Panel Ponders PLC Future at Joint ISA Sections Meeting

Is the PLC dead or alive? This was the main question debated by members of ISA's Chicago and Will-DuPage county sections during a Jan. 13 technical dinner meeting and panel discussion. The panel included representatives of PLC, DCS, and PC-based control manufacturers, such as Fisher-Rosemount (Austin, Tex.

02/01/1998


Is the PLC dead or alive? This was the main question debated by members of ISA's Chicago and Will-DuPage county sections during a Jan. 13 technical dinner meeting and panel discussion. The panel included representatives of PLC, DCS, and PC-based control manufacturers, such as Fisher-Rosemount (Austin, Tex.), Elsag Bailey Process Automation (Wickliffe, O.), GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, Va.), Steeplechase Software (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Square D (Raleigh, N.C.), Moore Products, Inc. (Spring House, Pa.), and Intellution (Wizdom, Naperville, Ill.).

Some participants thought very few PLCs will be sold five years from now. They reasoned that PCs' increasing penetration into almost every area of modern life will make them so common that control engineers will use them without hesitation.

However, other panelists added there are still many hard-wired relay control installations running today, even though PLCs have been accepted in manufacturing for years. Logically, they concluded that PLCs will also be around for many years.

The panelists generally agreed their markets and technology are being driven by users' needs for easily engineered, inexpensive systems that have smaller components, as well as users' desires for open systems. For instance, current technology often makes adding third-party components and software to control structures easier for users. However, this is both a threat and an opportunity for control system vendors because they must rely on buyers to understand the risk involved with mixing different vendors' components in the same control system.

With the proliferation of high-speed networks in factories, PCs that can handle large amounts of data and enable excellent communications will become even more necessary. The panelists added that PLC manufacturers have responded by adding PC coprocessors to handle these tasks. Meanwhile, PC software vendors have been working to take PC-based control downward to the device/logic level and upward to the DCS level. They're also constantly adding drivers to make it easier for users to add desired I/O devices to the system.

In conclusion, the panelists also agreed on implementation of IEC-1131. All have implemented at least part of the standard, and some are working to expand on it to offer users even better usability and flexibility. They projected a continued blurring of traditional distinctions among PLC, PC, and DCS, and added the result will be improved options for the control engineer.





No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Intelligent, efficient PLC programming: Cost-saving programming languages are available now; Automation system upgrades; Help from the cloud; Improving flow control; System integration tips
Smarter machines require smarter systems; Fixing PID, part 3; Process safety; Hardware and software integration; Legalities: Integrated lean project delivery
Choosing controllers: PLCs, PACs, IPCs, DCS? What's best for your application?; Wireless trends; Design, integration; Manufacturing Day; Product Exclusive
PLCs, robots, and the quest for a single controller; how OEE is key to automation solutions.
This article collection contains several articles on improving the use of PID.
Learn how Industry 4.0 adds supply chain efficiency, optimizes pricing, improves quality, and more.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again