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XML standard is `first open link between software and controls`
Published:  18 January, 2008

The PLCopen organisation has published files and documentation – including a 156-page guide – for its XML standard, which provides an open interface between various software tools and allows information to be exchanged between programs such as product lifecycle management (PLM), machine simulation, CAD and documentation systems.

PLCopen says that the standard provides the first open, non-proprietary linkage between software and control systems. Previously, manufacturers had to develop their own software to create interfaces to vendors` proprietary control products. This could only be done on large projects at a high cost, and with the compromise of being tied to a single control vendor.

PLCopen says that the XML (eXtended Markup Language) standard provides an open playing field that will lower costs and foster innovation in a similar way to open industrial networks, CAD interchange standards, OPC, and other non-proprietary standards.

Developments such as PLM, modelling and simulation software are now allowing machines and production lines to be designed and commissioned "virtually". Problems can be detected and corrected before the real machines and controls are assembled, thus cutting the time it takes to start manufacturing and avoiding costly reworks at, or after, start-up.

The XML standard builds on PLCopen’s existing open standards covering programming, safety and motion control, to support such virtual design and commissioning. As a result, says PLCopen, manufacturers can expect to cut engineering costs and ramp-up times, and to optimise their manufacturing operations continuously with accurate, real-time simulation models.

The XML format has been accepted by the AutomationML group, which is defining and standardising an Automation Markup Language for the digital factory. The group, whose members include ABB, Rockwell Automation and Siemens, aims to close the gaps between production design and the shopfloor using open standards. PLCopen says that its co-operation with the AutomationML group will further cut time-to-market and costs for manufacturers.

Several PLCopen member companies are already supporting the XML standard, including the software suppliers 3-S, KW-Software, and KirchnerSoft.

The XML files, including a 58-page document on XML formats for IEC 61131-3, as well as XML Schema files, can be downloaded free of charge from the PLCopen Web site.

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