What is Rockwell Automation's Connected Components Platform?

A comple introduction to Rockwell Automation's Connected Components platform, the components that make up the Connected Components platform, and an overview of its typical applications and architectures.

Connected Components is a control platform from Rockwell Automation that is designed to be low-cost and easy to use.

Anyone who has read the blog before knows that I am a big fan of the Connected Components platform for learning PLC programming. That’s why I use it to teach people how to write and test their first PLC program in PLC Bootcamp and to develop a portfolio of projects in Applied PLC Programming.

In this post, I will provide an overview of what the Connected Components platform is and why it is popular with machine builders (and aspiring PLC programmers) around the world.

What is the Connected Components Platform?

Rockwell Automation is a leading manufacturer of automation products.

They make high-end controllers like the ControlLogix controller, high-end HMI terminals like the PanelView 5000, and other premium automation products including variable frequency drive, servo drives, and safety-rated hardware.

But not every company wants, or needs, to use high-end products.

There are a lot of machine builders out there who build simple machines that can be made up of simple automation products.

The Connected Components platform is Rockwell Automation’s solution for these lower-end machine builders.

The Connected Components platform offers:

  • Reduced software costs by offering a single free software tool that is used to design, configure, and program all of the hardware in the Connected Components portfolio.
  • Reduced hardware costs by offering a full portfolio of affordable automation products including PLCs, HMIs, servo drives, variable frequency drives, configurable safety relays, soft starters, and more.
  • Reduced supply chain costs by allowing a machine builder to order all of the hardware they need for a project from a single supplier with a single delivery schedule.

Basically, the Connected Components platform allows machine builders to reduce their costs and use high-quality, globally recognized hardware in their machines.

This is great news for aspiring PLC programmers too. The Connected Components platform provides free software (including a PLC simulator) to learn with and, when you are ready to invest in hardware, affordable hardware to play around with.

What Components Make Up the Connected Components Platform?

As I have hinted at already, the Connected Components platform is made up of hardware and software components.

On the hardware side, the Connected Components platform includes all of the automation products required to realize a machine. This includes Micro800 PLCs, PanelView 800 and PanelView Component HMIs, PowerFlex variable frequency drive, Kinetix servo drives, CR30 configurable safety relays, and more.

As well as these main hardware products, the Connected Components platform includes components to build the underlying infrastructure for a machine. These components include;

(1) Transformers and power supplies to supply power to the control system

(2) MCBs and surge protection devices to protect the control system

(3) Signal conditioners and relays to convert signals

(4) Terminal blocks and wiring system to connect components

(5) Command and indication devices like push buttons, selector switches, and pilot lights to provide interfaces to the control system

From a hardware perspective, the Connected Components platform has every component that you need to build a control system. Each component can be ordered from a single supplier and is designed to integrate easily with other components in the platform.

Connected Components Hardware Overview

As well as the hardware components, the Connected Components platform includes software components.

The most important software component is the Connected Components Workbench software. This is a single software tool that is used to design, configure, and program all of the intelligent devices in a Connected Components control system.

Connected Components Workbench can be used to program Micro800 PLCs, develop PanelView HMI applications, parameterize PowerFlex and Kinetix drives, and configure CR30 configurable safety relays.

For more details about what is possible with Connected Components Workbench, check out my article “Introduction to Connected Components Workbench” and when you are ready to start using Connected Components Workbench check this post for a complete guide to downloading and installing the software.

The Connected Components platform also includes productivity tools to help OEMs design and develop their control systems faster.

The Connected Components Accelerator Toolkit makes it easier for an automation designer to select the products to use in a machine and generates most of the content needed to specify, document, and program a machine.

Outputs of the Connected Components Accelerator Toolkit include an editable project document, bills of materials, CAD drawings, product manuals, PLC logic, and HMI screens.

As you can imagine, the Connected Components Accelerator Toolkit is an invaluable tool that can help machine builders massively decrease the time it takes to design and build a new machine. This decrease in engineering time leads to reduced costs per machine and increased profit margins for the machine builder.

What Applications Is the Connected Components Application Used For?

The Connected Components platform can be used as the control system for low-end applications in almost any industry including packaging, process, material handling, energy and manufacturing and assembly.

In any of these industries, the Connected Components platform can help machine builders

  • to make better use of their engineering resources by consolidating the number of software tools they have to use to engineer the controls system,
  • to improve the functionality of their machines by using building blocks provided by Rockwell Automation and their partners,
  • to add value to their machines using the standardized diagnostic screens generated by the Connected Components Accelerator Toolkit,
  • to simplify their ordering by getting all of their hardware components in one place, and
  • to reduce the cost of designing, engineering, building, and commissioning their machines.

Typical applications identified by Rockwell Automation and Connected Component architectures include;

Vertical Form, Fill, and Seal Machines

Vertical Form, Fill, and Seal Machines

Material Handling Systems

Material Handling Systems

Shearing Machine with Flying Cut

Shearing Machine with Flying Cut

Shrink Sleeving Machine

Shrink Sleeving Machine

Solar Panel Positioning

Solar Panel Positioning

Stamping Press Machine

Stamping Press Machine

You can learn more about these applications on Rockwell Automation’s Connected Components microsite.

Wrap Up

In this post, you learned what the Connected Components Platform is and why it is an excellent platform for both machine builders and aspiring PLC programmers.

After learning what the platform is, you saw what components make up the Connected Components platform and how the platform can be used to tackle typical automation applications.

If you would like to learn more about the components of the Connected Components platform, I highlight recommend that you check out my introduction to Connected Components Workbench.

If you are interested in learning how to program PLCs using Connected Components Workbench, check out my beginner PLC course, PLC Bootcamp, or my comprehensive guide to programming industrial automation projects, Applied PLC Programming.

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