Major upgrade of PC-based control platform

Beckhoff Automation releases TwinCAT 3, largest-scale upgrade since 1996.


Beckhoff Automation releases TwinCAT 3, largest-scale upgrade since 1996.Beckhoff Automation has released TwinCAT 3, with delivery of this new generation of software to customers expected to start in early 2012.

With TwinCAT 3 and eXtended Automation Technology (XAT) from Beckhoff, dynamic PC-based control software is available that expands the potential of the standard automation world considerably. The company says that in addition to the object-oriented IEC 61131-3 extensions, the programming languages of the IT world are available in TwinCAT 3 via C and C++. Additionally, the integration of Matlab/Simulink facilitates a connection to scientific fields. All of this is possible in one flexible engineering environment. The software modules can run in different languages within a common runtime. The advantage of this modularity is improved reuse of modules once they have been written and tested. The runtime operates under demanding real-time conditions with the use of multi-core technology and the support of 32-bit or, in the near future, 64-bit operating systems.

The features of TwinCAT 2 are continued in TwinCAT 3 with the eXtended Automation Architecture (XAA). In addition, all widely-used fieldbuses will continue to be supported in the future. Motion control, from point-to-point movements to CNC, is still possible using XAA. Automation technology is also expanded with the scientific automation themes already present in TwinCAT, such as robotics, measurement technology, and condition monitoring. New features include the possibility to use additional programming languages such as C/C++ and Matlab/Simulink.

The eXtended Automation Engineering environment (XAE) in TwinCAT 3 is essentially the Microsoft Visual Studio platform. Alongside the already existing C/C++ languages, Beckhoff has also integrated the IEC 61131-3 programming standard to provide the benefits and convenience of the IT framework for automation.

Integration in Visual Studio takes place in two different ways. In the TwinCAT standard version, only the framework of Visual Studio is used for handling, linking to source administration software, help functions, etc. In the second variant, TwinCAT 3 components integrate themselves directly in Visual Studio 2010 if it is present. If it is not present, Visual Studio is installed with the TwinCAT 3 components. In this version, the programming languages C/C++ and connection to the Matlab/Simulink real-time workshop is available to the user. For C/C++ users, a debugger with online monitoring functionality has been developed that extends beyond the normal debugging functions of C/C++.

TwinCAT System Manager, the configuration tool for I/O and motion, is similarly integrated into the same development environment in TwinCAT 3. The advantage of this is the possibility to integrate further programming languages or to use additional tools, such as source code administration tools, with little effort.

In the TwinCAT 3 eXtended Automation Runtime (XAR), all modules written in IEC 61131, C/C++ or Matlab/Simulink are processed in real-time. The TwinCAT real-time extension for Microsoft operating systems is used here. The tasks can be processed with a minimum cycle time of 50 μs and a very small amount of jitter. TwinCAT real-time has also been extended with the possibility to distribute certain tasks to different cores of a multi-core CPU. This enhances PC controller performance even further. The growing number of deployments of 64-bit operating systems will also be supported by TwinCAT 3.

Beckhoff Automation GmbH

Edited by Peter Welander,

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