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The control system for process automation: PC-based control

Due to increasing competition, innovative automation solutions which optimize efficiency while taking production quality and safety into account are increasingly in demand in the process industry. The development of new technologies opens up possibilities for optimizing production processes, both for modern new plants and for the retrofitting of existing plants.

Beckhoff offers open automation solutions for the process industry that precisely meet these requirements: PC-based control provides a universal control system that can be used to automate all plants and processes. By consistently bundling control intelligence in the software and using established standard technologies from the IT and automation world, PC-based control combines all functions in a single system. For those working in the process industry, Beckhoff offers a wide range of products to support the implementation of comprehensive solutions for unimpeded communication from zone 0 to the cloud. These include scalable industrial PCs and control panels, I/O modules with intrinsically safe interfaces, TwinCAT automation software featuring specific process technology interfaces along with the relevant hardware and software modules for simple IoT communication, the use of cloud-based services, plant networking, and much more besides. What’s more, current industry standards are covered by embedding process technology-specific interfaces such as NAMUR, HART, and FDT/DTM. System-integrated controller and cable redundancy ensures reliable operation without downtime to increase plant availability.

Oil and gas production

Oil and gas production

Intelligent networking improves plant availability in the oil and gas industry

Chemical and petrochemical industry

Chemical and petrochemical industry

Open up efficiency potentials along the entire value chain of large-scale chemical plants through Industrie 4.0

Mining

Mining

Increased productivity and enhanced personal safety through digitalization in mining

Coating technology

Coating technology

Automation and process technology in one system: from machine control to building automation in the paint shop

Woodworking

Woodworking

PC-based control in woodworking: from sawmill to paper production

Water and wastewater treatment

Water and wastewater treatment

Intelligent automation of water and wastewater treatment

Hydrogen industry

Hydrogen industry

Innovative control solutions for the efficient and flexible automation of hydrogen facilities

Energy industry

Energy industry

Future-proof solutions for the energy sector: from biogas plants to smart cities

Metalworking

Metalworking

Flexible and competitive production: process monitoring and networking in the steel mill

Food industry

Food industry

Open automation solutions for the food industry

Beckhoff technology highlights for the process industry

PC-based control integrates all control functions on a single platform. For the process industry, Beckhoff offers a comprehensive range of products to support the implementation of comprehensive solutions for unimpeded communication from Zone 0 to the cloud.
PC-based control integrates all control functions on a single platform. For the process industry, Beckhoff offers a comprehensive range of products to support the implementation of comprehensive solutions for unimpeded communication from Zone 0 to the cloud.

The control system for process automation

Beckhoff calls on a comprehensive range of modular components and deep-rooted, cross-sector expertise to create open automation systems using PC-based control technology. All control functions, such as PLC, visualization, cloud connection, measurement and safety technology are integrated on a consistent platform.

The system-integrated solution from Beckhoff offers an efficient alternative to traditional suppliers and is suitable for use in numerous markets, including oil and gas production, chemicals and petrochemicals, the hydrogen industry, metal processing, or the water and energy industries.

PC-based control for the process industry:

  • universal hardware and software platform for the automation of all process technology applications
  • extensive portfolio of components for explosion protection
  • high level of interoperability for investment protection and maximum flexibility
  • controller and cable redundancy for increased plant availability
  • established worldwide across all industries

EtherCAT Terminals for measurement technology tasks, functional safety or explosion protection can be combined freely and integrated into a holistic control system.
EtherCAT Terminals for measurement technology tasks, functional safety or explosion protection can be combined freely and integrated into a holistic control system.

EtherCAT Terminals integrate all control functions

Beckhoff uses the principle of PC-based control technology to combine a wide range of I/O components in a single system. For example, EtherCAT Terminals used for integrating functional safety can be freely combined with EtherCAT measurement terminals for precision and high-speed measuring, as well as with I/O modules featuring an integrated safety barrier for connecting intrinsically safe field devices from the hazardous area. These elements can then be integrated into a comprehensive control system, offering plant operators an efficient complete solution for all application-related requirements.

Flexible plant design with PC-based control:

  • integration of all I/O components into a single system
  • combination of safety, measurement technology, and explosion protection
  • openness towards third-party systems
  • high interoperability to simplify retrofits
  • system openness for investment protection

The comprehensive integration of the HART protocol in TwinCAT enables the functions from the engineering interface to be used.
The comprehensive integration of the HART protocol in TwinCAT enables the functions from the engineering interface to be used.

