Design: Object-oriented databases power Eplan Electric P8

By Control Engineering Staff March 15, 2007

The ability to integrate and exchange data independent of data exchange formats is a trend that promises to make day-to-day design activities easier. ARC ‘s recent conference in Orlando, which highlighted the development of systems for a ‘flat world,’ included a lot of talk on the topic, and a display area showing products that deliver that integration today. For electrical engineers in the controls design field, Eplan Electric P8 from Eplan Software & Services demonstrated a significant new version of a product that has been delivering ‘flat world’ benefits for 22 years.

Control Engineering talked to Eplan Technical Manager Sean Mulherrin about P8’s ‘powerful platform concept,’ which allows Eplan to act as the engineering center for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Not just a new version of the company’s successful Eplan 5 and Eplan 21 packages, Eplan Electric P8 is ‘a truly new dimension in electrical design automation,’ said Mulherrin. ‘An interoperable database structure combines the intrinsic benefits of the relational graphic database in Eplan 5 with the object-oriented database in Eplan 21.’ This lets users easily migrate from either environment to a new ‘globally uniform platform,’ he says, which allows Eplan to act as a collaboration hub.

‘Whether your design approach is graphic or object oriented and regardless of electrical standards, language, symbol libraries, component attributes, or database interface, your processes can now achieve literally unlimited flexibility. The common platform facilitates simultaneous, real-time, multi-user collaboration on the same project anywhere in the world,’ Mulherrin said.

Mulherrin said that unlike vector-based drawing packages such as AutoCAD, give lists, and scripts to let external data be managed in external databases, ePlan is ‘a database-driven system, not a database-connectable system. Another difference is ‘our ability behind the scenes: 100 software engineers working on this product. Most are ex-industry people, not software people and our distributors are high-tech: Standard Electric, Van Meter Industrial, etc. We want [to work with] people like ourselves: application experts.’

Eplan Electric P8 also includes many new features and improvements, such as more enhanced user rights management and security features and automatic creation of documentation or reports as a byproduct of the automated design engineering process. This includes electrical schematics, panel layouts, wire lists, bill of materials, PLC codes, device tags and wire labels.

Eplan Electric P8 shares a common database structure with all other Eplan products and industry standards. It also functions as a standalone electrical CAE solution. Eplan Software & Services is based in Monheim, Germany with its principle U.S. offices in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rittal, manufacturer of electrical and electronic enclosures and packaging solutions for controls, automation and IT applications. Since its establishment in 1984, Eplan has grown its customer base to 15,000 with more than 54,000 licenses installed globally, according to the company.

— Renee Robbins , editorial director, Control Engineering