The release of Version of 10 is the most significant since the original product launch with a new web user interface and restructured architecture to separate and protect the critical engine layer of control and PLC interface.
Software for life
The new AutoPilot4Feed Version 10 is a major development that effectively provides mill control software for life with regular updates as part of the maintenance / licence subscription fee for the following: –
- User interface improvements
- New functionality
- Reporting improvements
- Software patches
- Microsoft compatibility updates
- Plan4Feed (Visual production planning) updates
- CMMS4Feed (Plant maintenance scheduling) updates
- OEE4Feed (Mill performance monitoring) updates
Version 10 has a new slick intuitive web browser graphics interface; an example is shown below.
The web mimics are accessible from any standard browser like Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Apple Safari. Therefore access to AutoPilot4Feed is no longer limited to Microsoft Windows devices and client installation and set-up is an eliminated task.
The web based mimics provide a number of usability improvements as follows:-
- Quick access to view day programme from header bar
- Simulation mode to display hidden fault signals and allow fail simulation for training and testing
- Number of acknowledged and unacknowledged alarms displayed on header bar with quick access view and highest priority alarm displayed in header.
- Click on item to view item override / alarm accept options
- Item overrides displayed a paler shade of their status
- Slider controls for variable speed manual control
- Single tile or multiple tile display
- Light / Dark mode display
- Quick access menu options configurable per user
- Language switchable on the fly
- Multiple tabs and multiple browser instances allow a customisable view of everything the operator needs
The new mimics are drawn in true vector-based graphics software such as Inkscape (free open-source) or Adobe Illustrator. Vector graphics have several advantages over including: –
- They have “infinite” resolution.
- They are scalable.
- They are lightweight (small file size)
- They are intuitively created.
- They are easily manipulated.
- They can be edited with code.
The scalability of the vector graphics allows them to be viewed on any size screen without losing their integrity. The mimics are even viewable on a Smart Phone browser albeit the size of screen limits the practicability for everyday use.
Making mimic changes is simple as all animated parts of the display are object orientated with an ID to link them to a AutoPilot4Feed module. Therefore moving and changing the mimics is straightforward and possible to be edited by end users. It requires just two steps; save the changes in the vector graphics package and then reload through the browser interface. The AutoPilot4Feed software will then animate the revised image accordingly with the configurable colour and display settings for each object. Adding new items to the mimics involves creating the new modules in AutoPilot4Feed but it is much quicker than previous versions.
DSL Systems are continually expanding the range of template items available for inclusion on mimic drawings.
Smart Phone and Tablets
Smart Phones and tablets are particularly useful for accessing the AutoPilot4Feed mill control system on the move. One of the handiest features is accessing equipment status and override facility. A specific Smart Phone page has been designed for this. Access can be set-up via a QR code label and stuck on the equipment. Future planned enhancements include press control adjustments, hand tip screen, user notifications, driver self-service operation.
Smart Phones also work well for engineers using the CMMS4Feed maintenance scheduling software where they can pick up their assigned tasks and view the associated documentation such as instruction manuals, health & safety information, pictures of equipment, work instructions etc.
The mimic web pages and forms are published from the local site control server and therefore are protected by your own network security policies and firewalls. The new software is not cloud based and therefore any interruption in internet connection will not interfere with production. Remote access can be provided via a secure VPN connection and then using a web browser to access the system.
Security has been further improved in Version 10 with the AutoPilot4Feed software running as a service on the control server. Therefore a user no longer needs to be logged in on the server.
Users and roles