Softing provides embedded OPC technology for Lenze product line

Solution reduces DCOM configuration issues, which were a leading cause for support calls
By Control Engineering Staff April 1, 2008

Germany-based Lenze , a leading maker of driving, positioning, and transporting products, has chosen Softing to provide the OPC technology for its L-force product line. Softing, a global provider of hardware and software for industrial automation and automotive electronics, is also a member of the European Steering Committee of the OPC Foundation, and author of the OPC Book.

When Lenze sought to reduce DCOM configuration issues, which were a leading cause for support calls, Lenze’s design team investigated Softing’s OPC Tunnel technology. Their selection of it was “based on the software’s performance and immediate availability for use in a real-time environment under Windows CE .NET ,” according to a spokesman.

Lenze’s L-force scalable product suite covers all areas of drive and automation technology. It’s an overall system that relies on numerous individual parts to perform well. For example, drive-based safety technology is situated directly in the drive control system. Ethernet is in the drive as well, combining a modern IT standard with real-time capability for motion control applications. The product suite features centralized and decentralized drive and control technology, but only one drive-independent software suite for all motion and process sequences — both drive-based and those able to run on a PC.

All drive products within the L-force product family use OPC technology . An OPC interface provides a communications link between the L-force Industrial PCs and the L-force Engineer software on an engineering PC. L-force Engineer is configuration software for planning, commissioning, monitoring, and diagnostics. The L-force Industrial PC is a controller, visualization system and, at the same time, a gateway between L-force Engineer and field devices running on a fieldbus (e.g. CAN-bus). The OPC interface also provides data to HMI stations.

The L-force industrial PCs are running Windows CE. One drawback of Windows CE is its limited support of Microsoft’s DCOM technology. In fact, starting with Window CE 6.0, Microsoft will stop including its DCOM technology into this operating system. For this reason, Lenze’s design team decided against deploying DCOM technology. Although OPC communications is based on DCOM, embedding Softing’s OPC Tunnel middleware product into the L-force hardware “provides a high-performance and robust communication link between OPC components.” The OPC Tunnel is part of Softing’s Easy Connect Suite .

According to a Softing spokesperson, “Communications between the client-side and server-side OPC Tunnel components is realized over a TCP/IP connection (encrypted, if desired). The data between client and server applications is tunneled via TCP/IP, bypassing DCOM completely, eliminating time-consuming DCOM setup work.”

Thomas Maschler, head of Product Management Automation for Lenze, said, “We are very pleased with the performance of Softing’s OPC Tunnel within our new L-force product family. In the past, DCOM configuration issues were the leading cause for support calls. With L-force, we do not see any support calls related to OPC. This fact demonstrates that, by employing Softing’s OPC Tunnel, we achieved our goal to seamlessly and, more importantly, transparently integrate OPC technology into our product line.”

Both companies will be exhibiting at Hannover Fair , April 21-25 in Hannover, Germany.

–edited by Renee Robbins, senior editor, Control Engineering Daily News Desk