Decentralized Control and the Internet of Things

Nov. 23, 2016
By allowing for a building-block approach when adapting machine functions to application requirements, the CPX modular control platform allows engineers to mix and match different technology modules to perform specific tasks.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) holds the promise of fully networked, adaptive production. Unlike centralized, top-down factory control systems, IIoT-enabled components, machines, processes and factories will exchange data and information in real time with each other and with higher-level enterprise management systems. Components will interact with one another, in an intelligent way, carry out their own configuration with minimal effort, and independently meet varying production requirements.

A cornerstone of decentralized intelligence and control is Festo’s CPX automation platform. The CPX is a scalable and modular control platform that permits a building-block approach to adapting machine functions to application requirements. Engineers can mix and match different technology modules to perform specific tasks and easily scale or modify it in terms of size and capacity. For example, the CPX has the flexibility to serve as a remote I/O station, motion controller or a modular control system; it also has diagnostic and condition-monitoring capabilities.

In addition, Festo recently incorporated OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) as the communication interface into the CPX, positioning it to play a key role in IIoT and smart factories. OPC UA is a standard protocol that supports industry-standard programming languages and permits interoperability and communication between devices, machines and systems from different manufacturers and to the cloud. It lets users move data from factory floor sensors and actuators beyond the realm of the industrial controller and into the information technology (IT) world of enterprise asset management, manufacturing execution systems (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Thus, OPC UA permits the exchange of data between intelligent devices and cloud-based systems for analytics, diagnostics, equipment-effectiveness reporting and many other applications. OPC UA will be essential for communication between intelligent components, as well as to higher-level MES and ERP systems.

CPX also has a module that can be used to connect to IO-Link devices. This is critical because another key to making IIoT a reality is permitting two-way traffic between low-level sensors and actuators and higher-level controllers and automation systems. IO-Link is an industry standard that allows point-to-point communication between field devices and the automation system.

IO-Link enabled devices not only transmit machine data to factory management systems, they let a control system download parameter data to the device, which, in turn, can send status information back to the controller. This means that IO-Link devices facilitate machine commissioning, can make adjustments while a machine is running, and provide monitoring and diagnostic capabilities. The end result is increased machine and process flexibility, better overall productivity and less downtime.

Festo is already integrating IO-Link into various sensors and actuators such as valve terminals, electric drives and stepper-motor controllers.

Festo’s CPX control platform has been a proven success in countless industrial and process automation installations. It supports several types of motion control technologies, including electromechanical motion, intelligent servo-pneumatics for precise positioning and force control, and discrete pneumatics, such as controlling simple cylinders and air valves. It also can function as a pneumatic valve terminal, with air valves mounted right on the CPX; and it has integrated safety functions.

The CANopen master integrated in the unit’s control system can actuate pneumatic and electric axes intelligently via fieldbus, all synchronized over the backplane of the CPX using Codesys V3 (IEC 61131-3). An extensive software function library simplifies programming. It can be used as a standalone PLC on a remote station to completely control individual machines and systems, eliminating the need for higher-level controllers, or a number of CPX units can mount on different machines to network with each other and the host controller.

The CPX can also serve as a remote I/O station by connecting a fieldbus module and adding various analog and digital I/O modules. It communicates with a host PLC and handles up to 512 inputs and 512 outputs from standard sensors, actuators, valves and similar devices.

CPX supports a multitude of fieldbus protocols. Common industry-standard protocols include DeviceNet, EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, Ethernet Powerlink, Profinet and Sercos, to name a few. So it is extremely flexible in connecting with various controllers.

The CPX can control multiple drives and functions via one platform, can easily be expanded or reconfigured, saves on engineering and installation time, and offers an extremely compact footprint. It easily adapts to almost any electric and pneumatic application possible today and is ideally positioned for future needs as well.

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