Simplifies the commissioning of field devices: TwinCAT

The full integration of the HART functionality into both the I/O system and the TwinCAT engineering environment ensures simple project planning and commissioning. The HART integration allows users to integrate HART field devices directly into the controller. In addition, TwinCAT reduces engineering effort: The TwinCAT FDT container enables the integration of field device DTMs directly into TwinCAT Engineering and thus offers programming and field device configuration in one environment.

Beckhoff ComDTM enables seamless integration of TwinCAT controllers into existing process control systems. DTMs from the field devices connected to the HART-capable EtherCAT Terminals can be integrated in any desired FDT containers with the help of the ComDTM. This allows field devices to be configured and parameterized remotely in the containers without the need for access to the PLC. Thanks to the comprehensive integration of the HART protocol in TwinCAT, the functions from the Engineering interface can be used.

Ideal for the process industry: The open EtherCAT fieldbus

As a universal and open high-speed fieldbus, EtherCAT is suitable for all areas of application, from PLC and drive technology to sensors, measurement and safety technology, and explosion protection. This means users only need a single communication technology for their entire plant. They can also rely on our in-depth expertise and benefit from the safety and optimal performance of the comprehensive EtherCAT architecture. Besides, the EtherCAT-based control is open with regard to integrating third-party EtherCAT devices and other fieldbus systems.

With its extended distance technology, EtherCAT also simplifies data acquisition across expansive areas by allowing communication over distances of up to 300 m. This can be realized via two EK1101-0010 Couplers which accept standard EtherCAT Terminal blocks. For greater distances, fiber optic solutions with a transmission length of up to 100 km are available. EtherCAT cable redundancy is used to set up a fault-tolerant ring topology to ensure that the network or network segments of a plant are always accessible. Moreover, the EtherCAT diagnostic concept enables comprehensive, complete, and fast error identification. This minimizes downtime, reduces maintenance requirements, and increases the availability of the plant.

TwinCAT Controller Redundancy protects plant uptime through redundant control operation using standard components.
TwinCAT Controller Redundancy protects plant uptime through redundant control operation using standard components.

Integrated controller redundancy increases plant availability

With plant availability playing such a crucial role in the process industry, measures to increase this include using redundant architectures to safeguard against failures of individual control components. For redundant controller operation, TwinCAT Controller Redundancy is available.

The system-integrated software solution allows two standard industrial PCs to be operated as redundant controllers that both run the same PLC program in just a few steps. An additional, high-performance network connection between the two controllers provides the necessary data synchronization, and the fact that standard Ethernet is used means no dedicated hardware components are required. With virtually no effort at all, this ensures that only one of the two industrial PCs addresses the fieldbus components at any given time and that the control programs are executed on both computers with the same database. If one controller fails, the second controller seamlessly takes over, preventing plant downtime and data loss.

NOA can be used to make data easily and securely available for plant and equipment monitoring.
NOA can be used to make data easily and securely available for plant and equipment monitoring.

Flexible automation components for NOA concepts

NAMUR Open Architecture (NOA) is designed to make data easily and securely available for plant and equipment monitoring and possible optimization without affecting existing automation systems. This is where our modular range of automation components allows us to offer a whole host of flexible solutions.

Many plants feature intelligent field devices that provide further data in addition to the measured value; however, this is often not taken into account, as is the case with HART field devices operated as 4…20 mA sensors, for example. In this case, the device data can be acquired by retrofitting a controller with HART-compatible I/O modules and made available via OPC UA. Depending on the application, the installation of additional sensors for condition monitoring is also useful. Here, the EtherCAT Box modules with an IP67 protection rating can be used. They can be installed directly in the field and thus require no space in the control cabinet.

Beckhoff product highlights for the process industry

The highly compact ELX EtherCAT Terminals are suitable for direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices up to Zone 0/20.
The highly compact ELX EtherCAT Terminals are suitable for direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices up to Zone 0/20.

