25 Jul 2024


Automation suite spans PLCs, robots and motion controls

ABB has released an engineering development suite for industrial automation projects that, it says, will cut project development times by up to a third. The Automation Builder suite provides an integrated development environment for control and motion systems based on PLCs, safety PLCs, robots, motion controls and related automation components.

The suite is said to reduce software complexity, and to cut time to market and the cost of ownership by combining all of the tools needed to configure, program, debug and maintain automation projects via a single interface.

“Industrial automation projects are becoming much more complex, and it’s leading to spiralling software development costs and project timescales,” says ABB’s Soenke Koch. “Automation Builder addresses this imbalance by giving automation developers and owners the means to simplify control engineering task and standardise on a single development platform for all projects – regardless of scale. We believe it’s a major milestone on the path to fully integrated engineering solutions for industrial automation.”

Automation Builder builds on ABB’s existing Control Builder Plus PLC programming tool (which provides a CoDeSys IEC 61131-3 development environment) and its Panel Builder tool for creating HMIs. These have been complemented by tools for configuring and programming safety PLCs, the RobotStudio tool for simulating and programming industrial robot applications, and the Mint WorkBench tool (which ABB acquired when it bought Baldor in 2010). There are also pre-built and tested libraries for controlling drives, and other devices connected via fieldbuses, networks or the Web.

Automation Builder integrates these capabilities into a single environment that shares data and an intuitive user interface. It provides data consistency that eliminates the need to enter data multiple times, and avoids the programming effort and potential problems associated with exchanging data between a controller and other devices in an automation system, such as servomotor drives, robot arms, operator panels, and I/O. Third-party devices can also link into the environment.

Using the new suite, application experts and software and hardware engineers can focus on developing applications, and not waste time on solving the interfacing issues that can arise when building systems using different automation devices.

ABB estimates that the Automation Builder environment can cut development times by up to a third for complex systems. It addresses emerging issues in industrial automation, such as the use of increasingly dynamic and complex control algorithms to improve performance, the demand for larger factory-scale automation networks, and the need to incorporate more sophisticated safety mechanisms.

The suite is also claimed to lower the costs of owning automation systems by providing a common platform for managing them throughout their lifecycles – from commissioning to diagnostics, maintenance, system expansion and upgrades.