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Reducing time and costs in automation system design

03 January 2012

As automation systems get more sophisticated, so the development and maintenance of the disparate components and production lines becomes more complex. Now Mitsubishi Electric has addressed the problem, with an alternative approach to automation system design that reduces engineering time, effort and costs, and helps to bring down total cost of ownership.

A key challenge for today’s automation engineers is to develop advanced production lines and then maintain them at optimum efficiency over the whole product lifecycle. Companies aspiring to world class productivity standards need ever more flexible and sophisticated lines and machines, with an emphasis on the highest levels of availability. But increased sophistication brings with it increased development complexity, increased maintenance requirements, and an ongoing challenge for upgrades as part of a continuous improvement programme.

Conventionally, engineers would need separate software tools for upper level system design, PLC program development, motion system design, visualisation project development, and further tools still for aspects such as robotics and CNC. While any given tool may be perfect for an individual aspect of the project, the need to learn and use many different programming tools can become something of a headache. Further, integrating all of those disparate items into a complete automation system requires an almost superhuman ability to visualise the complete project.

Then, of course, there is the maintenance aspect. Maximising overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) depends on an ability to minimise downtime and maximise machine availability – something which can only be hampered when it involves using multiple software tools, often in many different locations.

But what is the alternative to working with multiple programs for the different programs, devices, networks and settings in a given application? The answer is to bring all of these elements together, and enable all system development and maintenance activities to be carried out on the entire automation system using a single tool from a single location.

Mitsubishi Electric has updated the MELSOFT iQ Works integrated engineering suite to provide a unified engineering environment for all automation system development and maintenance. The new version of iQ Works provides a universal tool for PLC, HMI, drives, servo, motion, robotics and CNC programming, providing an application focus where users can develop and maintain complete production lines from a single location.

To address this requirement, Mitsubishi Electric has developed MELSOFT iQ Works – a single, unified programming environment that simplifies the challenge of programming and integrating complex, multi-disciplinary production systems. By providing a universal software tool for all aspects of the automation system, design and development are simplified, engineering costs are reduced, compatibility issues are eliminated and performance is increased.

MELSOFT iQ Works brings together Mitsubishi Electric’s familiar automation software tools, including MELSOFT Navigator, GX Works2, MT Works 2 and GT Works3. It provides an intuitive, easy-to-use environment that makes it simple to drill down into the application, with a seamless graphical front end that brings inherent structure to any project, from the simplest to the most complex automation system.

At the heart of iQ Works, the Navigator simplifies the task of system organisation, enabling effortless design of the entire upper-level systems, with advanced functions such as batch parameter setting, system labels, batch read-all and tagging. It also seamlessly integrates the other MELSOFT programs included with iQ Works.

GX Works2 enables configuration, programming and maintenance of Mitsubishi Electric FX and Q series programmable controllers. Users can select from MELSEC Ladder, MELSEC SFC, IEC Ladder or Structured Text programming languages as appropriate for the project, and can mix and match these languages within an automation system. The environment conforms to IEC 1131-3 standards, and provides the facilities to store and reuse functions, function blocks, programs and structures within future projects.

MT Works2 provides an intuitive environment for motion system design, programming development, start-up, operation and maintenance. It is intended for use with the full suite of Mitsubishi Electric Q Series motion controllers, including iQ Platform products and standalone motion controllers. This latest development of the software provides a program debug mode and a digital oscilloscope function, simplifying the testing of motion SFC programs, servo programs and mechanical system programs. Other key features include the ability to import, export and visually modify CAM profiles.

GT Works3 is Mitsubishi Electric’s design and configuration tool for GOT1000 series HMIs, providing a simple and intuitive programming environment where users can easily develop their visualisation projects. GT Works3 provides simple navigation around multiple and complex projects. The standard graphics library offers a comprehensive collection of visualisation elements, while an enhanced library tree that helps users find the right element more quickly. After screen development is complete, one touch simulation enables developers to debug and verify their projects using real-time variables and conditions.

By providing a single tool to cover all aspects of system development and maintenance, iQ Works significantly reduces engineering time, cost and effort, which brings down total cost of ownership of the project. Engineers and technicians have access to all system aspects in a single place, and for large scale projects efficiency is further increased by being able to work on the entire system from one location.

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