Case Studies

High Performance Test Facility Control System Upgrade

Posted in Aerospace and Defense, HMI and SCADA, LabVIEW, Manufacturing Automation and Intelligence, Motion Control, PLC Programming, Siemens PLC, Test & Measurement Automation


DMC upgraded the control system for a large testing facility in the defense industry. This facility consisted of several large control applications over a distributed, mile-long, installation. Each location had its own functional purpose and independent control system but needed to work together as a seamless whole. The previous system would take down the entire facility if one of the controllers failed. As a result, a chief design goal of the new system was to provide continued operation to the system as a whole in case of hardware failure. In addition, key elements of the system were made redundant to increase reliability.

The system had ambitious requirements for motor positioning, data collection rate, and robustness. To meet these goals, we chose Siemens S7 1500 series technology failsafe CPUs and Siemens G120 VFD drives with absolute position encoders for system control, NI cRIO DAQ for high-speed data acquisition, and WinCC OA for distributed supervisory control operations. 


Upgrading the System

safety control systemThe customer had a system that was in danger of failing completely. The system was not only outdated, but any offline node would take down the entire system and was no longer a supported platform. In fact, the system completely stopped working the day the demolition of the upgrade began. The customer needed an integrator who could not only manage a system upgrade that was three years in duration but also handle the very challenging mechanical and electrical requirements of the system. DMC’s multi-disciplinary team was a great fit for this project.

Our engineers started with a complete system of functional requirements and design phase. We used the complete specifications to develop the SCADA, PLC, and data acquisition components of the system.

DMC’s team completed the implementation of the system from start to finish and met the go-live date required for the client’s operational needs.

We performed simulation and complete FAT (factory application test) prior to the delivery of the system on-site to reduce time and expenses onsite. This was critical to the success of the project since the location and facility requirements are much more challenging to “test in the field” methodologies. Once the simulation was complete, we went on-site and installed the system.

We programmed Siemens S7 1517 TF PLCs to control the system, where there were over 20 axes operating on one PLC.

Reliability Improvements

This system now has much-improved reliability. With the old system, if one node failed, it would take down the entire facility. DMC built a new, modular system such that a single failure would not take the entire system down.

Native Redundancy

simatic hmi panel We used WinCC OA as the SCADA user interface in a redundant configuration which allowed the continued operation if one server fails. The redundant configuration also allows the ability to update the system without taking it offline. The redundancy appears completely seamless to the user. Deploying the system as redundant was a trivial change to configuration files. This allowed us to perform the development against a normal non-redundant system and seamlessly implement redundancy during FAT. The system now runs seamlessly with either server active.

Further, the WinCC OA SCADA system provided Siemens native driver support as well as OPC UA server and client support.

Data Acquisition System

The client’s requirement of collecting system position data at 10 kHz is outside the bounds of what is possible in a PLC based system alone. As a NI Alliance Partner with extensive LabVIEW expertise, we were able to program a NI cRIO data acquisition system to capture this high-speed data. We integrated the NI cRIO system with the Siemens PLCs with PROFINET, the native Siemens PLC communication protocol. By connecting the encoder feedback to the cRIO and the cRIO to the Siemens PLC via PROFINET, we were able to collect the required 10 kHz encoder data and provide lower speed data to the S7 1517TF PLC via PROFINET for closed-loop position control.

Learn more about DMC’s Manufacturing Automation and Test & Measurement services. Contact us with project inquiries.

Customer Benefits

  • SCADA HMI with dramatically improved user experience and meaningful graphical representations
  • Local “machine level” Comfort and Mobile panel HMIs provided a level of localized setup control that was not previously available. Staff can now use a handheld terminal to perform many options safely in line of sight that could not be accomplished from the restricted visibility control room.
  • 10 KHz data collection synchronized to UTC time
  • Distributed control system and SCADA system redundancy improved reliability
  • Distributed control system designed so that one of the sites going offline does not affect the rest of the system
  • Modern equipment allows for better diagnostics, easier device replacement, and system adaptation over time as new use cases are found