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Unified controls family bring it all together

01 February, 2005

Unified controls family bring it all together

Almost a decade after Schneider Electric added the AEG Modicon and Square D controller ranges to its Telemecanique portfolio, it has combined the various families using a common set of hardware and software.

The new "Unity" portfolio has taken several years to develop. It first emerged in September 2003 in a version that Schneider limited to around 100 key customers around the world, including Ford in the UK. It has how released a second version, available to all customers.

The main elements of Unity are: new CPUs for Schneider`s Modicon Premium and Quantum PLCs; PCI co-processor cards for PC-based control systems; a common programming package, called Unity Pro; and a suite of specialised software tools covering applications such as project management and code generation. Initially, Unity will be targeted at high-end applications.

Schneider is stressing the "openness" of the new family, which supports standards such as IEC 1131-3 and Ethernet, and makes its easy to integrate third-party applications. The company is providing a migration path for existing users of its Concept and PL7 software.

The new CPUs boast features such as faster speeds, larger memories and integral USB ports, with the high-end models adding Ethernet ports and integral Web servers. Other communications systems supported include CANopen, Modbus Plus, FIP, Profibus DP and Interbus. To ease migration, the CPUs use the same I/O structure as earlier PLCs. For critical applications, there is a new Modicon Quantum hot standby processor which can take over seamlessly from a primary controller.

The Unity Pro software package is intended to be used across the application lifecycle from PLC programming and debugging, to the operation and maintenance phases. It supports all five IEC 1131-3 languages and uses the XML format, allowing users to re-use parts of a program in different applications. A built-in PLC simulator allows programs to be checked on a PC before being implemented in a plant.

One of the specialised tools that make up the third part of Unity is a suite called Unity Studio which is designed to manage multi-application projects. The suite, based on Microsoft`s Visio graphical editor, includes software for managing drives, motor starters and HMIs. Another tool, Unity Application Generator, generates code for batch and process applications.

To tie in with the launch of Unity, Schneider is promoting an initiative called "Collaborative Automation" under which it will work with manufacturers to develop and integrate control systems. This collaboration will include the use of third-party tools such as electrical CAD systems and project management tools.

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