23 Jul 2024


`Printer driver` simplifies drives installations

`Printer driver` simplifies drives installations

Adding drives and other components to an automation system could become as simple as adding a printer to a PC following the development of a software tool known as a “drive server”.

The tool has been developed by Lenze in collaboration with other members of Drivecom, a group of more than 20 drives manufacturers. The Drive Server acts as an interface between the drives and application software such as programming, bus configuration and visualisation packages. It can work with any bus technology, allowing users to choose the combination of automation hardware and bus system that best meets their needs.

The Drive Server is based on the OPC (OLE for Process Control) open software interface standard. Just as a printer driver allows different PC programs to connect to a printer, the drive server links PC-based software to an OPC bus system, such as Profibus or Interbus.

After the Drive Server has been installed (on a Windows NT-based PC), it is simply told which bus to use. It identifies any drives that are present on that bus and builds up a database of variables for the drives. Different bus systems can access this database and communicate with each other. So, for example, an instruction from a DeviceNet subsystem could be received and understood by subsystems linked to other buses such as CAN.

Until now, the main attraction of field buses has been their ability to cut wiring costs. But this attraction has often been outweighed by the complexity of the interface programming. Lenze says that this is no longer a problem with the Drive Server because after it has been installed, the bus system operates in the background and any supported bus can be used. Users do not need to program the interface between the bus and the application software.

The Drive Server can also link an installation to the Internet or an intranet allowing remote control and monitoring. A “homepage” can be set up for each drive. Using Drive Server, all of the drives connected to a bus, and their parameter settings, can be viewed and processed on a PC screen. So, for example, the speed of a drive can be monitored simply by “dragging and dropping” the drive`s icon onto a visualisation program such as WinCC.

At the recent Hanover Fair, Lenze demonstrated Drive Server linking drives on Profibus and CANopen buses to visualisation software and, via Ethernet, to another Drive Server installation.