PC based PLCs and ethernet based fieldbus: the new standard platform for future VLT instrument control
Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy III
ESO is currently in the final phase of the standardization process for PC-based Programmable Logical Controllers (PLCs) as the new platform for the development of control systems for future VLT/VLTI instruments. The standard solution used until now consists of a Local Control Unit (LCU), a VME-based system having a CPU and commercial and proprietary boards. This system includes several layers of software and many thousands of lines of code developed and maintained in house. LCUs have been used
... or several years as the interface to control instrument functions but now are being replaced by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems based on BECKHOFF Embedded PCs and the EtherCAT fieldbus. ESO is working on the completion of the software framework that enables a seamless integration into the VLT control system in order to be ready to support upcoming instruments like ESPRESSO and ERIS, that will be the first fully VLT compliant instruments using the new standard. The technology evaluation and standardization process has been a long and combined effort of various engineering disciplines like electronics, control and software, working together to define a solution that meets the requirements and minimizes the impact on the observatory operations and maintenance. This paper presents the challenges of the standardization process and the steps involved in such a change. It provides a technical overview of how industrial standards like EtherCAT, OPC-UA, PLCOpen MC and TwinCAT can be used to replace LCU features in various areas like software engineering and programming languages, motion control, time synchronization and astronomical tracking.