Control Engineering Machine Control eNewsletter for January 2003


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CE editors pick the best of 2002

Control Engineering editors gather annually to evaluate the new products of the year and choose the top ones. Check out the 2002 awards described in a supplement to the January 2003 issue. Jan. 15 the announcement will be made at

There were 35 award winners in eight categories. All contestants were judged on technological advancement, service to the industry, and impact on the control market. Last year was a very creative year in the industry. We can only hope that the trend continues and that business picks up for us all.

If you have any comments on the winners or suggestions of your own, please write to

Leadership: Are you a 'lifter'?

What sort of leader are you or is your manager? A pusher, or a lifter? Dale Dauten, a nationally syndicated business writer whom I read in the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, in a column published January 1, 2003, discusses 'lifting' leadership. Stephen Ambrose is a professor of history. In one example, former graduate student, businessman, and author, Jerry Strahan, reports that he tried to get Professor Ambrose to use his (Strahan's) masters thesis research for a book. Instead, the professor signed him up to give a presentation to a conference of historians. This led to the publication of Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II by Jerry Strahan.

Occasionally I reflect back on my days as a manager and wonder if I was more of a lifter or a 'pointy haired boss.' I hope I was the former. I tried to be the same way with my children, too. How about you? Have you lifted someone today? Do you have any examples you would like to share? How about the management in your company? Is there a sense of lifting employees to improve and be psychologically fulfilled? Or are they pushers-always pushing you down?

Let me know your thoughts and experiences at


Think before you code

As I became more deeply involved in automation several years ago, I was required to learn 'ladder logic.' I always apologized about learning it so late, having cut my programming teeth on minicomputers and PCs going back to the 1970's. Then I learned to define the problem and flow chart before programming. That experience combined with drills in English composition classes to write from an organized outline explains my evangelizing for ordered, organized, thought-out machine-control programming. This holds true even for ladder diagram and function-block diagram programming, which sometimes seem to defy organization.

I highly recommend Code Complete by Steve McConnell (Microsoft Press). He begins the preface with a quote from Fred Brooks, 'The gap between the best software engineering practice and the average practice is very wide-perhaps wider than in any other engineering discipline. A tool that disseminates good practice would be important.' Mr. McConnell was challenged to try to bridge that gap. This book is clear, organized and full of great ideas. He even discusses laziness that inhibits good documentation practices!

This book is available online from both Barnes & Noble and .

Micro-sized bar-code scanners

MS-3 series of bar-code scanners from Microscan.

Bar-code scanners continue to be an important component in many automation projects, and manufacturers continue to improve equipment to meet specific needs of machine and automation system builders. Microscan has developed a series of scanners offering scanning versatility in small packages.

MS-3 series consists of a laser scanner, CCD scanner, and a stand-alone CCD scan engine. A scan angle more than 70 degrees enables it, for example, to read bar codes on test tubes, reagent packs or microtiter plates within a distance of 1.5 inches. A scan rate of 1,000 scans/decodes per second enables the reader to get multiple reads on the label, ensuring reliability and accuracy.

Measuring 1.75-in. square by 0.85-in. tall, the readers weigh less than 2.5 ounces, allowing for easy mounting onto robotic equipment. They can also be embedded into instruments or machinery.

For more, visit Microscan .

Cool machine control products: modules, controller, computers, data transfer

Cool new products continue to come out. Looks like the industry is still vital.

Interface modules from PCD Inc.

PCD Inc. has introduced a range of interface modules designed to expand existing industrial controller terminal block I/O systems by introducing an in-line fusing module, which provides both fusing and blown fuse indication for every circuit in a distributed I/O system.

The module consists of board-mounted fuse and indicator elements housed in a mounting system which secures to a standard DIN track. Depending on application, it can connect to the system I/O connector through board-mounted terminal blocks on the interface module, through a multi-pin electronic connector-D-sub, ribbon cable, RJ style, Centronic or Din-or through a pre-wire plug harness supplied as an integral element of the module.

For more information, visit PCD Inc.

SixTrak I/O Controller (model ST-GT-1210) from SixNet is designed as an 'entry level' controller/remote terminal unit (RTU) or upgrade for legacy SixTrak I/O Gateways. It includes 10/100 Ethernet, RS-232, RS-485, and ST-BUS I/O ports. It runs ISaGRAF IEC 61131-3 programs, performs datalogging, and interfaces to third-party Modbus devices. It also features a -40 to +70 degree Celsius operating range.

Visit SixNet for more information.

Stealth updates...

Stealth Computer Corporation has updated its line of small form factor computers named 'LittlePC's.' Model LPC-301 measures only 10- x 5.7- x 1.6-in. and weighs 3.0 lbs. The aluminum alloy chassis contains an Intel Pentium III processor available up to 1.4GHz. Communication capabilities include USB, IEEE 1394 (Firewire), RS-232, parallel, audio, VGA, PS/2 Mouse, and keyboard ports.

For more, visit the Stealth web site. Also see more about these products in the September 2002 Embedded Control e-newsletter and the October 2002 HMI e-newsletter .

Single-board computer from WinSystems.

WinSystems announces EBC-BX, an Intel 700 MHz low-power, Pentium III-based single-board computer (SBC) offering an operational temperature range of -40┬░ to +60┬░Celsius.

It combines Intel Pentium III CPU with core logic functions, video controller with CRT and flat panel support, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet controller, four serial channels, 48-bidirectional digital I/O lines, and solid-state disk support. It also supports USB, PC/104 and PC/104-Plus expansion for additional peripheral devices.

For more, visit WinSystems .

Wago and Advanced Production Systems team to link business systems to the plant floor without programming.

Wago has teamed with Advanced Production Systems Inc. (APS), maker of the enterprise connectivity tool and data transport utility known as I/Gear, to provide users with a way to link business systems to the plant floor without programming.

Real-time data can be sent directly from plant-floor control devices to information systems, such as ERP systems, databases, e-mails, printers and serial devices. The Wago I/O system captures and collects data, while I/Gear serves as the pathway between it and information systems used to analyze the data.

Visit Wago for more.

Check out January Control Engineering , other resources

Do you know how your competitors and those in similar industries work? Are there things they are doing that, if you adopted them, would improve your processes? Get answers on how to benchmark and determine best practices from the January cover story in Control Engineering . Another article reveals how advanced control helped a company save money on energy.

Check it out at . As always, any comments, corrections, diatribes, or useful information you may have can be sent to

Also in January is the annual product round up and reader survey of industrial networking. Check out what all the readers are thinking on this important topic.

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