Think & Do Studio arrives
Think & Do Studio, first announced in February (see Control Engineering March 2000 news or Control Engineering Online at www.controleng.com/archives/news/2000/february/gm0211a.htm), has arrived. The automation software combines control and information technology with Microsoft Visio 2000, and delivers built-in enterprise connectivity and productivity analysis capabilities.
Think & Do Studio, first announced in February (see Control Engineering March 2000 news or Control Engineering Online at www.controleng.com/archives/news/2000/february/gm0211a.htm ), has arrived. The automation software combines control and information technology with Microsoft Visio 2000, and delivers built-in enterprise connectivity and productivity analysis capabilities. Think & Do Studio accelerates automation implementation and provides transparent scalability across Microsoft Windows 2000, NTE, and CE platforms.
According to Think & Do (Ann Arbor, Mich.) marketing director, Andy McMillan, "We learned two things from customer feedback. First, people want ease of use. This is true for people experienced in doing control. It used to take too much time for I/O point configuration and tag definition. For people new to control, the issue is easier interface and training. Visio brings extensive Microsoft training to the table. This infrastructure allows flow chart control and HMI screens in same tool.
The second is the ability of Studio to support many drawing types. An IT person can drag a flowchart into Visio, see where the information resides, and find it. This also holds for P&ID and facilities designers. We can start to integrate the islands of information in a factory."
Think & Do Software's approach to developing automation control, visualization, and data management solutions has been to leverage state-of-the art, commercial applications whenever possible. Until recently, however, no off-the-shelf product met Think & Do's requirements for a visual platform.
"Visio was one of the products we looked at right from the start. At the time, however, it wasn't the full-featured development platform that it is today. In fact, we did not find any commercial platform that would work for us then. Over the years we developed our own proprietary drawing tools," explains Mr. McMillan. "Using Visio, we provide a unified development environment (UDE) that addresses virtually the entire manufacturing enterprise. The familiar drag-and-drop interface becomes a powerful expression of design and logic that adapts Think & Do to the user's specific requirements."
For example, a user might drag-and-drop a diamond shape (decision block) and configure the logical expression to ask the question, "Is the Part Present Switch On?" By connecting the decision block's logical "yes" and "no" branches to action blocks, the user diagrams the process. When the user finishes the drawing, Think & Do software interrogates the shapes, analyses their connections, and writes code that will perform the specified actions.
Think & Do Studio integrates flowchart control logic, HMI, motion control, PID loops, I/O device interfaces, and project documentation tools in a standard development environment.. Visio is used as the HMI visualization engine. Visio 2000 features, such as facility layout, dynamic grid, and anchored Pan & Zoom windows, offer front-end users a broad range of display options. Visio shapes can be used to design a display that looks like the actual facility, and machines can be animated to show materials movement. In addition to interpretive diagrams, data can be associated with individual shapes on the display. Both continuous processes and discrete operations can be easily represented.
Direct interface to ODBC databases, OPC 2.0 client and server capability, and COM/DCOM interfaces provide the enterprise connectivity. Think & Do Studio automatically captures system downtime and cycle time data to generate productivity analysis displays. Details on capacity utilization, cycle-time variations, and downtime factors are presented in pre-configured displays that assist productivity improvement efforts, capacity planning projects, and dynamic scheduling.
Think & Do Studio maintains the current Think & Do product price point of $1,895 per copy. The new software translates existing Think & Do programming. For more information, visit www.controleng.com/freeinfo or www.thinkndo.com .
Gary A. Mintchell, senior editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Think & Do Studio Benefits include:
Shorter time to market through faster automation development cycles and fewer system integration problems;
Tightly integrated control and information systems;
Access to real time data for dynamic scheduling and customer visibility into the manufacturing process;
Access to productivity data for asset utilization management;
Flexible solutions with open architecture interfaces;
Highly maintainable systems with self-documenting logic;
Near-zero learning curve through the use of the industry standard Microsoft Visio user interface; and
Better communication among designers in IT, controls, and facilities groups.