Full control, with an app

Marginal Column

15.07.2014

Using gestures and motions to operate mobile devices has long been standard in personal life. Glaub Automation & Engineering GmbH is one of the first companies to implement this kind of control in manufacturing, with the assistance of Bosch Rexroth.

 
 

In a building used by Glaub Automation & Engineering GmbH in the German town of Salzgitter, Matthias Fleischer is standing in front of a three-axis system with a gripper arm. The software developer has a tablet PC in his hand and its display shows a schematic depiction of the axes.

Fleischer places his thumbs on two marked spots and tilts the tablet PC. As if by magic, the system of axes and the gripper arm move. The more the mobile device is tilted, the faster the movement. As soon as he removes either of his thumbs, the system stops. The extremely simple control of this training and demonstration unit is made possible by Rexroth’s Open Core Engineering together with the Open Core Interface.

Apps for iOS and Android

To control this triaxial system, Glaub uses a control and diagnostics app for iOS and Android in order to obtain initial experience and get to know more about how the technology functions. CEO Niko Glaub is enthusiastic about the options. “With its Open Core Engineering concept, Bosch Rexroth is setting something significant in motion. It is assuming a leadership role when merging the world of manufacturing with the IT infrastructure used in offices. It is unleashing all the advantages we know today in the control of mobile devices.”

Simple programming

Direct access to the control functions and to the variables in the PLC is implemented by Glaub with the help of three high-level languages: C++, Objective-C and Java. “Now I can shift complex logic away from the PLC. This is a great help, since some programming in high-level languages is far simpler than using the ladder diagram, instruction list or structured text,” Matthias Fleischer explains.

When developing the app, Glaub placed great emphasis on a simple and intuitive user interface. A toolbar at the edge of the screen lets users access the main menus most frequently used. These include manual operation, automatic operation, starting page, moving to the home position, and adjustments. Various submenus can be selected from each main menu. In manual operation, for instance, users can select from a number of different modes in order to move the axes to a defined position.

Niko Glaub (right) and Matthias Fleischer use Open Core Engineering to operate a system used for training purposes.

 

In addition to machine movements controlled by the accelerometers integrated into the smart device, the user can also control the system of axes with gestures executed on the touch screen. There is also a diagnosis button in the header for the app. The operator can use this button to obtain information on the states of the axes and the controls; he can have individual para-meters for the drives shown or he can read out the logfile.

“Implementing these functions was amazingly simple,” explains Niko Glaub. “After configuring and programming the PLC with the IndraWorks engineering tool, we only had to integrate the header and library files provided by Bosch Rexroth.” Thus developers, after just a few hours of work, were able to start programming the functions in the high-level languages Objective-C or Java.

Intuitive Operation

Since users are already familiar with dealing with smart devices in their personal lives, they have instant rapport with the new control concepts using apps. Niko Glaub is convinced of this. “We are now in a position to realize very simple machine control concepts. That will save training costs for the machine’s owner. In addition, we can largely do away with language-based components in operator prompts and that is interesting for the industrial environment in a worldwide production network.”

As a system integrator for Bosch Rexroth, Glaub has already implemented a successful Open Core Engineering application for a customer. The company developed a Windows application for a manufacturer of roller and axle dynamometers for vehicles. Here Rexroth supplied the control and drive technology while Glaub developed the user interface, based on the C++ language. It accesses the controls directly via the Open Core Interface.

Thus the technician can generate even complex motion patterns and then transfer them to individual axes or wheels. During testing the torque, rotation speed, power and speed can be varied and visualized for up to three axles, with two wheels each. In concrete terms, up to six servo axles can be controlled separately. Thanks to the Open Core Interface, it will even be possible to implement this user interface as an app on a smart device, without having to modify the current program sequence for the PLC.

An exciting future

Based on his initial experiences, Niko Glaub looks positively into the future. “I see major opportunities in manufacturing automation using Open Core Engineering. It lets us create user interfaces for machines that don’t scare operators away, but instead are fun to use. This means greater employee motivation. Seen against the background provided by Open Core Engineering, we are looking forward to an exciting future. The topic of Connected Industry came at just the right time, since it offers us a huge playing field and lots of potential that we’re looking forward to using.”

 

A bridge between automation and the IT world

Open Core Engineering links PLCs and IT in a range of solutions comprising open standards, software tools, functional tool kits, and the Open Core Interface. At the same time, Bosch Rexroth has opened the control core for expanded access. Machinery manufacturers can now use a variety of high-level languages and operating systems to write specific functions and employ them without making any changes in the PLC’s routine. In addition, machine manufacturers can, for instance, also fully integrate smart devices into the automation environment and make use of their control functions. In 2013 the virtues of Open Core Engineering were recognized with the presentation of the renowned Hermes Award by the HANNOVER MESSE.