The ELX series: Intrinsically safe according to IECEx, ATEX and NEC/CEC

Beckhoff’s ELX terminals combine highly compact remote I/O modules with safety barriers for the direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices from Zone 0/20 and 1/21. This results in extremely narrow EtherCAT Terminals for the direct connection of intrinsically safe sensors and actuators. With their high resolution and accuracy, ELX terminals guarantee the standard of measurement quality that customers have come to expect from Beckhoff over the years. Another advantage stems from the compact design of the terminals, with up to eight intrinsically safe inputs available in the 12 mm housing. The absence of intermediate external barriers not only makes for a significant reduction in the space needed in the control cabinet, but also offers real cost advantages. With certification according to ATEX, IECEx, and NEC/CEC, as well as other country-specific standards and directives, ELX terminals can be used in virtually all markets worldwide.

The ELX terminals optimize virtually all process indudstry applications:

  • highly compact design
  • safety barrier and signal terminal combined
  • direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices
  • wide variety of signals
  • comprehensive range of certificates
  • considerable cost advantages

The EPX modules in IP67 are suitable for direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices up to Zone 0/20.
The EPX modules in IP67 are suitable for direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices up to Zone 0/20.

EPX modules combine IP67 protection rating with intrinsic safety

The EtherCAT Box modules in the EPX series combine intrinsic safety with an IP67 protection rating and are suitable for the implementation of modular and control cabinet-free system concepts in hazardous areas. The robust EPX modules can be mounted directly on the machine or plant and enable the acquisition of intrinsically safe signals up to Zone 0/20. In this way, they offer reliable data acquisition in hazardous areas where control cabinets cannot – and should not – be installed. What’s more, their extremely compact modular design offers significant space savings, which in turn serves to cut down on costs. Additional advantages include simple commissioning, the avoidance of installation errors due to incorrect contact assignments, and the reduced cable lengths facilitated by on-site signal acquisition.

Available as integrated or standalone models, the explosion-proof Control Panel solutions in the CPX series combine high-quality build and elegant design with advanced, capacitive multi-touch technology.
Available as integrated or standalone models, the explosion-proof Control Panel solutions in the CPX series combine high-quality build and elegant design with advanced, capacitive multi-touch technology.

Explosion-proof panels: The elegant CPX series with aluminium enclosures

With the CPX Panel series models, the proven multi-touch technology of Beckhoff Control Panels and Panel PCs is available in even more robust versions, complying with the requirements for use in hazardous areas classified Zone 2/22. The high level of functionality and excellent build quality ensure the reliability of CPX panels even under harsh environmental conditions. The capacitive touch technology provides the typical ease of operation found on all Beckhoff multi-touch panels. The aesthetically pleasing appearance of the Beckhoff panels, and the look and feel of the aluminium housing are maintained, making them visual highlights in explosion-proof environments. The comprehensive CPX Panel range includes a large selection of display formats, sizes, installation options and features. Depending on the area of application, both the panels for control cabinet installation and stand-alone panels for flexible installation nearly anywhere in a room are available. Moreover, the fanless Panel PCs can be used for highly reliable system control.

Multi-touch panels for the process industry:

  • capacitive touch technology optimizes operation
  • high-end design
  • robust and reliable
  • flexible installation options
  • distances of up to 100 m between the explosion-proof Panel and Industrial PC with CP-Link 4: transmission of video signal, USB 2.0 and power supply in one standard Cat. 6A cable

The Beckhoff components support various communication protocols, enabling the integration into all industrial process control systems. The connection can be established either via appropriate fieldbus couplers or via embedded controllers.
The Beckhoff components support various communication protocols, enabling the integration into all industrial process control systems. The connection can be established either via appropriate fieldbus couplers or via embedded controllers.

Controllers and remote I/Os allow flexible topologies

Powerful Industrial PCs form the basis for a central control station for the management and monitoring of the processes of the entire plant. Sensors and actuators are connected via remote I/Os, which transmit the data from the field to the control station via a fieldbus coupler.

Conversely, with the CX series of embedded PCs, which are certified according to ATEX, IECEx and NEC/CEC for use in Zone 2/22, the control of a plant part can run locally in the control cabinet, which opens up potential for more efficient process automation, especially with regard to modularization. In addition, the various functions of TwinCAT automation software are usable directly in the field.

In both cases, the appropriate selection of the controller or coupler can ensure communication to the higher-level system via the required protocol.

TwinCAT MTP increases the flexibility of the plant, since the reduced engineering effort enables rapid changes to the module arrangement.
TwinCAT MTP increases the flexibility of the plant, since the reduced engineering effort enables rapid changes to the module arrangement.

