Decide and communicate

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) dominate among available manufacturing computing hardware, and Ethernet physical media is becoming the primary way to communicate those decisions, suggests recent Control Engineering research. Decide: If anyone thought PLCs are being removed in large numbers and replaced with programmable automation controllers (PACs), they should think again.

11/01/2006


Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) dominate among available manufacturing computing hardware, and Ethernet physical media is becoming the primary way to communicate those decisions, suggests recent Control Engineering research.

Decide : If anyone thought PLCs are being removed in large numbers and replaced with programmable automation controllers (PACs), they should think again. PACs, rugged PCs in PLC-like form factors, are replacing existing PLCs for just 2% of Control Engineering subscribers answering the survey. However, 20% are supplementing PLCs with PACs and 22% more are considering them. (For the 39% not using or not considering PACs, and 18% who said they were unsure what PACs are, keep an open mind. We'll talk more about them in the December issue of Control Engineering .) As for the quantity of PLCs in use, it's huge and growing. ARC Advisory Group estimates greater than 6% compound annual growth over the next five years, with PLCs installed globally worth nearly $7.5 billion in 2005 and moving to more than $10 billion in 2010. For more on these trends, see Product Research and News in this issue.

Communicate : In a statistical dead-heat lead with serial communications, Ethernet was cited as “most used” for PLC networking by 86% of Control Engineering survey respondents, up from 75% in the 2005 survey. And 89% plan to use Ethernet in the coming months, while just 71% plan to use serial communications. While next month's research will delve deeply into Ethernet protocol preferences in overall industrial applications, TCP/IP and EtherNet/IP protocols currently have the advantage for use with PLCs. Pragmatic network connections make a world of sense. Networked devices can get information to the right person at the right time to make more useful, more profitable decisions.

A November aside : Halftime for politicians seems to mean that half of their time is spent fundraising and the other half is spent discrediting the other party. Halftime is over; it's time to decide and communicate. Find your elected (or newly elected) U.S. and state government officials at www.firstgov.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml , advocate what matters to you in engineering and manufacturing, and ask them to leave some time for working together to govern effectively. Standing up for what's right and good remains one of the best methods of thanksgiving we have. Please do so.

MHoske@cfemedia.com





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