Control conversions happen all the time when new tooling is replaced in plants. The process takes time and costs money. From the OEM and integrator perspective, the goal is to make the conversion as transparent as possible so that the experience of configuring and commissioning is the same. Siemens designed the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal engineering framework to help streamline that process. For Siemens Solutions Partner Patti Engineering, the TIA Portal, coupled with tight integration between HMI and PLC, dramatically streamlined the process of helping a customer convert from a Rockwell/Allen Bradley platform to one from Siemens.
A machine builder accustomed to working with Rockwell/Allen Bradley equipment received an order from a customer in Germany. The machine had been built on the Rockwell/Allen Bradley for previous customers. In the European facility, however, the control standard and architecture was Siemens, not Rockwell. The problem was that the machine builder’s expertise lay in Rockwell/Allen Bradley technology, not Siemens. As a result, they turned to system integrator and Siemens Solutions Partner Patti Engineering to assist with the controls conversion. The task was to recreate the existing HMI screens with almost identical functionality on a totally different controls platform – the Siemens TIA Portal V15.
The reference project used for conversion was built on a Rockwell FactoryTalk View Machine Edition, for PanelView Plus. The machine builder had invested many engineering hours in building the application software. The result was a functional but very complex HMI application. It had many screens and recipes, not to mention macros controlling these screens. To make the project even more challenging, the timeline called for everything to be converted in just one month.
Each screen was analyzed and re-created in form and function with the Siemens TIA Portal by Joe Palace, senior electrical engineer at Patti Engineering and the person tasked with the HMI conversion. In several instances, Siemens functionality actually simplified the application compared to the Rockwell version. The Siemens version required no macros, for example. The Rockwell/Allen Bradley multi-state indicator control tools were replaced with Siemens animation and event tools like text and graphic lists, and user-defined process tags. Given well-defined structured tags, transparent to the PLC and HMI, the PLC would determine which button was clicked or which event had taken place. It would properly display the correct information on the HMI display.
Using the full toolbox available within the Siemens TIA Portal made the process more manageable. The Rockwell/Allen Bradley HMI application and development suite encompasses multiple applications. The Siemens TIA Portal integrates the HMI and PLC, streamlining the process. “It was nice having the HMI and PLC programs embedded together,” says Palace. “This made it very easy to create HMI tags using the PLC tags.”
Most of the screens in this conversion were developed with the intent of being modular, saving development time. For instance, the data would only change if a different station or carriage was selected.
Palace focused on maintaining the appearance of the reference screens in terms of color schemes, fonts, etc. He also developed custom templates in the TIA Portal. “Using a custom template helps streamline the process, as does using defined colors and text,” says Palace. “Once a couple of screens were developed, I tried to reuse that style layout and feel for the other screens to keep everything uniform.”
In general, the decision by the machine builder to choose a Siemens Solution Partner was a sound one, says Patti Engineering founder and CEO Sam Hoff. “I have seen several instances in the past where customers have gotten into trouble by not using a Siemens Solution Partner,” he explains. “A typical Siemens PLC is much more powerful than a Rockwell PLC, for example. Often, inexperienced integrators will try to program a Siemens PLC the exact same way they would a Rockwell PLC, which will not only cost them time in developing the code, but will fail to take advantage of the power of the Siemens PLC.”
The program itself is about establishing expertise to make it easier for OEMs and end-users to realize the full capabilities of the technology. “Unlike other controls hardware suppliers, the Siemens Solutions Partner program is not a ‘plaque and a prayer,’” he adds. “They have stringent requirements for who can qualify as a partner, and then ensure that partners maintain the proper level of training and certifications to stay in the program.”Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>