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Looking Forward

Nov. 20, 2008
Industrial Computer Vendors Give You a Glimpse into the Future.

To get a true feel for the industrial computer market, I asked several vendors to look into their crystal balls.

According to Steve Schott, president of Comark Corporation (www.comarkcorp.com), “During challenging economic times, we have seen a trend toward increased productivity through the use of shop-floor systems paired with MES applications. As far as technologies, higher performance processing, smaller package sizes and fewer moving parts are now the norm. With the drop in large-screen display pricing, we have seen an increased interest in displaying manufacturing metrics on the shop floor using ruggedized wide-screen LCDs.”

John Geary, vice president of Glacier Computer (www.glaciercomputer.com) says, “Companies are striving to bring full-blown computing power to more diverse areas of the workplace to improve efficiencies and accuracy.

Customers are focused on driving down the costs. The trend is to install computers with more moderate processor speeds and less costly operating systems, such as Windows CE, embedded XP and Linux. ”

Beckhoff Automation (www.beckhoffautomation.com) has responded to customers asking for increased power and performance while decreasing size by providing industrial PCs with Intel processors from the Pentium M to Core2 Duo technologies. Advantech, Industrial Automation Group’s (www.advantech/ea), Shu-fen Chen, product management coordinator and Lawrence Liang, CTOS program manager, put together a list of trends they see in industrial computer technology.

Patti Pool
Products Editor
[email protected]

SEW Eurodrive
MOVI-PLC can handle up to 64 axes for complex motion control applications, with curves calculated online, multi-axis interpolation and kinematic transformation. It features integrated Ethernet interfaces for engineering and direct connection to the control level or the plant controller for remote maintenance. The controller can be slotted into a SEW electronic drive or installed stand-alone to control machine operations. Programming uses the IEC 61131-3 multi-language environment and PLC Open-compliant function blocks.
Schneider Electric
Modicon’s M340 mid-range programmable automation controller (PAC) offers real-time logic solving, communication, motion and database and manipulation capabilities in multiple programming environments. It is configured using Unity Pro, a IEC 61131-3 development software. The controller enables execution of both Boolean processing and floating decimal calculations. The M340 PAC has 4 MB of internal memory (upgradeable to 16 MB) and 256 KB of data storage and can manage applications with up to 70,000 instructions.
The 750-871 Ethernet TCP/IP two-port, programmable fieldbus controller can be integrated into existing Ethernet networks while minimizing the overall number of components. The 750-871 controller can link the WAGO I/O system to the Ethernet fieldbus, and the dual RJ45 fieldbus ports are able to daisy-chain up to 20 devices. In addition, each segment may be up to 100 meters long within one series.
Omega Engineering
XL OCS all-in-one controller, measuring 3.75 sq. in. and fits in the palm of your hand. Features include built-in I/O with removable terminal blocks, a daylight-readable touchscreen and two serial ports with downloadable protocol. The controller supports MicroSD memory modules. Typical applications include temperature control, pump control and tank monitoring and process control/monitoring.
The Panel Magic PC meets IP66 and NEMA 4X ratings and is available with Windows XP Pro, Windows XP embedded and Linux operating systems. Features include high-resolution 12-, 15-, 17-, 19- or 20-in. LCD displays, with a sunlight option; touchscreen option; PCI card slot expansion capability; Intel Core 2 D Duo Mobile, Pentium M and Celeron M series processors; up to 1 GB RAM; compact flash up to 8 GB and/or 2-½ in. hard drive; and two LAN ports, one 10/100/one GB and four USB ports. Price begins at $1,800.
Beckhoff Automation LLC
The CX1010 mid-range industrial embedded PC has a 500 MHz Pentium MMX-compatible processor. Starting at under $1,000 with bundled TwinCAT PLC software and Windows operating system, the EtherCAT-ready PC becomes a PLC and motion controller that can be used with or without visualization. As an option, one DVI and two USB interfaces can be added.
Control Microsystems
SCADAPack 330 and SCADAPack 334 controllers come in compact enclosures for mounting in tight spaces and are programmed with TelePACE ladder logic, ISaGRAF (IEC61131-3) and C/C++, and support up to 32 independent C++ applications. The single-board SCADAPack 330 comes with three counter inputs (including two turbine meter inputs) and an internal analog input measuring incoming power supply voltage for solar applications. The SCADAPack 334 comes with a lower I/O board that offers extra 16 digital inputs, 10 digital outputs, eight analog inputs and two analog outputs. Both controllers use Modbus and DNP3 serial protocols as well as Modbus TCP and UDP-based Ethernet protocols.
The VisuNet RM family of remote monitors for use in hazardous locations leverage open network-based Visualization over Ethernet (VOE) technology founded on Microsoft standards. VOE technology facilitates operation of up to 32 remote monitoring stations per server, and supports redundant servers, pathways and hot switchover. VisuNet RM is available with optional wireless Ethernet.
Phoenix Contact
The ILC 150 VLC controller with Steeplechase VLC 7.2 is a total EtherNet/IP solution. It is an embedded control platform for small-to-medium-sized applications. The built-in Ethernet port on the controller allows for networking and data exchange to a supervisory system using the EtherNet/IP protocol.
DL205 PLCs now have an option for F2-16TDxP 16-channel current output modules with fault protection. These modules are available with sinking and sourcing configurations. They feature 16 input points which are automatically assigned as fault status indicators for the corresponding outputs. The modules detect missing external 24Vdc, open load, over-temperature and over-current load. 
Advantech, Industrial Automation Group
UNO-2171 embedded automation computer features a Pentium M 1.4 GHz CPU and includes two RS232 ports, two RS232/422/485 ports with automatic data flow control ports, two 10/100 Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports, PC/104+ expansion and has an operating temperature range of -20 °C to 65 °C (-14 °F to 149 °F). It supports Windows XP, Windows XP Embedded OS and Windows CE 5.0.
Control Technology
Model 5300 automation controllers are now available with the M3-40A dualaxis servo module. The module offers 500 μsec position loop updates (250 μsec per axis and 17.5 MHz encoder rates per axis). Motion control features include camming, splines and gearing and move on a gear.
B&R Industrial Automation
The APC810 industrial PC is based on the Intel Core Duo technology. This technology combines two processor cores in one housing to boost performance. It can be operated without a fan. The PC offers PCI slots, PCI express slots and supports serial ATA hard disks. A gigabit Ethernet interface ensures fast data transfer from external sources.
Opto 22
The SNAP-PAC-S2 is a stand-alone, multi-serial port, Ethernet-interface, programmable automation controller (PAC). It has four serial ports, each of which is fully configurable for RS232 or RS485 serial communication, making it suitable for connection to machines, instrumentation, I/O systems and other equipment with serial interfaces.

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