The CODESYS Group employs 200 people at its headquarters in Kempten/Germany and at its subsidiaries in China, Italy and the United States. The focus is on the development and marketing of the IEC 61131‑3 automation suite CODESYS and the associated product portfolio. Customers such as ABB, Beckhoff, Bosch Rexroth, Festo, Hitachi, Schneider Electric and WAGO are among the several hundreds of device manufacturers that have implemented CODESYS as the front end for their PLCs, PACs, intelligent drives, and other automation devices. These devices are used in tens of thousands of applications worldwide.

Today, about 200,000 users on all continents work with the CODESYS Development System in order to implement applications in factories, mobile machines as well, as systems for energy, process, and building automation. Renowned examples are Liebherr Mining Trucks, Packaging machines from PackSize and woodworking machines from Homag.

Interview with Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Roland Wagner | Head of Product Marketing at CODESYS Group.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Roland Wagner: We cover all relevant aspects of industrial automation, so we have development teams for PLC editors, the basic functions of the development system, and for our integrated compilers which cover the most common CPU platforms. By implementing the CODESYS Control runtime system, device manufacturers turn their intelligent devices into compatible controllers. We develop this runtime system as a base product and help our customers adapt it to their devices. In addition to this base system, there are ready-to-use SoftPLCs for a number of standard platforms available in the CODESYS Store. In our Motion team, we develop solutions for synchronized movements of axes e.g. for cam, CNC, and robots.

Furthermore, we develop and continuously improve stacks and configurators for classical and Ethernet-based fieldbus systems, such as CANopen, PROFINET, and EtherCAT. For more than 20 years, our automation suite has offered an integrated visualization. It is widely used in the community – directly within the CODESYS Development System, but also on target devices, in web browsers, or on remote PCs. For functional safety, we have special product offers for device manufacturers and machine builders in order to achieve SIL2 and SIL3 according to the safety standard IEC 61508. With the CODESYS Automation Server, we recently introduced an IIoT/Industry 4.0 platform.

As communication and cyber security are of vital importance for this product, integrated technologies for data exchange via OPC UA or MQTT are equipped with authentication, signing, and encryption in order to protect data and expertise.

E.E: What’s the news for 2021 about new products?

R.W: Our main focus is OPC UA as a communication standard. With the latest releases, CODESYS expands existing functionality: Users can now easily exchange data via OPC UA Server / Client. Device manufacturers just have to implement the necessary stack for the OPC UA server in order to provide this standard. In addition, all compatible SoftPLCs in the CODESYS Store are already equipped with OPC UA. The OPC UA Client is designed as a hardware-independent software library, which means that CODESYS users can now deploy this server / client communication on powerful PLCs. Even CODESYS HMI SL, our visualization client for IPCs, is equipped with the OPC UA client and can exchange data with any OPC UA server by means of a comfortable configurator. CODESYS OPC UA now supports xml-based information models and method calls from OPC UA clients.

For less powerful controllers, OPC UA Pub Sub communication is the right choice. This standard is also implemented as a CODESYS library. Thus, a standardized communication between controllers or controllers and other field devices can easily be realized.

Another main focus is the further development of our Industry 4.0 platform. The recently integrated Data Analyzer even won an important award in the automation community. The new functions will strongly enhance usability and security.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

R.W: We focus on three key product groups: Firstly, all products related to the CODESYS Control runtime system, based on the Runtime Toolkit, and including add-ons, e.g. for visualization, motion control or safety, and SoftPLCs. Secondly, the CODESYS Development System as an engineering platform that can be extended by add-on components for productivity increase, e.g. by performing a Static Analysis of the source code or a Profiling on the controller. Thirdly, our groundbreaking Industry 4.0 product, the CODESYS Automation Server, which we offer as Software-as-a-Service, hosted in a public cloud.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

R.W: In our main market, Factory Automation, internet technologies generate more and more benefit. The same is true for the second important market, Electrical Automation in mobile machines. As CODESYS is also successful in Energy, Process, and Building Automation, it is easy for users to combine data and technologies.

An example, the production site of a company consists of at least two parts:

  • Factory automation involving intelligent and programmable devices;
  • Building automation providing efficient solutions for infrastructure automation.

When both parts share their data, there is tremendous saving potential. For example, if the building automation knows about the weather forecast and the production queue, production processes that release a lot of thermal energy could be prioritized in case of cold weather. Thus, energy for heating can be saved. If there is a solar power plant in place, the automation systems can schedule energy demanding processes for times when the sun is shining.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

R.W: Internet and cloud technologies will be vital for the future of the automation industry. We also see standardized communication via OPC UA as a crucial approach. For both trends, CODESYS has sophisticated and user-friendly solutions.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

R.W: Certainly, the CODESYS Automation Server. Unlike other cloud-based solutions which fully focus on Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning, our Server helps to solve everyday problems in the automation world: The Server gives an instant overview of the controllers within the production site, the executed logic applications, the used firmware version and their statuses. Also, common tasks such as updating the logic application on multiple devices or replacing a broken PLC can be performed within minutes – from everywhere in the world and without traveling.

Thanks to the secure communication between the controller network and the cloud-based Automation Server, there is no more need to install security measures such as VPN tunnels manually in order to access the visualization or the logic application on the controller. The integrated Data Analyzer helps visualize and obtain data-based information from controller data.

We have devised the CODESYS Automation Server in a way that automation specialists do not need to bother about cloud account administration or specific parameters. They use the web front end in order to manage their PLCs, PLC projects, and applications. Handling is very easy, just like a Dropbox or Spotify account.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021?

R.W: As more and more automation specialists can handle high-level programming tools, we think that the acceptance for add-on-tools will increase. In this context, UML and version management with Subversion or Git will become a must-have feature for PLC programmers in addition to the mentioned Static Analysis and Profiler add-ons. By the way, the release for CODESYS Git is scheduled for July 2021.

Above all our most important estimation: Live will become „normal” again. 🙂