The automation of machines and plants is becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming. The resulting engineering costs are also growing in proportion to the complexity of the project, which is reflected, among other things, by the increased costs for developing a configuration and programming the PLC. These costs can only be reduced if the complete software or parts of it can be automated. Such automated code generation can also contribute towards a reduction of errors in the configuration.
Remote control of the engineering system
This is precisely where the TwinCAT Automation Interface comes in – it provides the user with a programming interface that can be used for the remote control of the TwinCAT system. This allows almost all offline and online functions to be controlled externally. The error-prone and (in terms of personnel) cost-intensive generation of I/O configurations and programs can be simplified in this way. The Automation Interface consists of a large number of programming routines that are available to the user in the form of classes and methods. These enable TwinCAT projects to be generated, changed and saved in a standard and flexible manner – and in conjunction with a source code database such as Team Foundation Server, if desired. The resulting application possibilities are extremely varied and can range from a simple application for automating everyday and recurring TwinCAT tasks to complex, user-defined engineering tools that only use the regular TwinCAT development environment in the background.
Automatic generation of programs and configurations
A further user scenario where the Automation Interface can provide valuable assistance is for environments in which the TwinCAT configurations on a machine must be changed several times a day – for example, because a different PLC program must be executed. An application can thus be tailored precisely to the user’s workflow via the Automation Interface. It also provides machine operators who are not proficient in using TwinCAT with the possibility to change configurations at the simple push of a button.
The integration of the TwinCAT engineering system into the Visual Studio® developer’s environment opens up a multitude of further application possibilities for the Automation Interface. This is because the openness of Visual Studio® and TwinCAT enables the programmer to write their own plug-ins in addition to providing direct integration into the development environment and ultimately into the daily work routine.