The framework of VIPA

VIPA has become big and popular as a hardware supplier who produces components and systems that are programmable and configurable with Step7 from Siemens. Now the company is launching its own automation framework.

The existing philosophy can be expressed very easily: The focus of their own innovations was compatibility with Siemens systems regarding software and partly also the design. The first self-developed solutions were compact systems. In 2003 a completely new technology called SPEED7, the then fastest Hard-PLC in the industry, came onto the market. The product developed quickly to a class of controllers of its own, which on the one hand was compatible with existing standards and on the other hand defined its own standard by the integrated SPEED7 technology in terms of speed, interfaces and memory.

At the same time it became clearer and clearer that the usage of the existing software tools from Siemens combined with the possibilities of VIPA hardware could only be used with limitations or very inconveniently:

  • So the SPEED7 CPUs have more retentivity flags, additional organisation modules, integrated communication processors and Profinet or Ethercat master functionalities that require a configuration tool.
  • The use of the Speed bus, besides the classical serial backplane bus, ensures a fast communication with the input and output modules and the communication processors. This is not available in any other systems and hence makes them cumbersome to configure.
  • The new I/O system SLIO with the networking via Profinet, Ethercat and Profibus will soon have powerful SPEED7 CPUs which simply have to be configured and programmed.

So an engineering tool was required with which these components combine to a system on the one hand and on the other hand allow the technical possibilities of the VIPA controllers to be used without detours.

The development goals

One of the targets of the development team was to filter the best out of the existing software worlds that are VIPA, Simatic, IEC and IT and fit them together to a new framework. Ultimately specifications arose with following development premises:

  • The focus as a user is on the programmer.
  • The user interface has to be intuitive, clear and up to date and has to have preinstalled elements from the library.
  • The user interface must enable the immediate start into the configuration and programming without having to learn a software from basics.
  • The syntax of S7 programming should be implemented.
  • The editors STL, FBD and LAD and later SCL should be part of the framework.
  • The existing and written code, for example of a Step7 CPU, should be imported and hence continue to be used.
  • Editors and debug tools should simplify the finding and the diagnosis of bugs, already during the programming and later during installation.
  • The software should be scalable, equipped with variable level that can be adapted to different skills of the programmers whether basic, standard or advanced level.

In terms of structure the following was required:

Consistency: Homogeneous engineering whether hardware configuration, communication and programming, or visualization.

Multiuser capability: Central data storage enables parallel working on a project.

Scalability by easy plug in mechanism.

Multilingual: Easy language switching in the middle of the programming process.

An engineering tool was created that consistently visualizes the entire automation process from hardware configuration via communication and programming up to visualization. Intuitive user interfaces enable immediate access into different modules – so additional tools from third-party suppliers for hardware configuration, networking of different field buses, programming or visualization and operation of the installations are not required anymore.

Up to date technologies as a basis

During the development of the engineering framework the newest technologies and tools such as .Net 4.0 and vector based UI visualization with Windows Presentation Foundation were applied. Hardware configuration, networking, programming and visualization use the central, SQL server based database.  So, for example, it is possible to access the variables of the controller directly during the implementation of the visualization without the requirement of data synchronization between different tools. With the database approach SPEED7 studio is already prepared for the creation and management of multi-user projects and version management.

All graphics used are vector oriented and are used for example for the photo realistic display of the modules and so enables zooming without loss. All graphical user interfaces are multilingual – so with SPEED7 Studio it is also possible to switch the language of the surface and menus during programming to simplify working in an international environment.

By using the latest software architectures it is possible - if required - to expand the range of functions of the engineering tools via plug-in mechanisms, or to adapt to new requirements.

The hardware configuration

The hardware configuration itself was not reinvented. But now it is possible to configure VIPA controllers which have Speedbus, Profibus, Ehtercat or Profinet as well as Speed7 CPUs, communication processors or SLIO-I/Os with all VIPA-specific parameters without detours, whereby the required variables in the CPU are created automatically.

The users are supported by pre-defined devices templates during the configuration of the hardware that can be inserted in the appropriate space by Drag&Drop. The user maintains the overview by colored markings (figure 1).

During the parameterization of the modules, values which do not correspond to the default values or are faulty are color-coded; the Tool-Tipp gives additional information about Min, Max or Default definitions.

As the display is based on vector oriented graphics, the photo realistic display of the modules contributes highly to the clarity – the user sees the hardware in front of him which enables very intuitive work.

The networking

The configuration of the networking via Profibus, Profinet and Ethercat with VIPA's own tool does not require any fieldbus specific knowledge. Rather the SPEED7 Studio makes different device templates available that are used to configure the networking graphically. With the devices templates it is possible to effect an executable configuration quickly or to implement changes.

The device templates include the VIPA 300S CPUs, the SLIO Profibus and Ethercat interface modules, the Eco panels, the Professional panels and the analog and digital 300S and SLIO I/Os (figure 2).


For programming the programming languages STL, FBD and LAD can be used, the realization of SCL is under preparation.

As a structuring support in the textual programming through syntax highlighting, for example, comments, commands, symbols or jumps are distinguished by color. Additionally notes are stored in the code or "Regions" are defined to allow a clearer display of the STL.

Different colors are used for various groups of modules in the graphic programming language simplifying the functional allocation.

The syntax check occurs “on the fly” already during the input of the program code. Thus the input is permanently checked and possible errors are immediately indicated to the user. For diagnosis the latest values can be seen online in the chip or in the monitoring chart. Also a history and a trend graph are available here (figure 3).

The visualization

With SPEED7 Studio the user has the possibility to create a web-based visualization. For this the SVG graphic editor is available to create single pages.

Pre-built elements from the library make the design particularly easy. The central data storage in the engineering tool also allows access to all variables of the controller.

The visualization created is not only accessible via a conventional touch panel, but additionally via all browser capable mobile terminal devices as Tablet PCs or Smartphones. Only a Java capable web browser is required.

Further features of the tool are the loss free, zoom capable SVG vector graphics, pre-configured dynamizations and objects, object-oriented parameterization and scripting on client side.

The target group

On the one hand the target group are users, who completely deploy VIPA hardware and want to find themselves in the familiar S7 world.

But on the other hand the typical Simatic user, who already deploys VIPA and Siemens in mixed configurations, should also be addressed by the framework because for him the “mixed operation” makes things simpler. For this reason it is planned to put selected Siemens components into the hardware catalogue in the future.

The third target group is represented by VIPA's hardware brand label partners who are able to use the tool completely in their own design. They get a programming and configuration tool tailored to the hardware they use by means of the modular design and scalability.

The prospect

With SPEED7 Studio, VIPA presents an engineering tool that consistently shows the entire automation process from the hardware configuration via the communication and programming up to the visualization. Here the framework is not intended to show or replace a TIA portal from Siemens, but to ideally deploy VIPA controllers and components as a small and fast tool, while retaining the familiar S7 syntax.

The framework is the “software backbone” for future VIPA developments. The planned portfolio expansion towards Safety Control and Motion can be supported effectively in terms of programming and configuration.

Especially the application level of the customer will be supported stronger in the future. The user will be able to develop modules for his plants or applications by ready-made application modules with which he can then configure his machine or system completely by Plug&Play. VIPA also will provide pre-fabricated templates and technology libraries for various applications and solutions in the future that can be implemented directly into the project by the customer including configuration and programming.

Authors: Nils Gotha, co-worker in the Team SPEED7 Studio of the VIPA software development and Norbert Schlimm, co-worker in the Marketing dept.

Released in Computer & Automation - 11/14/2012