uniquely modular solutions are optimized for decentralized mobile automation topologies and are fully compatible with all other B&R systems. This accelerates time-to-market and boosts the profitability of mobile automation systems." Stefan Taxer, Sales Manager for Mobile Automation at B&R

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