Digital factory interface: XML control logic standard accepted by AutomationML

The XML standard lets users pick best-of-breed production hardware and software to make production simulation a reality.
By Control Engineering Staff February 14, 2008

The XML standard, an open and non-proprietary software interface for the interchange of industrial and process control programs, is progressing and gaining acceptance, according to a spokesperson for PLCopen, the organization that administers it.The AutomationML (Automation Markup Language) organization has accepted the format for the description of control. The XML standard lets users pick best-of-breed production hardware and software — including PLC and PAC hardware, and PLM, modeling and simulation software — to make virtual design and production simulation a reality.

The XML standard provides a non-propriety linkage to control systems, an open playing field to lower costs and foster innovation, just as open industrial networks, CAD interchange standards, OPC, and other standards have done. It capitalizes on open IEC 61131-3, Safety, Motion Control, and other standards to support virtual design and production so manufacturers can continue to optimize operations with real-time simulation models.

Many PLCopen member companies support the XML standard, as do independent software suppliers 3-S, KW-Software, and KirchnerSoft. The AutomationML cooperation closes the gap between production design and the shop floor, potentially cutting time to market and lowering costs to manufacturers. The companies, Daimler, ABB, KUKA, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, netAllied and Zühlke, and two German universities, jointly define and standardize the Automation Markup Language (AutomationML) as an open intermediate format for the digital factory. They also seek to improve automation engineering with new applications for better and more flexible collaboration, as well as forearlier simulation and quality assurance.

Innovations in product life cycle management (PLM), machine and process simulation, computer-aided design (CAD), documentation software, and other systems enable virtual designs of machine, production lines and processes to avoid costly mistakes in implementation. Individual machine controls and entire production lines can be virtually commissioned to find problems before committing physical resources, reducing time required to start manufacturing processes.

PLCopen XML schemas, documentation and an introduction are free online at

Also see: How to recognize an IEC 61131-3 Programming System in 8 easy steps.

Find out about more about IEC 61131-3 and its effort to standardize programming languages for industrial automation in “ Building Trustworthy Software ” in the July 2007 issue of Control Engineering.

Find out more about PLM software and virtual commissioning in “ 3D Does It—Enabling flexible production lines ” in the February 2008 issue.