PI (Profibus and Profinet International) has completed the TCI (Tool Calling Interface) specification after less than a year of development work. TCI is manufacturer-independent and allows dynamic parameters to be loaded to Profibus and Profinet devices without having to exit the automation-system engineering tool. This makes it much quicker and easier for users to configure their systems and machines.
Intelligent field devices, which preprocess system data or take over defined partial functionalities (eg laser scanners), usually require system-specific parameters in order to work in the best possible way in a particular environment. Previously it was not possible to create and load these dynamic parameters directly with the automation-system engineering tool, meaning that engineers have to use an additional, manufacturer-specific engineering tool for each device type.
With TCI, PI has developed a concept that defines a calling interface for the device engineering tool and the automation-system engineering tool, thus supporting and standardising communication with field devices over network boundaries. From the user's point of view, integrating TCI is said to be as simple as installing a printer on a PC. The manufacturer of an intelligent field device simply has to supply an installation program for the device engineering tool, a functional description in the form of an XML file and the device engineering tool itself.
TCI functionality provides:
The manufacturer of an intelligent field device defines the functionality of the device engineering tool in an XML file. The tool can be configured in such a way that it can be used for several different field devices. The communication interface integrated in the engineering tool does not require the system engineer to have any specific communication knowledge. The engineer can establish communication with the device and parameterise and diagnose Profibus and Profinet devices without any additional effort. An associated feature is a standardised storage path within an automation project. This common data storage enables all parameters and programs stored during system engineering to be archived and/or reloaded.
PI has developed the TCI specification in close collaboration with AIDA (Automatisierungsinitiative Deutscher Automobilhersteller – Automation Initiative of German Automobile Manufacturers). All the requirements of this important group of users were agreed with PI experts and included in the specification. AIDA also expressed its desire that the TCI be introduced quickly and consistently.
TCI's functionality was demonstrated at the PNO stand at the SPS/IPC/DRIVES 2006 by means of the STEP 7 engineering tool and various device engineering tools.
The TCI specification is freely available and can be downloaded (free of charge for PI members) from www.profibus.com.