IAS Industrial Automation is always looking for ways to improve the quality of projects and delivered software. IAS has therefore recently conducted research into various process simulators to pre-test the created software on a virtual factory during the engineering phase of a project. Certain IAS requirements for this research were that the simulator had to connect to the ABB System 800xA and that the simulator really had to intervene in the IO tags of the system. During this research IAS opted to use WinMOD, a simulation package developed by the German company Mewes & Partner. Meanwhile, the engineers from WinMOD and IAS worked together and built a process simulator that links to the IAS’s ABB 800xA demo system.
Currently in IAS the internal test and the consequential acceptance test (FAT) with the client often takes place after the engineering phase. This is often done by manually forcing the input and output signals (IO signals). In this way the engineer simulates the various process values, and thus demonstrates that the process control meets the proposed requirements of the package. This is a feasible method in principle, but quite labour intensive for software engineers. In case of a possible re-test the entire process must be run through again manually.
Various process simulators on the market have appeared in recent years in order to accelerate and optimise the development of PLC software. With such a process simulator, it is possible to simulate the entire factory process. It is thus possible to virtually reproduce the behaviour of a process in a factory. In this way, the software can already be fully tested prior to the actual commissioning.
The bottleneck in most process simulators, however, is in finding the right place in the software to intervene and to connect with PLCs from different manufacturers. Most simulators therefore work with a Profibus emulator, but to do that it is always necessary to connect a real PLC to the test environment. These PLCs are very expensive and during the engineering phase, particularly with larger projects are often unavailable as these are already on site for IO tests and the like. Furthermore, most of the process simulators work predominantly with the more familiar PLC packets from Siemens and Allen Bradley.
IAS Industrial Automation was however looking for a process simulator which connects with the ABB System 800xA and could additionally be compatible with ABB’s virtual soft controllers. It was also a requirement that the simulator could really intervene in the IO so that no modifications had to be made to the control software to connect with this simulator. In the past six months IAS has therefore conducted research on various process simulators that can be linked with ABB System 800xA and could bridge over to the ABB virtual soft controllers. In this research the German WinMOD emerged as one of the favourite process simulators.
Subsequently IAS together with WinMOD’s engineers has created a connection with the 800xA system ABB and further optimised it. In the meantime, IAS is now running its ABB System 800xA demo system which is based on a cheese factory, completely through a WinMOD simulation. The first results from this are positive, because the software engineer does not have to independently force through the IO for the process flow of this demo system.
IAS sees the WinMOD simulation as adding real value in major projects and is planning to use the simulator during the engineering phase of future projects more often. A simulator will make it easier for the software engineers to test bigger parts of the process where the IO was previously being continually forced. Additionally, the commissioning of new software is plausibly shorter through the simulator also being used for the internal test and the FAT. In conclusion, the simulator can be used as an operator training system where the operator can already train in advance with the new control system and the new HMI processes in a factory. In this way, operators are already optimally prepared for the new control system and the chance of errors occurring are significantly reduced.
For more information about the WinMOD connection with ABB System 800xA, please feel free to contact IAS Industrial Automation.