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By Patti Pool, products editor
I/O and terminal blocks were often referred to in the old days as the Legos of industrial automation, but they are anything but a play toy. They are at the heart of any automation system and vital to the successful functioning of any system. Some products are basic modules, while others are complex systems. I talked to a few vendors to see what they felt are some of the latest trends in I/O. Here’s what I found out.
Robb Black at TURCK remarked that “the trend is definitely going to be Ethernet. Any flavor. There are several types of Ethernet and depending on the customers PLC or DCS system, that will determine which flavor of Ethernet. In the case of AllenBradley, it will be Ethernet IP; Siemens will be Profinet; DCS systems will go with Ethernet or potentially Foundation Fieldbus HSE. The largest Ethernet solution for the future will be Modbus TCP. This is the mostly widely used Ethernet and will continue to be through 2010, according to the VDC study of June 2006. Ethernet will also make its way into safety networks with Profisafe and Ethernet I/P Safety. With the shift to Ethernet-based, architecture-based systems, you are also seeing the customer base going away from proprietary-based software solutions and moving toward ‘open’ architecture”.
Over at WAGO, Mark DeCramer, product manager, WAGO-I/O-System remarks, “downsizing is in—especially in the case of industrial control cabinets. A new breed of control components are being designed for cabinet-less installation, minimizing the use of control and distribution boxes, while maximizing floor space and safety. New remote I/O and controller products are machine-mountable and eliminate costly cabinets and wiring while opening sight-lines for increased safety. Standardized cables and IP67 compliance mean this new breed is ready for the most aggressive environments.”
On another front, Jerry Penick, Marketing Manager, Distributed I/O at Rockwell Automation says “more localized I/O processing power and the ability to directly connect to the Internet is offering tremendous opportunities to design innovative I/O products. The lines between what today is classified as ‘smart I/O’ and what tomorrow will be considered ‘highly distributed control with I/O’ are rapidly blurring. Key features will include prognostic indications of deteriorating equipment performance and redundancy in the case of an I/O component failure.”
Embedded Control & Monitoring
The cRIO-9014 controller is based on the Freescale MPC5200 processor built on Power Architecture technology and the Wind River VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) to deliver the processing, memory and storage required for embedded and industrial applications such as high-speed machine control, machine monitoring/protection, in-vehicle data logging and embedded device prototyping. National Instruments; 800/258-7022; www.ni.com
Embedded Automation Modules
AMAX series embedded automation solution for use in machine control system architectures combines analog, discrete and motion control. The AMAX-2050KW master module is an embedded Pentium III grade platform with an onboard AMONet controller that can control up to 2048 I/O points or 64 axes. It offers two USB interfaces, two RS232 and on RS422/485 communication ports with automatic flow control, one 10/100 Base-T Ethernet port, four programmable diagnostic LEDs, soldered AMD Geode GX2 processor with up to 256 MB RAM, 128 KB battery backup RAM and supports Windows CE.NET. Two other modules are also offered, one as digital slave module and the other, to increase the number of axes for distributed motion control. Advantech, eAutomation Group; 800/205-7940; www.eAutomationPro.com
I/O with Oscilloscope Function
X20 I/O system now offers 2-channel and 4-channel 16-bit X20 analog input modules with oscilloscope function. The measurement function of each individual channel can be configured for current (0.20 mA) or voltage (+/-10 V). The software filters are also configured. In this way, nearly all application requirements can be fulfilled with one module. B&R Industrial Automation; 770/772-0400; www.br-automation.com
Hight Channel Density
EtherStax line of Ethernet I/O blocks isolate, monitor and control 48 discrete signals with redundant communication. The new series for distributed I/O and SCADA applications process 32 discrete inputs and 16 outputs with a Modbus TCP/UDP/IP interface to a host controller. The compact, stackable aluminum enclosure resists shock and vibration. Acromag; 248/624-1541; www.acromag.com
Real-Time Event Management
IntelliBox-I/O 2100 programmable external device server automates the task of managing remote equipment and associated reporting. Powered by EventTrak technology, it enables users to connect industrial equipment to IP networks and the Internet to automatically monitor and respond to events in real-time with no human intervention. Lantronix; 949/453-3990; www.lantronix.com
Accelerometer Input Modue
SCM5B48 isolated and field-configurable accelerometer input signal conditioning module provides excitation to piezoelectric sensors with built-in microelectronic amplifiers, commonly known as ICP, IEPE or LIVM sensors. The module provides a constant current excitation to the sensor, then isolates, filters and amplifies the sensor output, yielding a high-level analog voltage output. The excitation current, signal gain and filter-pass and low-pass cutoff frequencies are field-configurable through a set of slide switches. Dataforth; 520/741-1404; www.dataforth.com
PLC Flexible I/O
EZ PLCs can now handle 8 to 2048 I/O’s. This is possible by communicating multiple EZ PLCs through RS485 via Modbus RTU or through Ethernet port via Modbus TCP/IP. EZ PLC is available in four base models—4 slot, 6 slot, 8 slot and 12 slot. Each slot can handle maximum of up to 8 I/O points. The Distributed PLC scheme of EZ PLC allows these PLCs to be operated from a master PLC which handles all the logic as well as individual PLCs executing their own local logic and yet communicating with the master PLC. EZAutomation; 877/774-3279; www.ezautomation.net
Eliminate Ground Faults
Z789 dual-channel Zener Diode Barriers provide 300 ohm/28 V, diode return, positive polarity operation making them a good intrinsic safety choice in refineries and chemical plants. Z series barriers are available in one, two and three channel versions and more than 75 models for AC and DC applications. Pepperl+Fuchs; 330/ 486-0002; www.am.pepperl-fuchs.com
PLC Option Modules
DL05 and DL06 PLCs now offer option modules that include 16-bit high-resolution analog modules. The FO-08ADH-1 eight-channel current input module operates with a 0-20 mA input range. The FO-08ADH-2 has jumper selectable input ranges of either 0-5 V dc or 0-10 V dc. AutomationDirect; 770/889-2858; www.automationdirect.com