ST 001-14 2014-02-07

Commissioning machines with the swipe of a finger

Operation familiar from the private life is conquering automation

Electronic plane ticket, bank transfer or navigation system: Smartphones and tablet PCs are turning into indispensable helpers in the digital world for more and more people. Millions of apps for all life situations and the simple operation with the swipe of a finger are molding the handling of communications technology. Now, Rexroth has opened this gate for the world of machinery as well. With the software portfolio Open Core Engineering and its interface technology Open Core Interface, machinery manufacturers can completely use smart devices for commissioning, diagnosis, and operation. This moves the simple operation of terminal devices familiar from the private life into the factories.

At first they were smiled at as toys: smartphones and tablet PCs. But they have revolutionized every day life. Billions of people use them to retrieve information from random locations, download small application programs, shop online and increasingly control their household technology. Instead of a computer mouse and keyboard, two fingers are enough to flip through the pages, zoom or confirm. This simple operation is now in high demand with machine operators. They can reduce their training efforts considerably.

The interface technology Open Core Interface from Rexroth develops the entire comfort of operation and the mobility of smartphones and tablet PCs for the first time for automation technology. Machine manufacturers program their operating and diagnostic surfaces as “apps” in a programming environment on the operating systems of the smart devices. Open Core Interface ensures that machine control understands and carries out the orders of these application programs directly. No programming of the controls is necessary for this. This is important progress, as the controls typical in today's market only understand programming languages of the world of automation.

The first apps for commissioning and operating machines show how creatively smart devices are facilitating the approach to machine functions. For example, Glaub Automation uses the acceleration sensors of tablet PCs to program axle movements. Until now, when a commissioning engineer wanted to move an axle, he had to enter a number of data: the distance, the terminal position, the acceleration, the maximum speed and the braking before the terminal position. In the app developed by Glaub Automation, the operator sets his two thumbs onto two stylized finger prints on the display of the tablet PCs. Then, he tilts the device to the side and the axle moves. The stronger the tilt, the stronger the drive accelerates. As soon as a thumb releases the finger prints, the axle stops. In other apps, the commissioning engineer moves the controller on the display in order to determine the acceleration.

The diagnosis of machinery is also becoming considerably faster and simpler through the use of smart devices. Maintenance technicians can - with the respective authorizations - dial into different machines in sequence using wireless technology. They retrieve all diagnosis data with one user interface from any location. Navigation occurs through the swipe of a finger. In the case of an error, they can even change parameters and then fix a machine stop.

As the first pure software solution, Open Core Engineering from Rexroth was distinguished in 2013 with the renowned technology prize- the HERMES AWARD. Open Core Engineering connects the previously separate PLC and IT worlds by offering an integrated solution consisting of open standards, software tools, function toolkits, and the Open Core Interface. To achieve this, Rexroth has opened the control core to provide expanded access. Now, with a variety of high level languages and operating systems, machinery manufacturers can create independent individual functions, which run parallel to the firmware directly on the control unit or on external devices. With this capability, machinery manufacturers can now, for example, also fully integrate smart devices into automation and take advantage of their operational interface capabilities.


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Susanne Herzlieb
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