What?? Engineering in the Cloud? One of the joys of having been around so long is to see technologies that some said they’d never use become commonplace.

When I switched to the “dark side of the force” and landed a job as a sales engineer, my first customer told me “I’ll never run a wire from a PLC to anywhere (other than I/O of course). I’ll also never use IEC motor starters in place of these big old NEMA starters.”

Oops. By the time I left to become a magazine editor, the plant had connected controllers and IEC starters all over the new production line.

Ethernet was another one.

Then there was cloud. A poorly chosen name, perhaps, denoting a mist that blocks the sun and rains on our parade. Or, it could just be a name for a server bank somewhere.

This is somewhat “old news”, but it is interesting simply from the point of view that we just keep adapting new technologies to better serve old needs.

In brief:

  • Beckhoff Introduces Smart Engineering Directly in the Cloud
  • TwinCAT Cloud Engineering provides a foundation for efficient IoT-based automation strategies

Beckhoff Automation has introduced new TwinCAT Cloud Engineering software for IoT and Industrie 4.0 applications. Users can instantiate and use existing TwinCAT engineering and runtime products directly in the cloud. The solution is easy to access from the Beckhoff website with a web browser and requires no additional software. In addition, TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables registered users to work with the TwinCAT development environment even from previously unsupported devices, such as tablets.

TwinCAT Cloud Engineering adds a new dimension by providing users with an easy means of engineering TwinCAT instances and controllers in the cloud.

The TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instances generated by users can be connected to physical control hardware over a secure transport channel. Users not only have TwinCAT control architecture, but also distributed collaboration support through a source control repository. For new users in particular, having access to a TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instance in the cloud provides a foundation to learn how to work in the TwinCAT environment.

In addition, TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables users to move their entire TwinCAT architecture to the cloud; the only difference versus a conventional TwinCAT environment is that they use a virtual machine instead of a local PC for engineering. One advantage is that users do not need to learn a new software environment but can simply continue to work in the same, familiar development environment. Another is that they do not have to install and maintain multiple software versions tailored to specific machine generations on their own PCs. Instead, users can run separate TwinCAT Cloud Engineering instances with different software versions, all of which they can access remotely whenever they need to. Project files are stored in a source code control repository that can be accessed directly from within TwinCAT Engineering.

Based on modern source control features, connecting to Git-based systems and managing automation projects on them is easy. TwinCAT Multi-User functionality enables simple, seamless access to a source control repository without the need for special technical expertise. Here, TwinCAT Cloud Engineering enables multiple users to work together on a number of instances at the same time either by integrating a Git server into the instance or using a Git-based cloud service.

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