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IEC 61131-3  Choosing a Programming Language
Tim Jager

IEC 61131-3 Choosing a Programming Language

This is part two of my series on the IEC-61131-3 programming standard. Here's a link to Part 1 for those of you that missed it. The IEC61131-3 standard contains 5 different programming languages. This article will give a brief introduction to each one and some tips on choosing which language is best. The five languages: Ladder Diagram is most popular in the USA. It is based on the graphical presentation of Relay Ladder Logic. Most non-IEC61131-3 compliant PLCs only support ladder lo...

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Nick Shea

Safety PLC Impact On Software vs. Hardware Debate

After working on several projects with Siemens S7-300 Safety PLCs, I was given the opportunity to contribute to an article for ControlDesign.com that presents cases for and against replacing hardware components with software solutions in machine control. From my experience, I have seen some direct advantages of replacing hardware such as a safety relay with a safety program in a safety-rated PLC. Some benefits of going this direction are: Wiring Advantage Single pair of contacts a...

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Remote IO Configuration for Simatic 505 - As Easy As 3-4-5...
Nick Shea

Remote IO Configuration for Simatic 505 - As Easy As 3-4-5...

While commissioning the automation controls for a manufacturing line, I acquired some tips and tricks for configuring a Profibus network on a Simatac 505 (formerly known as a TI 505). Using 505 Workshop version 4.32 development environment from Fastrak Softworks, I was able to utilize their built-in Profibus I/O configuration tool instead of the out-dated COM Profibus application. Whereas I've commissioned several systems using a Siemens S7 PLC with remote IO and VFD connections via Profi...

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Vijeo Designer Version Control with Tortoise SVN
Danny Budzinski

Vijeo Designer Version Control with Tortoise SVN

I was working with Vijeo Designer 5.0 on a recent project and, overall, found it rather enjoyable to work with. Vijeo Designer is the Schneider Electric / Telemecanique programming software for the Magelis XBT-GT HMI's along with several other SCADA platforms. The creation of variables let me organize my I/O into logical folders, the alarm setup was intuitive and let me create specific groups en mass, and the page designer let me create an object with pretty much any look and feel that I ...

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DMC Starts Integrator Relationship with IFM Effector
Ken Brey

DMC Starts Integrator Relationship with IFM Effector

DMC has entered an Integrator relationship with IFM Effector centered around their unique and exciting 3D Image Sensor. This is an industrial, cost-effective Time-of-Flight Camera that measures the distance to everything in its field of view based on the time it takes pulses of light to make the round-trip from the camera to the object and back. Potential uses include volume measurement, object detection and classification, vehicle guidance and much more. The units come self-contained wit...

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Siemens Simatic S7-300 - Retaining Values When Downloading a Datablock
Kristie Simon Shea

Siemens Simatic S7-300 - Retaining Values When Downloading a Datablock

A simple yet common problem when programming a Siemens Simatic S7-300 PLC is losing the data already stored in the PLC after downloading an updated data block. If you are simply adding items to the end of a flat data block (not adding items to a user-defined type (udt) within the data block, for example) then to retain the values of the data block follow these quick steps. Go online with all of the blocks in Simatic Manager. Copy the online version of the data block whose values you w...

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Boris Cherkasskiy

Populating Iconics/GraphWorX32 Drop-down list (Statefield) from VBA

If you have never heard about Genesis32 SCADA package from Iconics, this is the right time to learn more about it before we continue. I shall wait right here... Good, now you know what I am talking about. We'll talk about GraphWorX32, this is HMI graphical display application. One of the control available in GraphWorX32 is drop-down list (Statefield). This is pretty cool drop-down menu, but values on the list have to be hardcoded during screen design and can't be updated at runtime...

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Mobile Volume Measurement Device on Fork Truck a Success
David Simmons

Mobile Volume Measurement Device on Fork Truck a Success

Recently one of DMC's customers, LTS Scale, issued a press release describing the first fork-truck-mounted dimensional weighing system. DMC worked closely with this customer from the first stages of research through the development of the system and into product production, successfully delivering a flexible and robust system that met numerous design challenges along the way. The system uses a laser and camera to reconstruct a 3D environment, identifies the object being measured and returns ...

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Siemens S7 PLC Troubleshooting
Jon Carson

Siemens S7 PLC Troubleshooting

Once you are familiar with their capabilities and methodologies, Siemens PLCs have the potential to make controls programming quicker and easier than ever. With support for function blocks, text-based programming, libraries, and user defined types, Siemens lets developers attack problems with a much more object-oriented approach than traditional ladder logic programming. But for programmers and technicians less experienced with the Siemens line of PLCs, The S7 and S5 product lines often seem ove...

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Edmund Double-Gauss Lenses Produce Sharp Focus
Ken Brey

Edmund Double-Gauss Lenses Produce Sharp Focus

I have been working on a 3D vision application using the SICK Ranger camera. My application involves precision measurement, so I want to get the best results possible from the equipment. The Ranger came with a Fujinon 35mm lens which focused sharply in the center of the field of view. However there was significant blur near the edges. (The CMOS sensor on the Ranger is 15.4mm diagonal. That exceeds the specification of most common machine vision lenses.) I tried a Tamron 35mm lens, and ach...