Module automation with TwinCAT MTP

The modularity of process systems is standardized by the Module Type Package concept (MTP). MTP describes individual modules based on various aspects, including their interfaces and the executable services. The information about the module is stored in an MTP file, which is then imported into a higher-level control, which enables efficient commissioning and linking of modules from different manufacturers. The integration of the MTP concept into TwinCAT simplifies the guideline-compliant automation of a plant module through automatically generated source code and libraries for PLC programming. As a result, a prefabricated project structure is provided in which the user merely programs the process-specific functions of the service states. Subsequently, an MTP containing the module description can be exported directly from the TwinCAT project.

Benefits of TwinCAT MTP:

  • generates and exports MTP automatically
  • highly customizable for easy adaptation to existing processes
  • standard-compliant IEC 61131 function block library
  • simple MTP/P&ID import
  • seamless integration with TwinCAT Engineering
  • can be combined with TwinCAT XCAD Interface

In combination with the ELX terminals, TwinSAFE SC technology offers a highly compact solution for applications with requirements for intrinsically safe signal transmission and functional safety.
In combination with the ELX terminals, TwinSAFE SC technology offers a highly compact solution for applications with requirements for intrinsically safe signal transmission and functional safety.

ELX terminals: intrinsically safe signal transmission and functional safety

Beckhoff meets the requirements for process control technology regarding functional safety with the full integration of safety technology into the automation system. Compact and with a modular structure, the TwinSAFE safety solution fits seamlessly into the control platform. PC-based control thus offers a single platform that meets the requirements of both functional safety and explosion protection. The ELX terminals extended with TwinSAFE SC thus enable the direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices up to Zone 0/20 for safety-related functions.

Functional safety and intrinsic safety in one system:

  • highly compact solution with up to four channels across only 12 mm
  • direct connection of intrinsically safe field devices up to Zone 0/20
  • functional safety
  • considerable cost advantages

Wide range of functions for every application: The control platform TwinCAT
Wide range of functions for every application: The control platform TwinCAT

TwinCAT: The control platform for process industry

In the TwinCAT automation software Beckhoff provides a central platform for controlling process machines and systems. In addition to classic process control in the PLC program, algorithms written in C++ or MATLAB®/Simulink® can also be executed in real time. Moreover, TwinCAT includes the HMI, the secure cloud connection via TwinCAT IoT and the use of cloud-based analytical functions via TwinCAT Analytics. The field of application of PC-based control is expanded with the extensive integration of specific process technology protocols and interfaces. TwinCAT supports all common protocols such as NAMUR, HART and FDT/DTM, covering all application areas.

TwinCAT highlights for the process industry:

  • a single tool for engineering and runtime
  • control-integrated Industrie 4.0 and IoT applications
  • comprehensive data evaluation with analytics functions
  • standardized communication via OPC UA
  • simplified field device configuration via FDT/DTM
  • execution of MATLAB®/Simulink® models

By integrating comprehensive IoT and analytics functionality, PC-based control technology opens up a wealth of options to optimize processes.
By integrating comprehensive IoT and analytics functionality, PC-based control technology opens up a wealth of options to optimize processes.

From sensor to cloud – universal solutions for the process industry

In the process industries, forward-looking automation solutions are required to enable cross-system connectivity. The traditional divide between discrete and process automation is no longer an obstacle. PC-based control technology offers all the essential prerequisites for a convergence of technologies in both application areas. It also provides the capability to integrate decentralized systems and enable centralized process control and evaluation at the same time. With its openness, PC-based control is also the ideal basis for realizing networked production in accordance with Industrie 4.0 and IoT concepts: from horizontal integration – even across company boundaries – to vertical integration with production systems to end-to-end engineering throughout the entire product lifecycle.

We developed the TwinCAT IoT software library for communication between the machine control system and cloud-based services. The library supports the standardized protocols OPC UA, AMQP and MQTT for communication with popular cloud systems such as Microsoft Azure™, Amazon Web Services, as well as private cloud systems in the local enterprise network.

