Beckhoff Automation: Use PC-based control, not PLCs; here's why
Machine builders and end-user specifications need to forget PLCs; PC-based controls are smaller, faster, more flexible, and more economical, Beckhoff Automation says.
Mark T. Hoske
Below: Chart compares network performance, Beckhoff Automation Scientific Automation products, sidebars describe benefits, links to related stories
There's no good technology-based reason to use programmable logic controllers (PLCs), says Joe Martin, Beckhoff packaging and converting sales manager.
The next logical evolution is PC-based control. Beckhoff offers industrial PCs with multi-core processors and the energy-saving Intel Atom, connected with EtherCAT industrial Ethernet protocol. Beckhoff PC-based "Scientific Automation" offers a game-changing "all-in-one" approach, integrating automation, PLC, motion control, I/O modules, and human-machine interface (HMI) into one low-cost, centralized system, Martin says.
"Technology evolves to adapt to the industrial environment , where only the strong will survive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace," Martin told editors of Control Engineering and Packaging Digest on Jan. 28. Just as PLCs moved the industry beyond relays for most logic-based applications, now the world needs to transition to PC-based control and leave PLCs behind, he says. Why?
- Savings in machine control applications regularly amount to 30% or more in cost and 50% or more in panel space;
- Quad core processor can deliver 10 GHz speed, handling 4,000 I/O points with 400 scans per second from one small box, in one application;
- Beckhoff makes its own PCs with no risk of obsolescence, often working with OEMs to private label the machine, easing end-user hesitation;
- Upgrades are downloaded without cost or annual licensing fees;
- Machines are higher performing, lower cost, more flexible, and more easily connected to supervisory, ERP, and MES systems;
- Businesses are more responsive to customer driven changes, more profitable, and more sustainable;
- Translations services are available to carry over programming investments; and
- EtherCAT Technology Group membership is free.
If PCs are such a good investment for industrial automation, then why do people still buy PLCs?
"Resistance to change is massive," Martin says, and market leaders, such as Rockwell Automation, Siemens, and Mitsubishi, reinforce people's fears of change.
However, rather than enforcing specifications that require that OEMs use PLCs, end-users more often are allowing OEMs to supply best-in-class machines, which opens the door for PC-based control, Martin says.
By overcoming irrational fears, and enticement from the nice distributor down the road, business owners and machine builders are realizing huge up-front capital cost savings and continuing lifecycle advantages with one piece of hardware and one software for I/O measurements, condition monitoring, robotics, vision, motion control, predictive maintenance, data collection, HMIs, and next-level capabilities not thought of yet.
PC-based control: The better choice
Choice 1 : Sometimes people continue to being loyal to an automaker because the service department is very good and friendly, readily takes care of any problems, and always is sensitive to a customer's schedule. The dealer always offers a good trade in and rebates.
Beckhoff Scientific Automation advantages
Scientific Automation from Beckhoff Automation offers:
While a technology roadmap comforts some, Martin says roadmaps are needed so customers don't buy anything that has the potential to go obsolete. Beckhoff Automation doesn't get obsolete, he says.
Also, end-users sometime argue against PCs because maintenance people have to be able to maintain the technology. PC-based controls so rarely need maintenance, that's just a non-issue, he suggests.
"Innovation will get this country back on its feet. Buy something that doesn't need service," Martin advises. The tide is turning, he says; don't get swamped by buying PLCs.
EtherCAT performance: Application example
Read more about Beckhoff products, real-time Ethernet applications, and controller selection tips from Control Engineering :
- EtherCAT interface for RTD temperature sensors: Beckhoff Automation I/O terminal connects directly to sensor ;
- Beckhoff Automation XFC EtherCAT Box, IP67-rated I/O modules ;
- Industrial Ethernet applications in real time ; and
- How to choose a controller .
- Mark T. Hoske editor in chief, Control Engineering , www.controleng.com