More than half of the value added in mechanical engineering now consists of software development. Here, Steffen Winkler, Vice President of Sales for the Business Unit Automation and Electrification Solutions at Bosch Rexroth, tells us about the revolutionary new automation platform that will address this issue and radically improve the world of automation.
Why are you introducing a new automation platform? Which challenges in mechanical engineering are you addressing here?
The fact is, developing and building machines is software development these days! This leads to a drastic increase in the corresponding effort and therefore recruiting software developers is getting more difficult. What’s needed is a completely new solution that simplifies the automation world and solves our customers’ problems. With ctrlX AUTOMATION, we’ve created an automation platform that removes the limitations of previous solutions.
How would you describe ctrlX AUTOMATION in a nutshell?
ctrlX AUTOMATION is, so to speak, the smartphone of automation. It enables us to break through the classic boundaries between machine controls, IT and the Internet of Things. With a Linux real-time operating system, consistently open standards, app technology for programming, web-based engineering and a comprehensive IoT connection, it reduces engineering and implementation effort by 30 to 50 percent.
Ok, this covers the software side. But what about the hardware?
ctrlX AUTOMATION is based on a new generation of multicore processors, which provide sufficient computing power for almost all automation tasks. The software runs independently of the hardware. In total, ctrlX AUTOMATION saves up to 50 percent of the installation space and the number of individual components. This reduces the effort and cost for logistics, installation, control cabinets, spare parts and service in the field. Also, the scope of necessary software and tools is massively reduced.
What about connectivity?
ctrlX AUTOMATION is designed for the requirements of Industry 4.0 due to its wide connectivity. In addition to the EtherCAT automation bus, ctrlX AUTOMATION supports almost all common protocols and interfaces. More than 30 direct connection options and communication standards offer maximum flexibility for networking. ctrlX AUTOMATION is already prepared for future communication standards like TSN and 5G. With this, the platform is the most connectable system on the market.
How does ctrlX AUTOMATION solve the previously mentioned engineering challenges?
ctrlX AUTOMATION gives machine builders all the freedom of the app technology they recognize from smart devices. These apps can be created in a variety of programming languages. The configuration and commissioning of the automation components is completely web-based without software installation. The system environment is also available virtually, so that programming can be carried out without hardware. The development environment supports GitHub, an established developer community with more than ten million registered users worldwide. This gives machine manufacturers access to virtually unlimited programming capacity and already written functions, as well as better internal collaboration in protected areas.
Doesn’t that mean that machine builders need different competencies?
Of course, but this is precisely the issue we want to make easier and faster to solve. A major advantage of ctrlX AUTOMATION is the free choice of the programming language, so that the selection of professionals no longer depends on the programming language or the (proprietary) system of the automation provider. Software developers don’t need special knowledge of classical automation languages. Users can also configurate the real-time operating system, install their own software and extend functions via apps.
Have you had any feedback from customers yet?
We involved users from various industries at an early stage in the development of ctrlX AUTOMATION. These customers are already developing solutions with our new platform. The feedback of these customers is very important, as it helps us to develop a real, marketable solution and at the same time to confirm that we really are two steps ahead with ctrlX AUTOMATION.