At a glance: Ex components from Beckhoff for worldwide use

According to the ATEX and IECEx regulations, hazardous areas are divided into Zones that reflect the degree of danger. For gases, these are Zones 0, 1 and 2. The north american explosion protection regulations for gas (class 1) distinguish between divisions 1 and 2.
According to the ATEX and IECEx regulations, hazardous areas are divided into Zones that reflect the degree of danger. For gases, these are Zones 0, 1 and 2. The north american explosion protection regulations for gas (class 1) distinguish between divisions 1 and 2.

Explosion protection: Zones and factors

To create an explosion, a combustible mix of oxygen and fuel must get in contact with an ignition source. Explosion protection involves taking measures that prevent explosions by excluding one of these three risk factors. Since many processes use materials that are flammable and create an explosive atmosphere in combination with air, preventing the atmosphere from becoming potentially explosive is often not feasible. This is why hazardous areas must be marked as such in order to ensure that no electrical equipment will be used that can cause an ignition as a result of factors such as sparks or high surface temperatures, for example.

In compliance with European explosion protection regulations, such areas are divided into Zones that reflect the degree of the explosion hazard. For gases, the Zones are 0, 1, and 2. For dust, they are Zones 20, 21, and 22. Zone 0/20 (gas, dust) describes areas in which an explosive atmosphere exists permanently or frequently or for long periods of time. Areas that are occasionally subject to explosion hazards are marked as Zone 1/21. Zone 2/22 describes areas in which an explosive atmosphere exists never or only for short periods of time.

With its broad portfolio of components, Beckhoff makes it possible to build integrated explosion protection solutions through to Zone 0/20 with EtherCAT Terminals, high-quality control panels and panel PCs, as well as embedded PCs and bus couplers for easy integration with all common fieldbus systems. With Beckhoff, users can implement any explosion protection application involving explosion hazards, including the retrofitting of existing systems.

Worldwide guidelines and standards for the use of systems and equipment in hazardous areas.
Worldwide guidelines and standards for the use of systems and equipment in hazardous areas.

For use worldwide: the explosion protection portfolio

For systems and equipment in areas exposed to explosion hazards, different standards apply all over the world:

  • International explosion protection (IECEx)
  • European explosion protection (ATEX)
  • North American explosion protection (NEC/CEC)

Country-specific approvals such as IA for South Africa may also be required. Users must make sure that their installations meet applicable guidelines and standards. The Ex component portfolio from Beckhoff meets all listed standards and is certified for the intended use in hazardous areas in compliance with applicable regulations.

As a result, PC-based control makes globally uniform solution concepts possible for barrier-free system integration up to Zone 0/20.

The use of highly compact ELX series EtherCAT Terminals eliminates the need for separate safety barriers.
The use of highly compact ELX series EtherCAT Terminals eliminates the need for separate safety barriers.

Elimination of separate safety barriers: Savings with ELX terminals

The conventional implementation of standard compliant explosion protection involves connecting field devices from Zone 0/20 via separate safety barriers. Installing such barriers in the control cabinet, however, requires a relatively high cabling effort and takes up a lot of space. Using highly compact ELX series EtherCAT Terminals eliminates the need for such separate safety barriers, because these I/O modules can be connected directly to intrinsically safe sensors and actuators that are installed in hazardous areas up to Zone 0/20. In contrast, the cost and space savings made possible by ELX terminals allow users to build machines and systems that are as compact as they are efficient. The bottom line: the control cabinet space requirements along with costs and effort involved can be reduced significantly.

Maximum availability, comprehensive expertise: Beckhoff, a reliable partner for the process industry
Maximum availability, comprehensive expertise: Beckhoff, a reliable partner for the process industry

Trust counts: With both explosion protection and investment protection

With a control solution from Beckhoff, users choose the comprehensive know-how of a globally successful and reliable partner. With stock levels to cover a period of up to 24 weeks for raw materials and up to six weeks for finished products, Beckhoff guarantees short delivery times and ensures the production reliability of its customers. A thoroughly considered concept for the long-term availability of Beckhoff products means that replacement devices are available in the long term and customers receive with a high level of investment protection.

With an exceptional manufacturing depth at the Verl site, all Beckhoff products meet the highest quality standards, especially for their intended use in potentially explosive atmospheres. The Beckhoff production facilities have been tested in accordance with ATEX and IECEx guidelines for compliance with all necessary standards and ensure a consistently high production quality through continuous quality management and audits. Thanks to a worldwide service network and experienced sales specialists, users of process technology receive fast and competent support on site at all times.