How to Automate Your Engineering Processes with TIA Portal and Openness

Using TIA Portal and the Openness API to reduce engineering cost and time while increasing quality

As an engineer, I love solving new and interesting problems. I don’t love performing repetitive, routine tasks like copy-pasting code or wiring up HMI screens.

As a business owner, I love increasing efficiency and quality. Increased efficiency helps to reduce project costs and increased quality helps to keep my clients happy. These two things combined help my business to grow.

By automating the routine parts of your engineering processes, you can create a win-win-win situation:

  • Engineers don’t have to perform boring, repetitive tasks
  • Business owners enjoy more profit and competitiveness
  • Customers get better quality machines for a lower price

In this article, I’ll show you how TIA Portal and the Openness API provide tools to automate 80% of your PLC engineering processes today.

Real-Life Examples

In this article, I’ll show you how to take advantage of TIA Portal and the Openness API to automate your engineering processes. I’ll show you how to;

  • Import planning data from EPlan
  • Use code generators to generate the control program
  • Use intelligent visualization tools to create the visualization

All of these ideas can be used to save your company time and money while improving the quality of your machines.

It’s important to note that this isn’t theory or fiction. Companies around the world are already using Openness to increase their competitiveness.

Companies like Beuhler, a Swiss machine builder, use Openness to generate 90% of their automation automatically. Here’s Patrik Muller, Head of Automation at Beuhler on TIA Portal and the Openness API:

“The Openness of the TIA Portal enables us to automatically generate a significant portion of the automation code for every case. Of course, I don’t need to tell you what that means in terms of saving time as well as money. For us at Beuhler, that is a huge advantage” — Patrik Muller, Head of Automation, Beuhler

Throughout the article, I’ll provide more examples of how real companies, like Beuhler, are leveraging Openness to increase their competitiveness.

Import the Project Planning Data

Data exchange via AML

Openness provides a digital link between EPlan schematics, the TIA Selection Tool, and TIA Portal.

During the planning stage of a project, the EPlan schematics are drawn up. These schematics contain the electrical detail for a project including:

  • The device types and names
  • Logical and topological network configuration
  • PLC input and output tags with hardware addresses and comments

Instead of manually recreating this configuration in TIA Portal, it’s possible to export the data from EPlan in the open standard AML (Automation Markup Language) format and import it directly into TIA Portal.

This exchange of data is done automatically using the Openness interface at the click of a button.

Not only does this save time, but it also reduces copy-paste mistakes and increases the quality of a project.

The best part about this data exchange is that it’s bi-directional. Any changes made during the commissioning stage of a project can be exported from TIA Portal and imported directly into EPlan to ensure that the as-built data is as accurate as possible.

Here’s what Patrik Muller has to say on the value of exchanging planning data through the Openness API:

“The Openness to planning tools and automated engineering further reduces the project runtime. This allows us to cooperate seamlessly with systems such as plant engineering and electrical planning.” — Patrik Muller, Head of Automation, Beuhler

Generate the Control Program

Import XML and XLS data in TIA Portal

With one push of a button, you can create the hardware configuration and IO tag table in TIA Portal from an external data source.

Generating the control program can work the same way.

At companies like Beuhler, the machines are composed of standard modules. Each standard module is controlled by a standard software block which is part of a library.

The decomposition of the machine is fed into a code generator application. The code generator can, based on rules, create calls to the software block and parameterize the interface automatically. Using Openness, the generated code, in XML format, can be imported and compiled in TIA Portal.

Since the code generator and the software blocks are already tested, the control program contains no errors.

Of course, every project has some special requirements that have to be programmed manually. But by using standard blocks and a code generator, 80–90% of the control program can be generated automatically with the click of a button.

“The major advantage of the Openness interface in the TIA Portal is that we can seamlessly integrate our own engineering tool. From the project specific software model, we can use our steadily growing TIA Portal library to automatically generate a significant part of the project. This enables us to implement customer projects in a very short time.” — Patrik Muller, Head of Automation, Beuhler

Generate the Visualization

Generation of HMI Software with SiVArc

The control program is only half of the story. Most machines are equipped with an HMI to control and visualize the process.

Using Siemens’ intelligent tool SiVArc (Simatic Visualisation Architect), it is possible to generate the visualization too.

SiVArc uses the control program, a library of visualization objects, and a set of custom rules to automatically create the visualization for a machine. SiVArc eliminates the need to manually create the visualization objects and link them to tags in the controller, which is time-consuming and error-prone.

Since SiVArc generates the visualization based on your library of HMI objects and custom rules, it also helps to ensure that all of your visualization applications follow company standards and are structured in the same way.

Get Started Today

In this article, we’ve looked at the features of TIA Portal and the Openness API that enable you to automate your engineering processes today. Specifically, we’ve talked about using TIA Portal and Openness to;

  • Automatically import the electrical planning data such as the hardware configuration and IO list
  • Automatically generate and import the control program for standard modules
  • Automatically generate and link the visualization

By automating these three routine tasks, you can save time and money while increasing the quality of your projects. You can also eliminate copy-paste errors that create delays during commissioning.

Are you interested in improving the execution of your automation projects? Contact me today to discuss how you can leverage automation and standardization to reduce the cost and time of projects while increasing the quality of the result.

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