Industrial PCs take on new functions

A roundup of products new to the market shows the advanced computing functions and diversification of industrial PCs is allowing new forms and new functions for process control applications.

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Jim MontagueBy Jim Montague, Executive Editor

The ever-increasing capacity and ever-shrinking size of microprocessors is driving computers into previously undreamed of forms and functions, and industrial PCs and PLCs are along for the ride. Not only have computing functions for process control moved into HMIs and PLCs, they’ve also migrated into network gateways and switches, I/O modules and connectors, headless devices, embedded and chip-based settings and other applications.

Ironically, the diversification that gives each device and module a microprocessor, Ethernet, USB ports, and Internet capabilities also makes many of these solutions increasingly homogenous. Consequently, technological boundaries aren’t just blurring anymore. Some formerly distinct technologies are overlapping to the point that they’re simply plopping down on each other like a stack of pancakes.


Product Roundup:
Industrial PCs

Rack-Mount PAC
Snap PAC R-series PACs are “on-the-I/O-rack” controllers for cell control, data acquisition and remote monitoring applications. Snap PAC-R2 version supports up to 512 points of Snap analog, digital and serial I/O modules. Besides I/O processing, Snap-PAC-R2 offers PID loop control, floating point math and string handling, as well as dual Ethernet communications with serial PPP. Snap-PAC-R2 also includes two independent, auto-negotiating 10/100 Mbps Ethernet interfaces. Opto 22; 800-321-OPTO; www.opto22.com

Fanless PC with PCI Expansion
UNO-3062L is an industrial fanless PC with a Celeron processor, two PCI extensions, one internal CF slot and dual power inputs. Connections on UNO-3062L are located on the front panel to simplify wiring and maintenance, and its compact 140x177x237 mm chassis also eases installation in a control cabinet. UNO-3062L’s XPe OS is preconfigured to optimize onboard device drivers and performance. Advantech; 800/205-7940; www.eautomationpro.com/us

Preloaded Panel PCs
Gold Series panel PCs are preloaded with Microsoft Windows XP Professional, and have 8-, 10-, 15- and 17-in. touchscreen displays. The 8-in. PC108A includes a 40-G hard drive, Ethernet and compact flash. Gold Series also features anodized aluminum enclosures and fully sealed front panels. Hardware upgrades include processor and memory improvements, compact Flash slots and optional CD/DVD R/W. Maple Systems; 425/745-3229; www.maplesystems.com

Control for I/O System
750-840 series Profinet-enabled programmable controller can be used as a standalone PLC or as an intelligent slave in a distributed/decentralized control network. 750-840 compiles with Profinet RT specification V. 2.01 and features a 32-bit, multi-tasking CPU, 256 KB or program memory, 128KB data memory, 24KB of retentive memory and a real-time clock. It also supports many common Ethernet protocols such as HTTP, BootP, DHCP, DNS, SNTP, FTP, SNMP and SMTP for system management and diagnostics. Wago; 800/DIN-RAIL; www.wago.com

Tiny PLC, More Features
FPΣ V3 compact (30x90x60 mm) PLC has a RISC-based processor operating at 0.32 µsec (micro seconds) per basic instruction. This allows fast floating-point calculation, two built-in axes of motion with linear/circular interpolation (expandable to 10 axes), PID instruction supporting up to 24 loops and four channels of built-in counters. FPΣ supports up to three serial ports configurable for Modbus RTU, and up to 384 I/O points. Panasonic Electric Works Corp. of America (formerly Aromat); 908/464-3550, x2023; www.pewa.panasonic.com

One-Third-Size PLC for Retrofits
At one-third the size of competing products, ELC PLC can retrofit more I/O into a given space. ELC has multiple communications ports, remote I/O ability, data-collection storage, high-speed counters and pulse outputs, ramps, trapezoids, floating point math, interrupts, timer resolution to 1 ms. and PIDs. Users also can expand ELC from 10 to 256 I/O using the same controller, and its no-rack design allows modules to be added by snapping into mating connectors. Eaton Corp., Industrial Control division; 800/809-2772; www.EatonElectrical.com

Powerful and Reliable Industrial Computers 
Slot-based CPUs in these industrial PCs enable implementation of Celeron M and Pentium M processors. These CPUs also offer more processing power and 24 times more video memory than previously. To enable complex graphic display in an easy-to-read screen resolution, new 17-in. and 19-in. color TFT touchscreen sizes have been added. Two standard Ethernet ports and side and front USB ports allow for flexible connectivity. Phoenix Contact; 800/322-3225; www.phoenixcon.com 

Embedded PC Cuts Size, Energy Consumption
CX9000 embedded PC features XScale technology for greater energy efficiency and a compact, I/O bus coupler-sized housing. It also includes a 100-MB Ethernet connection as standard, and an energy-saving, 266-MHz Intel IXP420 CPU with XScale technology that runs Microsoft Windows CE as the operating system. CX9000 has a DIN-rail mounting, and can be combined with Beckhoff’s I/O bus terminals or EtherCAT I/O terminals. Beckhoff Automation LLC; 952/890-0000; www.beckhoffautomation.com

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