Automated Engineering with zenon. part 1: introduction
Automated engineering allows projects to be created partly or fully automatically. Depending on the application, this can happen by means of setting parameters in already existing wizards and tools, such as for the import/export possibilities of zenon Editor. Alternatively, however, zenon is controlled using scripts and macros or an external program, for which programming knowledge is required.
A long tradition of automated engineering in zenon
Back in 1999, with the release of zenon 5, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) was introduced in our software. Initially only for Runtime, in order to allow individual customer solutions for our standard product. Our CEO, Thomas Punzenberger, selected VBA because this programming environment, based on Visual Basic (VB) 5, was already sufficiently known from the Microsoft Office packages. The implementation was so successful that Thomas Punzenberger was even invited by Microsoft to Redmond to present the solution.
The integration of VBA was also a complete success for our customers and the wish for VBA in the Editor quickly followed. Two fundamental functions for automated engineering were ultimately integrated into zenon 6:
- VBA for the Editor
- XML export/import
The highlights of zenon 6 correspondingly included “automatic engineering” and “efficient reuse”. And this applies now more than ever. Intensive work has been dedicated to these issues in recent years. When VBA was no longer developed and .NET prevailed, we implemented Visual Studio for Applications (VSTA) in zenon – with the possibility to choose development in VB.NET or C#. In addition, we allowed XML export/import for virtually all zenon modules.
A tip at this point: the interface for VBA and VSTA is the same. With a few exceptions in the Multi-Touch environment, the same functionalities are available in VBA as in VSTA. There are, however, more possibilities outside the zenon interface in VSTA. First, a very large integrated scope of functions is available with the.NET framework 3.5 and second, VSTA supports multithreading.
In addition to VBA and VSTA, there is a third significant possibility for automation: an external program. In an external program, the zenon API is also available in full and can be used accordingly. The advantage of this option is primarily the free choice of the programming language. You can, for example, also use Java or other programming languages for your application.
In part 2 of this series you will find out more about when to use automated engineering.