The open TwinCAT 3 architecture offers users the option to choose the language that is best suited for the task at hand. Modules written in different languages can communicate in real-time via the TcCOM interface.
The open TwinCAT 3 software architecture offers users the option to use C/C++ or Matlab®/Simulink® as programming languages for real-time applications, in addition to IEC 61131-3. In other words, users can choose the language(s) best suited for the task at hand. Modules written in different languages can interact in real-time via the TcCOM interface. Microsoft Visual Studio® provides a platform for the configuration, programming and diagnostics of all TwinCAT modules.
With PC-based control Beckhoff offers an open and scalable hardware and software platform for scalable CNC applications. It can be adapted precisely to each application and degree of complexity. TwinCAT automation software forms the universal platform for the control of PLC, motion and CNC functionalities, visualisation, safety technology, measurement technology, Condition Monitoring and robotics. TwinCAT NC I/CNC covers the entire range of classic CNC path controllers up to the high-end system for complex motion and kinetic requirements. TwinCAT NC PTP makes extensive motion functions available for positioning tasks. The TwinCAT Kinematic Transformation library enables the mapping of robot kinematic systems in software for seamless and cost-effective integration into the control system.
With the modular runtime concept, TwinCAT 3 offers the basis to further open up CNC functionality. This applies to both the NC I and CNC packages. “Modular runtime” means that different modules can interact in real-time; this interaction can be realized through cyclic or acyclic data exchange. Cyclic data exchange is configured through mappings. Between two runtime modules, input and output variables are ‘linked’ with each other and cyclically exchanged according to the task cycle. Like in TwinCAT 2, acyclic communication, e.g. for parameterization and configuration, is implemented through the Automation Device Specification (ADS) protocol. In contrast to TwinCAT 2, the TwinCAT 3 system offers the option to call methods from one module directly in another module via a defined route. Naturally, this event-based direct communication can only work reliably if the rules are defined in a corresponding standard. This standard is the TwinCAT Component Object Model (TcCOM), developed by Beckhoff. In many parts it is based on ideas from the COM that is also used in the Windows system – but obviously adapted to application in a real-time context.
TThe PC- and EtherCAT-based CNC solution from Beckhoff integrates all machine functions into one hardware and software platform. This powerful system is characterized by high performance, openness and flexibility. The universal TwinCAT automation software and the fast EtherCAT fieldbus system, Industrial PCs, Control Panels, I/O components and drive technology combine to offer a complete solution for CNC machining. This way, the productivity of manufacturing facilities can be increased, the controller design becomes ‘leaner’ and the costs for hardware, engineering, commissioning and maintenance are lowered considerably. The Beckhoff CNC platform is suitable for all industries, processing technologies and machine kinematics: from compact dental machining centers and woodworking machines to complex plasma cutting and welding machines. The CNC solution from Beckhoff is scalable and modular, meeting the exact requirements of modular and multifunctional machine concepts.
For CNC applications, TcCOM is used to offer users the option to supplement or replace certain CNC components with their own code segments. With C/C++ and Matlab®/Simulink®, TwinCAT 3 provides further languages that are particularly suitable for expressing complex algorithms in a simple manner.
Intellectual property protection through user-specific code implementation
With TwinCAT NC I and CNC, Beckhoff offers an extensive range of useful functions. To integrate user-specific code segments, users can replace sub-functions with their own algorithms at defined interfaces. The sub-functions must follow the TcCOM rules and also implement specified interfaces. The code itself is usually written in C/C++. In principle, algorithms can also be created in Matlab®/Simulink®. Convenient debugging in Microsoft Visual Studio® simplifies implementation and testing. Programmers thus have a versatile development environment with several languages and user-friendly debugging tools available. Advanced software engineering is also offered in Visual Studio® which can be used effectively for automation applications, such as version control with a source code control tool.
For example, users can implement transformations that are not available in the NC I or CNC packages. This provides a big advantage in that customers can retain full control of their intellectual property. Modifications and adaptations can be completed quickly and conveniently. Another area of application is overwriting of controllers and pilot-controls. For certain machine types it can make sense to adapt such configurations, in order to achieve higher accuracy and higher performance in special cases, for which interfaces are also defined.
User-generated software can be safely linked with the machine via industrial hardware dongles (Beckhoff licence key or USB sticks). The configuration takes place in the TwinCAT engineering environment. The TwinCAT runtime validates the licenses in real-time, which means that the software can be protected effectively.
TwinCAT 3 provides with Visual Studio® an enhanced engineering tool for the rapid and convenient development and testing of algorithms. The versatile runtime concept enables custom modules to be added safely and flexibly based on the TcCOM rules. As a result, users have a range of convenient options for implementing and protecting their in-house expertise.
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