High-Level Engineering for Automation: Conceptual-Level Design, Production and Diagnostics Support


Keywords PLCs, CAD, automation, diagnosis, OOD, design, simulation

Start Date: 01-JUL-92 / Duration: 39 months

[ contact / participants ]

Objectives and Approach

HERACLES provides an integrated set of tools covering the following areas: intelligent CAD, PLC programming using state-of-the-art editing techniques, incorporation of existing hand-written PLC code, simulation of the design, monitoring of both the simulation and the completed plant, and diagnostic support for the completed plant. The fundamental concept is the "object", which is a component of the plant which has both hardware and software aspects. The user can build up a component library of re-usable templates for these objects, so that when a new object is generated from a template and is placed on the CAD drawings, the associated PLC code is also generated, keeping the hardware and software designs synchronised. All information (other than CAD information) about the objects is stored in a project database. Information can be extracted from this database to supply the simulator (a third party product), the monitoring system, and the diagnostic system. The user never has to provide a piece of information more than once, measuring the consistency of the whole system. Mechanisms are provided to encourage the re-use and modification of templates, both within a single plant design and passing on from one design project to the next.

HERACLES has been designed as an open system, with all information passing through the project database. The neutral interface to this database is intended to make it simple to replace any part of the system, so that customers with a preference for other software (eg a different monitoring system or a different CAD modeler) can be accommodated. The consortium intends to encourage third-party software suppliers to integrate their software with the HERACLES system.

Progress and Results

A prototype system has been implemented on the Sun Unix platform, using Motif as a user interface standard. Some development is taking place on SCO Unix, and Windows NT is being evaluated as a possible future platform.

The third-party AutoCAD CAD modeler and ALPAGE-ELEC electrical CAD tool have been augmented by an intelligent CAD module (CAD-XI), which allows the specification and enforcement of design rules for the mechanical design. CAD-XI has a neutral interface to the CAD modeler, giving the possibility of different CAD modelers.

The PLC code templates are generated with a GUI-based editor based on the "state-chart" method. This allows a higher-level view of the design and the software interaction of different objects than is possible using traditional editors (which are typically based on text input, relay diagrams, or some representation equivalent to state-transtition diagrams). However it is fully capable of the detailed control of PLCs provided by traditional methods. Output is IEC1131-3 compliant PLC code (equivalent C code will be generated in the next version). Both of these modules deposit data in the component library and project database by interfacing with the "Library Manager" server process, which provides the application-neutral interface to the data. A simple user-interface (the Library Maintenance Tool) is provided for the Library Manager, but it is expected that the user will usually interact with the CAD tool and the PLC tool.

A third-party simulation tool has been interfaced to the system. All dependence on this particular simulator has been confined to a small program (a compiler) which can be replaced if another simulator should be required. The COROS monitoring system has been interfaced by similar means.

The multi-model diagnostic system from the previous EP5114 DIREK project has been used and updated to draw most of its information from the project database, forming a model of the plant which can reason from symptom to cause. This system is greatly superior to an "expert system", in that it minimises the use of the time of design engineers and can produce correct diagnoses for faults which have not been seen before. It is useful in the set-up and debugging phase of a plant and can be used by maintenance engineers, but it is particularly intended to be usable by shopfloor workers.


The project has been publicised at CIM-Europe 93, at a SIRA forum on engineering software, and at an IMechE/IEE form on OO methods. The project has been featured in The Engineer and Current Research in Library and Information Science, and a paper proposal has been submitted for the next ILCE conference.


A market survey has been performed, including interviews with potential customers, and an exploitation plan developed. The natural route of exploitation is through Siemens AUT and Kadetech Recherche. The product offered to customers will be the central database and component library, together with those parts of the toolset which are of use to them; HERACLES is a modular design to support this. Although current development has centered on two flavours of Unix, it is intended that Windows NT will be supported in the exploitation phase.


Mr Marco Rosazza
SNIA Fibre
Funzione Impianti
Via Friuk 55
I - 20031 Cesano Maderno
tel: + 39/362 514267
fax: + 39/362 514600
telex: 320503 SNIAFJ



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HERACLES - 6464, December 1993

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html version of synopsis by Nick Cook