Exclusive: Schneider Electric enters collaborative automation market

Andover, MA—More proof of the inexorable combination of IT and control engineering can be found in Schneider Electric’s release of Unity, a set of software products and associated hardware designed for distributed automation applications.


Andover, MA— More proof of the inexorable combination of IT and control engineering can be found in Schneider Electric ’s release of Unity, a set of software products and associated hardware designed for distributed automation applications. Unity products are designed for control engineers, system integrators, and IT development engineers. The software’s open design and interoperability with other systems and devices—provided by using XML—allows collaboration among engineers, operators, and product designers throughout the product lifecycle management process. Unity’s three software products are:

  • Unity Pro —Programming, debugging, and operating software for PLCs. Based on Schneider’s PL7 and Concept software, Unity Pro allows creation of links to any document or tool, in either local or remote mode, for access to diagnostic help tests or a database in real time.

  • Unity Studio —Based on Microsoft Visio, Unity Studio is software for developing and structuring distributed automation applications. Unity Studio incorporates Unity Pro, PowerSuite for drives and motors, and XBT-L1000 for user interfaces and OPC Factory Server (OFS) for real-time communication. Unity Studio allows users to develop their own environments for data exchange, accessing tools such as mechanical or electrical CAD, production management, process simulators, drives, etc. Using the Visio 2002 graphic editor, Unity Studio automatically generates a data set (functional structure, communication addresses, Global Data) for each station in the distributed architecture with no program-ming required. It can be used to position various stations in users’ Ethernet TCP/IP network (PLCs, HMIs, variable speed drives, hubs, etc.).

  • Unity Developer’s Edition —Additional software for IT and systems develop-ment engineers working with VBA, VB or C++. Developer’s Edition offers access to all Unity Pro and Studio object servers so that tools can be interfaced by a supplier in partnership with Schneider (e.g., electrical or mechanical CAD, supervisory software, MES and ERP, batch, etc.) or designed and implemented by the user.

On the hardware end corresponding to Unity Pro, Schneider has upgraded its Premium, Atrium, and Quantum PLCs with increased memory capacity and Unity-configured processors.

Unity also features Schneider Electric’s Transparent Ready capability, which enables any product—PLC, distributed I/O, variable-speed drive, HMI, robot, etc.—to exchange data locally or remotely. Transparent Ready enables this through integrated Ethernet TCP/IP link, Ethernet I/O scanning and synchronization (Global Data) services, and a ready-to-use Web server in the PLC processors.

Release of the above Unity software and hardware products is only the first step in Schneider’s entry into the collaborative automation arena. Schneider has also announced its Collaborative Automation Partner program, designed for three types of partners: Unity, technology, and Transparent Ready.

Partner areas currently supporting Unity products are:

  • Electrical CAD drawings : ECT (U.S.), computer aided design; electrical circuitry for control system design; and SD Projet (Italy), computer aided electrical design, Italian language;

  • Simulation software : Mynah Technologies (U.S.) for process applications, fine-tuning control variables;

  • SCADA software : ARC Informatique (France), HMI database, tag variables with global access that’s upgradeable;

  • Diagnostics and utility support : Software Logistics (U.S.) ; and

  • Archiving: MDT Software (U.S.) automation design change control and archiving.

Schneider Electric says these partners are the first of what will ultimately be many Col-laborative Automation Partners working to integrate their products with Unity. The com-pany is now recruiting additional partners for the enterprise (links to MES/ERP systems), life cycle (production/lifecycle management), and value chain (supply chain optimization) domains.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
David Greenfield, editorial director

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