The Smartphone of Automation

Let’s be honest: Over many years, automation has for the most part ignored the developments in the consumer area – and thereby missed countless opportunities for user-friendly approaches. With ctrlX AUTOMATION we have asked ourselves the provocative question: What would automation look like if it were reinvented by Google, Apple or another digital company? We did not have to search long for an answer: It would follow the example of a smartphone, with the highest level of functional integration possible and a flexible app technology thanks to which users can easily individualize their devices. With ctrlX AUTOMATION, we have gotten very close to this idea. At the heart of this solution is the new generation of control systems, ctrlX CORE.

YOUR OWN SOFTWARE TRANSFERRED TO INDUSTRY CONTROL SYSTEM

The new generation of control systems decouples the hardware from the software. This fundamental difference to other control systems creates numerous advantages. Rexroth makes it much easier for all users to update the control system or to transfer the programmed contents to another control.

Standard control systems from large manufacturers are proprietary. This often prevents small manufacturers from implementing their expert knowledge for special applications. Developing their own electronics is usually not an option for them, so they often use an IPC-system in addition to the actual control system. Problems associated with this, such as the integration effort for continuous high-speed data communication or the uncertain long-term availability of PC-based technology, must be accepted.

Now, these machine manufacturers can directly transfer their specialist knowledge to ctrlX CORE as their dedicated industry control system, thereby securing the long-term availability of their solutions. ctrlX CORE combines an open architecture with industrial-grade capabilities and a serviceability of at least 25 years. Developers also face significantly reduced engineering efforts: In addition to their own functions, they have the option of simply installing additional apps from Rexroth instead of programming them themselves, such as data gateways for MES and IT connections, VPN client, firewall or OPC UA. End-to-end data communication is automatically supplied by ctrlX CORE.

ONE COMPACT CONTROL SYSTEM FOR ALL PLATFORMS

The decoupling of hardware and software comes with further consequences. ctrlX CORE puts an end to the separation of the individual automation architectures. The control system is integrated in the drive and requires no additional space, resulting in particularly compact automation solutions with no performance limitations. As an embedded control system, the ctrlX CORE can simply be extended with I/O and performance modules such as 5G or additional storage. As a plug-in card for the IPC, ctrlX CORE combines a real-time capable control solution and edge computing in one platform.

In a compact space, the ARM architecture’s processor holds enough reserve capacity for all potential applications, optimally distributed to the four cores of the 64-bit multicore CPU. With 1 GB of RAM, ctrlX CORE offers enough room for individual functions. The 4 GB of permanent memory and the additional external microSD card offer enough storage space for future application extensions, thus reducing the variance of the hardware customers and user need. The high-performance 1 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces are optimized for the fast communication of large quantities of data in highly connected systems, equipping users perfectly for the factory of the future.

Thanks to the modern and open software architecture, operators can make use of their own software and apps. This is because the container technology of Linux, the world’s most stable and secure real-time operating system, for the first time in automation opens up all possibilities of integrating functions with separate apps. The ctrlX Data Layer, which can be described as the central nervous system, grants central authorized access to all real time and non-real time data from the installed apps, enabling eight million potential accesses per second. ctrlX Data Layer does not need to be configured, as the apps automatically recognize the hardware and can use the data available in the system.

For the field communication of ctrlX CORE, we rely on the EtherCAT ecosystem as a standard. This opens up the entire range of EtherCAT peripheral devices to designers, who can simply integrate them into their own control architecture. It also reduces the effort for writing interfaces and allows for the combination of components best suited for the application in question. In addition, the control system supports further customary real-time Ethernet protocols as well as more than 30 IT and IoT standards and protocols.

UP TO 50 PERCENT LESS ENGINEERING EFFORT

The engineering apps reduce engineering efforts by up to 50 percent. The control system supplies a web server for simple browser-based engineering. With ctrlX WORKS, the user programs every single function in the PLC app (according to IEC 61131), G-Code, C/C++, Python, Blockly or other languages at the click of a mouse. The digital nameplates of the connected devices are recognized automatically and integrated in ctrlX WORKS. The integrated web server simplifies the visualization on browser-based end devices such as web-panels or consumer tablets and supports wireless diagnostic solutions with smart devices via WiFi and Bluetooth. In addition, the control system includes a simulation environment in which functions can be tested virtually and then applied to the control system.

COMPACT, OPEN, POWERFUL

ctrlX CORE decouples the hardware from the software and offers users the most modern software architecture in the world of automation. This openness gives machine manufacturers and end users an unprecedented level of freedom by allowing them to implement their own expertise into an industry-grade control system and to transfer pre-written functions as apps. What’s more, Bosch Rexroth consequently mirrors the user-friendliness of consumer electronics, making automation as easy as handling a smart phone – even without Google or Apple.

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