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Engineering platform migrates to the cloud, cutting need for PCs

03 January, 2020

At the recent SPS show in Germany, Beckhoff announced that users of its TwinCat engineering and runtime products will, in future, be able to use them directly in the cloud. The new TwinCat Cloud Engineering service will give them an easy way of engineer TwinCat systems and controllers without having to use a local PC.

The new capabilities can be accessed via Beckhoff’s Web site using a standard browser. No extra software is needed and registered users will be able to work with the TwinCat development environment even using previously unsupported devices such as tablet PCs.

Instances of TwinCat Cloud Engineering generated by users can be connected to physical control hardware via a secure transport channel. This combines the advantages of the TwinCat control architecture with distributed support for collaboration via a source control repository. Beckhoff says that for new users, in particular, having access to a TwinCat in the cloud will make it easier to get to know the TwinCat environment.

The cloud support will allow users to move their entire TwinCat architectures to the cloud, the only difference from the standard environment being that they will be using a virtual machine rather than a local PC. They will not need to get used to a new software environment, but can continue to work in the same, familiar environment.

They will no longer need to install and maintain multiple software versions tailored to specific machine generations on their own PCs. Instead, they can run separate instances of TwinCat Cloud Engineering with different software versions, any of which they can access remotely. Project files will be stored in a source code control repository that can be accessed directly from within TwinCat Engineering.

Also at SPS, Beckhoff announced that TwinCat Analytics has a new function that reduces the usually time-consuming process of creating dashboards to a simple mouse click.

Beckhoff predicts that its One-Click Dashboard function for TwinCat Analytics will be “a huge time-saver”.

The automated One-Click Dashboard function converts configurations into executable PLC code, including dashboard generation. Users can generate entire HTML5-based analytics dashboards based on the PLC code and load it into an Analytics Runtime container with the click of a mouse. When the process is complete, they receive a network address that they can use to access the dashboard via a browser. Beckhoff says that the ability to generate dashboards without having to write a line of code or to design graphics will be “a huge time-saver”.

The new function provides at least one HMI control for every TwinCat Analytics algorithm. The dashboard controls can be selected individually in an algorithm’s properties with the aid of a control preview. Users can also combine multiple algorithms within an individual HMI control.

The automatically generated dashboards can be customised. For example, users can pick their own colours and logos, and even show geographically distributed machine locations on a map.

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