Each new machine or plant is expected to be more flexible and more efficient than the one that came before it. When it comes to achieving these ambitious development goals on time and on budget, software engineering plays an increasingly decisive role. This is where mapp – modular application technology – from B&R comes in. Using mapp function blocks, this revolutionary technology reduces development times by an average of 67%.
"Over the last 40 years, the proportion of software development involved in new machinery and systems has skyrocketed from 5 to over 50 percent," explains Christoph Trappl, manager of International Applications at B&R – and it shows no sign of slowing. Trappl sees several reasons for this trend: "First and foremost, the production processes themselves are becoming more and more complex – especially in light of the increasing mass customization of products," he says.
Purely mechanical solutions make it hard for machine builders to keep up with these new demands. At the same time, they want to protect their valuable expertise. "It is easier to analyze and reverse engineer the mechanics of a particular solution, but this is virtually impossible for the software component," says Trappl.
Qualified software developers few and far between
The increasing demands on software mean that more and more highly qualified software developers are needed. "This is a problem for many companies," explains Trappl, "since finding these kinds of developers is difficult and expensive." In his estimation, this problem will progressively get worse from a demographic point of view.
Cars may have once enjoyed their role as the sole individualized products for customers, but this time is long past. The oft-quoted "batch size of 1" is becoming increasingly important even outside the consumer market. The trend towards mass customization means that, when it comes to development, the role of software will only continue to grow. As this happens, Industry 4.0 will turn from vision to reality. Manufacturing individual products under mass production conditions will require intricate software solutions.
And even though the software required for these types of projects will continue to become more complex, more extensive and more individualized than ever before, there will nevertheless still be those functions that will always recur. This not only includes tasks like controlling single- or multi-axis systems and general administrative features such as recipe management, but also control functions, recipe algorithms and much more. Just ensuring the base functionality of the software will require a considerable investment in both time and money.
Development time reduced by 67%
Reducing this investment is exactly what Trappl and his team had in mind when developing the modular mapp concept. Thousands of field-proven B&R applications from around the world provided the necessary benchmarks. "Our goal was to put a toolkit into the hands of development engineers that would allow them to design their own high-end software solutions without any additional special knowledge," explains Trappl. "And that's exactly what we've done with mapp."
What sets mapp function blocks apart is that they are extremely easy to configure and relieve the developer of having to program every single detail. They make it possible to implement multi-axis systems coupled via cams or electronic gears, various robot kinematics, closed loop control blocks or recipe management functions – and much more – in a matter of just a couple hours. Also included is a web-based tool for monitoring and configuring mapp functions. With mapp, it has proven possible to reduce development times by an average of 67%.
Drastically reduced project risk
mapp is fully integrated in Automation Studio. After completing a short basic training course, any developer will be able to employ mapp functions with ease. What this means for small companies is that they too will be able to implement complex software solutions without having to worry about garnering the necessary resources themselves or risking development gone wrong.
"The investment risks are drastically reduced with mapp," says Trappl. mapp function blocks have been developed from the experience gained by B&R in implementing hundreds of thousands of automation solutions all around the world, making them extremely reliable. With mapp, machine downtime due to programming errors is a thing of the past.
Increasing efficiency by focusing on core competencies
"The customer shouldn't have to worry about basic functions or software maintenance," says Trappl. "He should be concentrating instead on his core competencies as his process know-how is quickly turned into software. The most important thing for him is innovation; it's our job to supply the basic functionalities." The gateway hurdles usually involved in implementing complex software are reduced to a minimum with mapp Technology.
In addition, efficiency is increased and maintenance costs are reduced by using mapp blocks that have been field-tested in thousands of applications as well as the fact that they are maintained by B&R. mapp Technology also comes with full documentation and help functions to round off the toolkit. And when all else fails, B&R's expert support team can always be counted on.
Safeguarding engineering know-how
"Many companies face a dilemma when only one or two developers have most of the engineering expertise between them," says Trappl. If one or even both leave the company, not only do new developments suffer, but it also becomes impossible to maintain and further develop applications already in use. "This can't happen with mapp," assures Trappl. "The functions themselves are very transparent and extensively documented."
mapp is perfect for low-end and high-end machines alike. Regardless which is used, the complete modularity and scalability of the B&R product portfolio means that mapp function blocks do not even have to be reconfigured. Once a machine has been developed, the HMI devices, controllers and drives can easily be swapped out to meet the requirements of a given market.
With mapp, B&R has developed a revolutionary new package to aid in software engineering for automation projects that makes it possible to accelerate development by an average of 67% while massively reducing investment risk at the same time. At the introduction of mapp in November 2014, more than 70 blocks will be available. "Beginning today, it is possible to design software solutions for many extremely complex functions with less effort than ever before," says Trappl. "We're not about to rest, though. As we speak, our team of developers and maintenance specialists all around the world continue to expand our portfolio of mapp blocks to meet the demands of the future as well." The latest mapp function blocks can be downloaded conveniently from the B&R website as they become available.
Your local B&R representative will be happy to organize a mapp presentation for your company.