Modular Embedded Controller Add-on Modules

June 2, 2009
Late in 2008, at the SPS/IPC/DRIVES fair in Nuremberg, Germany, the largest tradeshow of its kind in Europe, Siemens Energy & Automation took the covers off its new industrial embedded controller, the modular SIMATIC S7-mEC which integrates control, HMI and PC functionality in one device.

“The S7-mEC is a turnkey automation solution that integrates both HMI and software control capabilities,” says Siemens spokesperson Andreas Czech. “The device comes with preinstalled runtime visualization software so, since no software has to be installed during commissioning, it’s easy to configure and program.”

According to Czech, using a shared platform for HMI and PC applications accelerates the exchange of data considerably, injecting new efficiencies into production operations. “It’s easier to perform set up or make changes on the fly,” he says. “And considering current global economic conditions, any bit of efficiency can be important.”
“The S7-mEC provides a bridge between traditional modular controllers and PC-based systems,” says Czech, adding that this can be very valuable for automation users who are accustomed to PLCs but need more robust connectivity and/or Windows applications on the same platform.

The new controller comes equipped with the latest PC technology, including an Intel Core Duo processor, 1 GB of RAM, two Profinet ports, one fast Ethernet port, two USB ports, Windows XPe, WinAC RTX 2008 soft-PLC, a 2GB flash disk and a micro memory card slot. The new device is based on the S7-300 design and therefore can be expanded through standard S7-300 I/O as well as additional PC interfaces. Like all other Simatic controllers, the new embedded controller can be configured and programmed using Simatic Step 7. Moreover, the Open Development Kit interface enables the standard Step 7 program code to be expanded, for example, with C/C++/VB/C# code. The HMI functions are configured using Simatic WinCC flexible. Finally, users are able to install their own Windows XP applications or functions, i.e. based on Office software.

Additional interfaces such as slots for SD/MMC and Compact Flash cards, DVI-I for a monitors, USB for the connection of printer, mouse or keyboard, another Ethernet port and a serial interface for point-to-point communication are also available on the EM PC module.

 “Using standard media, you can pull PLC data into an office application to further evaluate the operation,” says Czech. “And interfaces, such as the graphics interface or DVI-I, now enable a monitor to be connected – in addition to networked operator panels or thin-client solutions – opening up a variety of possibilities for optimal application-related visualisation. The idea is to provide users with as much information and control as easily as possible.”

A second expansion module EM PCI-104 enables scalability to additional hardware interfaces in the PCI-104 format. This permits fieldbus modules i.e. for Profibus to be connected, or cards for special applications, such as sound cards for the output of spoken operating instructions in the event of error messages. Each of these modules can accommodate up to three different PCI-104 boards.

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