In today’s assembly plants, software has become every bit as important to product assembly as robots, riveters and nutrunners. In fact, in some machines, software accounts for more than 50 percent of value creation. Software determines the flexibility, connectivity, availability and ease of operation of machines and systems.

That’s not to say, however, that automation software should be complicated. Ideally, automation technology should mesh with information technology with as little effort as possible. Software development would be much easier if automation systems use the same communication standards and programming environments as the IT world. That is the premise behind Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX AUTOMATION family of products.

The ctrlX CORE controller was designed to be an open system, using open-source Linux as an operating system and moving away from proprietary hardware requirements. This makes it easy to expand hardware functions and capabilities based on market feedback and customer requirements. The idea is to give engineers the flexibility to add automation functions via app, making automation as easy to use as a smartphone. Need to create a web-based dashboard to monitor the performance of an assembly system? There’s an app for that. Want to upload data from your assembly line to the cloud? There’s an app for that.

Apps are available through the ctrlX store. Engineers also have the option to create their own customized applications and libraries. Users can purchase any app in the ctrlX store and install it on ctrlX CORE.

In addition to apps developed by Bosch Rexroth, the ctrlX store also features an increasing number of apps from third-party providers. For example, engineers can integrate apps with artificial intelligence for process improvements or use smart software expansions for mechanical systems such as gearboxes or gripping and clamping systems. The portfolio of apps also covers areas such as IT security, connectivity, manufacturing IT, voice recognition and visualizations.

“Our ctrlX store is part of the ecosystem surrounding our automation platform,” says Pedro Reboredo, head of digital platforms within the Automation and Electrification Solutions Business Unit at Bosch Rexroth. “The related ctrlX World for partners and the ctrlX AUTOMATION community are continuing to grow. The aim of the ctrlX store is to make functionalities and apps easy for users to access, in a way which is familiar to them from the world of smartphones. We want to make users’ day-to-day work easier, literally at the press of a button.”

More than 300 companies have created ctrlX apps, and 43 “ecosystem partners” have been published in the ctrlX app store. Here are a few of the available apps:

  • OPC UA Client App from Bosch Rexroth. With the OPC UA Client App, the ctrlX CORE can access each connected OPC UA server and retrieve the provided data. When used with Bosch’s OPC UA Server App, standardized machine-to-machine communication is possible. The data that the OPC UA client reads is made available in the ctrlX CORE data layer. As a result, the data is available to all apps on the ctrlX CORE.

  • Vision suite from HD Vision Systems. Simple, fast and intuitive, the software enables engineers to automate a variety of object-handling and inspection tasks via an intuitive, “no-code” user interface.

  • AnyViz Cloud Adapter from Mirasoft connects the ctrlX Data Layer to the AnyViz Cloud. Data used by the cloud is collected locally and transmitted in encrypted form. If the connection fails, the data is buffered locally. With AnyViz Cloud, engineers can keep track of their industrial assets. Visualizations, graphical analysis and reports can be created with just a few clicks. Key performance indicators and energy evaluations help to optimize processes and increase efficiency.

  • HMI Designer from WebIQ. This app enables engineers to create web-based HMIs for ctrlX CORE without programming expertise. It has an intuitive graphical editor with drag-and-drop capability. More than 50 web widgets are integrated in the software, which offers multiple options for configuration, layout and styling.

More apps are forthcoming. In September, Bosch announced the “ctrlX developR challenge,” an international competition for software developers to create apps for the ctrlX AUTOMATION family of products. The challenge is aimed at developers from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, North America, France, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, UK, Ireland and Denmark.

Participating developers will be supported in the implementation of their ideas by specialist mentors from Bosch Rexroth and its partners in ctrlX World. An online forum, the ctrlX AUTOMATION Community, is also available for questions and discussions related to the competition.

Developers will be given all hardware and software needed to develop apps. The Challenge Kit includes the ctrlX CORE and other ctrlX AUTOMATION components as needed.

Apps can be developed in one of five categories:

  • Simplify engineering. Who connects complex processes, systems and applications and makes them quicker, simpler and easier to operate? From IoT solutions and Node-RED to the use of power functions for automating engineering routines.

  • Extend and connect. Who extends the existing ctrlX AUTOMATION infrastructure in the cleverest, most creative and the most useful way? Everything revolves around extensions, APIs and robotics projects here.

  • Smarten up automation. Who teaches systems to think, work and play independently and without supervision? This is an opportunity for AI applications or condition-monitoring apps.

  • Empower the user. Who uses ctrlX AUTOMATION tools most effectively to maximize the benefits and simplify operation? From human-computer interaction and mobile automation and robotics to projects with a positive influence on society and our planet.

  • Create your own. Who has an idea for a completely new application that goes beyond all imagination and the given categories?

The deadline to register for the competition is Dec. 31, 2021. Developers will then have until April 30, 2022, to create their apps. Afterwards, finalists will be selected. These developers will then present their results to the jury in a pitch event. The jury will evaluate the ideas and implementation methods and select the winners.

For more information about the challenge, click here: http://www.ctrlx-developr-challenge.com.

For more information on ctrlX AUTOMATION, visit: www.boschrexroth.com/ctrlxautomation