Siemens will be presenting a complete virtual PLC for the first time at the Hanover Fair in April. The Simatic S7-1500V expands the existing Simatic portfolio and addresses special market requirements, such as virtual hosting of PLC computing. In the future, the product range will include both hardware controllers and the virtual PLC. The new Simatic S7-1500V is part of Industrial Operations X. This is a continuously growing, interoperable portfolio geared towards production engineering, execution, and optimization which Siemens is adding to its portfolios on Siemens Xcelerator – the open, digital business platform. With Industrial Operations X, Siemens is consistently integrating IT and software capabilities into the world of automation, thus speeding up the transition from automated to highly adaptable production. After all, volatile markets, the labor shortage, and an increasing scarcity of resources all mean industrial firms have to structure their automated production more flexibly.
The virtual PLC is hardware-independent, so no specific hardware is needed. Industrial Edge Management allows the user to manage the virtual controller and other applications at a central level and adapt them flexibly to customer needs. Individual services can be booked and used in addition, so costs can be optimized. This kind of data-centered and software-based automation enables customers to respond more flexibly.
According to Siemens, vPLC projects are easier to scale, and open data interfaces mean they can be readily integrated into other IT offerings. The Simatic S7-1500V is fully compatible with the TIA portfolio. Customers can thus re-use projects and data already in the TIA Portal and reduce their level of investment.
Using the Simatic S7-1500V, manufacturers can continue to use their trusted structures while benefiting from the advantages of an IT-oriented environment. But users accustomed to IT can also work in a familiar environment using the digital controller. That simplifies the collaboration between automation engineers from the world of OT and software users in the IT field, and further advances the fusion of these two environments.
David Humphrey, ARC Advisory Group, commented, “The gravity of the launch of a virtual PLC by the market leader of traditional PLCs cannot be underestimated. Like its peers, Siemens makes a lot of profit from selling hardware, so a “soft” version of a controller that can run on any hardware must be a threat to the company’s market position. But a virtual PLC is not a soft PLC. Instead, Siemens has felt the winds of change in industrial automation with the move to virtualized architectures.
“With the launch of S7-1500V, Siemens is offering just one part of the automation architecture of the future that users are starting to demand. This new architecture supports an IT-like environment in which automation software and hardware are deployed and managed centrally like IT assets, using digital twins and asset management tools to configure, monitor and change the architecture quickly and flexibly according to evolving needs. By virtualizing the controller, the focus shifts from the task of the individual controller to its role in an extensive network of deployed automation assets.”