OPC Empowers Fire Equipment Manufacturer
to Integrate Non-Windows Based Systems
Since 1971, Task Force Tips (TFT) in Valparaiso, Indiana has manufactured high quality water delivery solutions to clients worldwide. Their focus is on
nozzles for the firefighting industry but their product offerings include hoses, valves, nozzles for de-icing, and foam solutions. If you've ever sat on a runway
and watched your plane be de-iced, there's a good chance, a Task Force Tips product was being used.
For many years TFT has had a robotic picker picking from hundreds of parts bins along a 100 foot multi-level picking line. The robot was controlled by a COBOL
program via serial connection running on a Linux box. This picking line had become problematic with frequent breakdowns and slow response time to commands.
The team at TFT began to explore solutions to make the line more reliable and efficient. To accomplish this, they began by completely overhauling the robot.
For control, they chose Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLCs and A-B servo drives. The question for TFT then became, how to maintain their control program on the
Linux box and use it to pass commands to the ControlLogix PLC.
After many hours researching OPC and how it would be useful to their application, Stewart McMillan, President of TFT, contacted Software Toolbox.
Software Toolbox provided Stewart with a solution using the TOP Server OPC Server and the Cogent OPC DataHub that fit the needs and the budget of the
project. Using the TOP Server Allen-Bradley driver suite (specifically, ControlLogix Ethernet driver) and the OPC DataHub the existing COBOL program
was able to be retained for use with the new and improved control hardware. As Stewart McMillan says, "It is magical what this can do for our application. The
OPC DataHub and TOP Server allow the PLC to share any data point through ODBC to any database connection. The possibilities that this opens up for real
-time connections between PLCs and corporate data processing systems will bend your imagination."
How it works
In this application the TOP Server OPC Server is connected to the ControlLogix PLC and the OPC DataHub. The OPC DataHub through its ODBC interface is
connected to an ODBC data source. The COBOL program passes commands as parameters to this data source, which the OPC DataHub reads into OPC data points which then are written
through TOP Server to the PLC for control. The responses to these commands are then passed back through this chain to the ODBC data source to be read by the COBOL program to determine the
next step in the sequence.
TFT has seen significant improvement in efficiency of the line and to date, has nearly eliminated downtime on the line.
According to Stewart McMillan, "It is really a pretty unique application. It is so much faster than what we had before! Now we
are trying to find other problems to solve. This solution has been VERY effective for our business results."
Other ways OPC DataHub can connect to non-Windows Operating Systems
In this application, the connection to the Linux Cobol systems was done by actually connecting to a database. OPC
DataHub has several other ways that it can connect to non-Windows Operating Systems:
- OPC DataHub for Linux and QNX: versions of OPC DataHub for Linux and QNX are available that then connect to
the OPC DataHub on Windows to move data via TCP/IP. A robust, feature rich API for Linux and QNX makes it easy to integrate the data into your Linux or QNX applications.
- TCP/IP Interface: OPC DataHub offers a TCP/IP interface that with the purchase of a TCP Link License, you can use
the documented TCP command set for DataHub to read/write data from a Windows based OPC DataHub that you
install on the PC where your OPC Data source is. That OPC DataSource could be an OPC Server for your PLC/DCS
or your HMI/DCS system itself. If you are using a non-Windows OS and you can open a socket, send a documented
command, and parse a string response, then you can connect your OS to OPC DataHub. We've done this with VMS, AS/400, IBM Mainframes, and more.
Want to Learn More?
Talk to us
Ready to talk about your application or problem? Contact us for a free application evaluation! Unlike others, we don't hide our experts.
Give us a call toll free on 1-888-665-3678. Tell us about your challenges and we'll listen, understand your requirements,
and see if we can show you how we can help you solve your problems.
Or go to support.softwaretoolbox.com and click "Ask a Question". There you can tell us about your application, upload any
drawings that might help us understand your need, and an experienced engineer will reply or give you a call to talk about your needs.
Watch our videos
Learn more about OPC DataHub to watching one of our free videos or recorded webinars.
Try our tools
Download a free demo version of OPC DataHub. If you have any questions as you try it out, do call us - our support is free
and equally available even though you're just trying out a demo!