Last February, DMC visited Beckhoff’s U.S. headquarters in Savage, MN for a training course on their new TwinCAT HMI platform. We were very impressed by the platform and have since had some successful implementation on projects.
Here are a couple of the features integrated into Beckhoff’s new HMI worth taking note of:
- Web-based Control and Monitoring
- WYSIWYG Web Page Design
- Development in Visual Studio
- Easy Extention and Customization
Read on for more details and benefits of these features that we took away from our training on the new Beckhoff HMI.
Web-based Control and Monitoring
The most appealing aspect of Beckhoff's platform is that it leverages the internet to allow end users to control and monitor their PLCs from anywhere.
Interfacing with industrial controllers via the internet is something DMC does regularly, and the TwinCAT HMI makes this simpler than ever before with an integrated server- and client-side development that effortlessly connects to the underlying PLC access.
The key benefit is that any number of different clients can access a web-based HMI. It could be a traditional monitor screen nearby the controlled device, or a tablet carried around an area by a supervisor, or even a mobile phone halfway around the world.
The HMI includes a responsive grid designed to facilitate development for multiple device sizes.
WYSIWYG Web Page Design
As any web developer can tell you, managing the location and arrangement of content on the page can be one of the most time-consuming aspects to do manually. Development for TwinCAT gets around these issues using a What You See Is What You Get style editor.
Selecting and arranging components is as simple as dragging them in from a menu. The final version served to your end users will look identical to the one in the editor, and the development environment features both a live preview and the ability to launch to a browser to test out dynamic components and routines.
The HMI features dozens of prebuilt components, including commonly used displays and controls, as well as advanced charts. We have used several of these charts in our projects. They update live when linked with the PLC data making it very easy to display live system data of all sorts to your end users.
Development in Visual Studio
The IDE affords ease of development. HMI development is integrated directly into Visual Studio, which is very familiar to DMC's extensive .NET development. The Visual Studio pane and menu system’s familiarity makes navigation quick, and Beckhoff’s custom screens are also very easy to use.
You control Visual styling in the Theme edit window, which is much easier to manage and update than writing a CSS file. Most usefully, any value on a client-side control (the text of a label, the color of an indicator, etc.) can be bound to a symbol on the PLC or the server via an intuitive menu system.
Overall, the design of the IDE allows an engineer to develop a simple, web-based HMI for their PLC without requiring extensive knowledge of web technologies. However, developers familiar with web technologies (like DMC) still have access to the generated results, allowing us to tailor a solution to the exact needs of our clients.
Easy Extension and Customization
As mentioned, Beckhoff’s existing framework controls allow for rapid development, especially for simple applications. However, the HMI is also very extensible which makes possible flexible and custom solutions. DMC took an additional course in designing extensions for custom applications to further assist with our projects.
The flexibility of these extensions, combined with the ease of creating a simple solution, has made us successful on projects using this new technology.
Thanks to Zachary Daulton and everyone at Beckhoff for hosting us and giving us a preview of the software!
You can download Beckhoff's materials here.
Learn more about DMC's Beckhoff programming expertise.