The days when an OEM could offer the same standard machine with the same standard configuration – year in and year out, often for decades – are long gone. The accelerating rate at which markets and processes are evolving calls for a new class of machinery with versatility designed in from the ground up. These new machines leave OEMs with a multitude of software versions and no long-term solution for maintaining them. If they hope to tame the jungle of machine variants, what they urgently need is an entirely new approach to options management.
"Making changes to an existing machine is always a lot of work," explains Christoph Trappl, B&R's product manager for mapp Technology. The OEM has to reactivate the development process to modify the machine software. "Not only does that cost time and money, it also opens up the door for potential errors."
OEMs whose customers need multiple machines of the same type with different options face an even bigger challenge. For each configuration of the machine there is a different version of the software to be maintained. "Things can grow unwieldy pretty quickly," notes Trappl, "and there comes a point where the challenge is simply insurmountable."
"It was clear to us that machine builders need a way to add machine options modularly, or make minor adjustments to existing options, without having to touch the main automation project," says Trappl. "That's exactly what we've created with mapp CodeBox."
"They still use the development environment to program their machine's basic functionality," explains Trappl. In the process, they can define which data, functions and variables are to be accessed via mapp CodeBox. All of the machine's special features and options are then added in ladder logic via CodeBox. The only time you ever need to go back and change the primary application is if there are changes to the machine's core functionality.
"Having the software for individual options decoupled from the primary application gives you a number of advantages," Trappl points out. For one thing, it ensures that you're not introducing errors into the system when you implement new options or customizations. It also greatly simplifies the task of managing all the different variants of your machine.
If you want to equip an existing packaging line with a conveyor belt, for instance, mapp CodeBox makes things very easy for you. When you add the necessary I/O modules, B&R's Automation Runtime environment recognizes them automatically. Then you just go into CodeBox and program the desired functions in ladder logic. You don't need to reopen the original project, and you don't need to use a development tool. The same approach can be used on an injection molding machine to integrate a robot with a standardized EUROMAP interface.
mapp CodeBox is an HTML5 application that can run on any browser-enabled device. "To make access as easy as possible, we made a conscious decision to have machine functions programmed in ladder logic," notes Trappl. A powerflow visualization provides support for diagnostics and maintenance. Ladder programs can be saved, subjected to version control and transferred to other machines. If necessary, they can also be imported back into the original automation project.
mapp CodeBox drastically simplifies the task of managing machine options. "With mapp CodeBox, OEMs are once again able to master the multitude of options their machines offer," says Trappl.
Machine operators can also use mapp CodeBox to add new functions. Since it has been defined in the original machine application exactly which variables and functions can be accessed via mapp CodeBox, undesired changes are prevented from the start. CodeBox also allows you to configure mapp components. It's very easy, for example, to link newly added consumers to the mapp Energy component, which automatically collects and visualizes energy consumption data to provide operators with a clear overview.
"You can really see the advantages of mapp Technology paying off here," praises Trappl. The many different mapp components are all connected by what are called mapp Links. "The mapp Link is responsible for tasks such as automatically sending each drive's energy consumption data to the mapp Energy component." Throughout the entire process, the developer never has to write a single line of code. "mapp CodeBox even allows you to equip an existing machine or plant with a full-fledged condition monitoring or energy monitoring solution without having to interfere with the machine application itself," adds Trappl.
mapp CodeBox is platform-independent and can just as easily run on a tablet or a remote PC terminal. Alternatively, it can be incorporated in the machine's HMI application. With B&R's mapp View HMI solution this is as easy as drag and drop.
mapp Technology reduces the time it takes to develop machine software by an average of 67%. With mapp, software developers no longer have to spend time programming basic functionality and instead are free to focus on their primary task: creating applications for processes that are unique to the given machine. New machines are developed faster and with less investment risk.
Drag-and-drop mechanisms save OEMs time when implementing their requirements. Communication between the modular mapp components occurs automatically via their mapp Links. Not a single line of code is needed to manage the flow of data. The components themselves are configured and diagnosed via an easy-to-use web interface.
In developing its mapp components, B&R draws from experience gained from hundreds of thousands of automation solutions implemented all around the world. This makes them extremely reliable. Using mapp also reduces the complexity of an application by up to 83%. Machine availability goes up – maintenance costs go down.