Control Engineering's E-News Letter for Embedded Control - August/September 2000


In this issue:

Working with IT: Help or Horror?

In my life before editor, I was involved with a project in a large manufacturing plant involving both Information Technology (IT) and control engineering people. This was the first example of cooperation I had witnessed in 20 years of trying to use PCs in manufacturing roles. Most stories I hear as an editor from engineers in the field are more like horror stories than tales of cooperation. What has been your experience? Can there be cooperation? Why does it work or not? What can be done to foster better cooperation? Send comments to . I'll report in a future newsletter.

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More motion control integration

Think & Do has just announced support for yet another motion control supplier. This is on top of other such announcements in the last few months. Cross-town rival, Steeplechase Software , has also been adding broader motion control support. This is continuing evidence of one reason to go to PC-based Control-ease of integration for various control technologies. OMAC (Open Modular Architecture Controller) has an active working group defining open standards for motion control for packaging. It will have presentations and meetings at Pack Expo in Chicago November 7 & 8. Check out the news archives for details.

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Success may not come from setting lofty goals

One of my favorite business writers is Dale Dauten . I catch his weekly column in the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and have seen it also in the Chicago Tribune. In a recent column, Mr. Dauten cites the examples of Roy Vallee, ceo of Avenet, and Lute Olson, head men's basketball coach at the University of Arizona. Each attributed their career success not to setting lofty career goals, but to just trying to be better each day. Mr. Vallee's goal-to be the best in the company at whatever he did. Mr. Olson says that at the end of each season, he meets with the assistants to figure out what they could do better and then do it.

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Microphotonics may be future network switches

It's hard to believe for those of us who have been involved with electronics for more than 30 years, but electronic technologies are now thought of bulky and slow. Network traffic of all kinds is becoming so heavy that soon switches will be a huge bottleneck. In the July/August 2000 edition of MIT's Technology Review there is an article explaining various microphotonic technologies for switching fiber optic networking removing the need to convert to electronics and back to fiber for switching. A sidelight-a technology to become familiar with is MEMS (microelectromechanical system). This is used in various sensors as well as a recently announced microprocessor for networking announced by Analog Devices (see news archives ).

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Schneider Electric Web strategy

I just attended a Schneider Electric presentation of new products and strategies. Schneider is now the parent of the venerable Modicon line of PLCs. Schneider does not have 'PC-based Control' per se, but it actively incorporates technologies popularized by PCs. In fact, under the hood, new Modicon PLCs look very much like PCs running a real-time operating system. The company embeds a Web server in its newest PLCs and reports that sales of these products are growing rapidly. It was also among the earliest adopters of an 'Ethernet anywhere' strategy that they called 'Transparent Factory.' It's beginning to be hard to tell the difference between many PLCs and PCs.

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Software/Hardware partnerships

Do you like the task of installing all the software required for a new PC-based Control system? For those who would be just as happy of someone else did that, companies are responding. AlterSys , a PC-based Control software developer, just announced a partnership agreement with Lutze to provide a bundled hardware/software product. Within the past year Steeplechase Software has partnered with SBS Technologies and Wonderware 's InControl with Contec . Think & Do is part of the federation where bundled solutions are available.

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Product News

Opto 22 now provides its SNAP Ethernet I/O packaged in a 3U box for standard 19-inch rack mounting. Included in the package are a SNAP Ethernet brain, 16-module mounting rack, and power supply. Just add I/O modules, snap them in the rack, wire them, then configure with the built-in Web server.

Jungo Ltd. is releasing an extension to Windows operating systems and a driver development kit that enables CompactPCI-type hot swap capabilities on Windows CE 3.0, NT Embedded, 2000, NT 4.0, and 9.x operating systems.

Just after I wrote the Ethernet I/O article for May 2000 CE, I discovered another company delivering industrial Ethernet solutions (talk about timing!). N-Tron Corp. has fast Ethernet switches packaged in 2U 19-in. rackmount packages.

In another example of blurring technology lines, GE Fanuc Automation has extended its fxManager Automation Management System to support CNCs. (I'll be writing about CNC strategies, especially how PC technologies are incorporated in November's Control Engineering ).

VMIC now supports Linux on its IOWorks board driver. The driver supports applications running on VMIC's line of Pentium through Pentium III VMEbus CPU boards.


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