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Working with Legacy Hardware: Tips and Tricks
Danny Budzinski

Working with Legacy Hardware: Tips and Tricks

For a DMC engineer it is not atypical to be faced with outdated, legacy technology. Maybe a customer has come to us to upgrade a system that an intern did in the 90's; maybe a company's engineers have built up a system over the past decade and need help configuring or adding more pieces to it; or maybe a factory has used a controller that was made when you were in middle school and all of a sudden that controller breaks down and needs to be replicated and replaced. Regardless of the situ...

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Empowering your PLC with IEC 61131-3
Tim Jager

Empowering your PLC with IEC 61131-3

Nobody loves catchy numeric buzzwords as much as me. I - E - C - Six - Eleven - Thirty - One - Dash - Three.... It just rolls off the tongue! OK I admit, it's a mouthful, but trust me it's worth knowing about. This is a brief intro to IEC61131-3 and the first part in a series of posts that will cover its features and benefits. So what is it? The International Electro Technical Commission (IEC) is a non-profit organization that develops standards for electrical and electronic techno...

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What's New in LabVIEW 2009
Jesse Batsche

What's New in LabVIEW 2009

Over the course of NI Week in Austin, National Instruments gradually introduced and demonstrated the new features that are being implemented in the LabVIEW 2009 release. Many were logical steps forward in hardware and software development, some were long awaited and often requested functionalities or improvements, and a few were completely unexpected new features that were greeted with ooohs and aaahs and applause by the convention audience. Here's a quick run-down of some of the features I ...

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DMC at NIWeek 2009
Darren Jones

DMC at NIWeek 2009

Every summer, National Instruments holds the NIWeek conference in their home town of Austin TX. This year, DMC has three of us attending: Jesse Batsche, Eric Nielsen, and myself. Monday was “Alliance Day”, tailored to NI Alliance Members, as well as the day for various closed sessions, such as the Big Physics conference to address technologies and trends related to large scale physics applications (particle accelerators, extremely large telescopes). Tuesday through Thursday is ...

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Arrival at NI WEEK 2009
Eric Nielsen

Arrival at NI WEEK 2009

Darren, Jesse, and myself (Eric N.) arrived in Austin TX yesterday to participate in National Instruments' yearly technology symposium and trade show NI Week 09. The activity started early today with a great keynote presentation. Most notably was Alex Davern's (National Instruments CFO) "lesson" on economics and NI's approach to weathering the economic downturn. "Competitors are throwing the baby out with the bath water and we want to be there to catch the baby." ...

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Remote Machine Monitoring–Connecting to a Modbus Network with Java and Jamod
Jon Carson

Remote Machine Monitoring–Connecting to a Modbus Network with Java and Jamod

For a recent project, I had an interesting challenge. It involved a (relatively) simple control system, with an Allen Bradley MicroLogix PLC, and 30 or so inputs and outputs. The challenge was that the customer wanted to be able to access (and potentially control) live machine data from anywhere on their network, while buying as little hardware or software as possible. After a bit of research I came up with the following solution: The only entryway to the data that was available with no a...

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Tips for CAN:  Dynamic Frame Definition with National Instruments NI-CAN
Darren Jones

Tips for CAN: Dynamic Frame Definition with National Instruments NI-CAN

Back in the stone age (i.e. NI-CAN 1.2), us LabVIEW 6 programmers had to write our own parsing routines for dynamically-specified data inside a CAN frame. At the driver layer, we were locked-in to only one layer of arbitration. An oft-overlooked but extremely powerful feature in contemporary versions of the NI-CAN drivers handle this automatically. Example: a BMS (battery managment system) for a hybrid automotive battery broadcasts status information. Status information will always be availab...

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Ken Brey

NASA sees the advantages of Structured Light for 3D vision

Recent press releases by NASA show how the agency is realizing the advantages of using Structured Light for 3D vision. A recent NASA Invention of the Year was a hand-held, battery-operated scanner that they use to create surface maps of shuttle tile damage. The same high-speed 3D scanner technology can also be used for longer range 3D measurements. NASA is investigating using this method for Rover Navigation and in-flight shuttle inspection with a system mounted on the robotic arm. DMC ...

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Using FBVEL Gain for PID Servo motion tuning Acroloop
Ken Brey

Using FBVEL Gain for PID Servo motion tuning Acroloop

I have been using Acroloop 9000 controllers to control a number of machines where one axis is a high-speed rotary motor that drives a mechanical cam-driven process. During operation of the machine, the motor accelerates from a stop to a constant high speed, and then back to a stop. The mechanical cam performs dozens of cycles during the process while the motor is at a constant speed. The difficulty in tuning this process is that the motor experiences changing loads and inertias as the mechani...

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Using LabVIEW with Windows XP Embedded (XPe)
Jody Koplo

Using LabVIEW with Windows XP Embedded (XPe)

I recently finished a project that checked for gas leaks on a mission critical system. Any leaks needed to be diagnosed and discovered as quickly as possible. Our solution also had to be mobile and easily carted around the facility. To develop a system that was incredibly reliable and also capable of displaying and logging important data, we settled on an architecture that used a National Instruments cRIO for data acquisition and a Windows XP Embedded PC as the front end for display and contr...

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