Rockwell Automation forecasts PAC direction

Manufacturers can leverage programmable automation controllers (PACs), which combine the attributes of the PLC, PC, DCS and open control platforms, to access greater amounts of control system data from business systems.


Manufacturers can leverage programmable automation controllers (PACs), which combine the attributes of the PLC, PC, DCS and open control platforms, to access greater amounts of control system data from business systems. However, Rockwell Automation contends the PAC must evolve as the demand for control system data continues to increase in volume and complexity. For example, users aren't just sharing information inside the corporation; they're starting to tie in suppliers and customers to their business system to help build a leaner enterprise.

Rockwell Automation recently released its insight into predicted developments for PACs:

Support for Multi-Discipline Control. To create a common user experience across the plant floor, PACs integrate disciplines such as sequential, drive, motion and process control into a single platform. In the future, PAC suppliers will enhance these existing disciplines, while integrating new ones, such as safety, batch control and security.

Integration with Business Systems. To make information "on-tap" a reality, automation suppliers will continue building business system connectivity into the controller rather than relying on linking devices. PACs also will embed manufacturing execution system (MES)-layer attributes, such as standard interfaces, that better bridge the gap between the control layer and upper-level systems.

Simplified System Maintenance. Today's automation equipment is smarter than ever before. Ranging from software that can learn and monitor machine behavior to hardware with built-in behaviors and sophisticated self-diagnostic and calibration capabilities-smart controls are making available an unprecedented level of data intelligence. To increase productivity and profit, manufacturers must be able to efficiently move this data when and where it's needed. PAC controllers will meet this demand with enhanced data-handling capabilities that give users access to maintenance information at any time and in any format they choose (e.g., via e-mail or a Web page).

Life-Cycle Cost Management. Gaining production efficiencies will remain important, but users will be increasingly cautious about sacrificing their hardware and training investments. The PACs' modular design and future-proof platform will allow users to migrate at the pace and to the degree they want. To save costs, PAC vendors will also continue the steady adoption of commercial technology and standards such as Ethernet, Windows-based operating systems, and off-the-shelf silicon.

Greater Scalability. In the future, the PAC will be available in an even greater variety of sizes to meet the broad range of applications on the plant floor. New additions in I/O communication will also contribute to scalability.

The Logix controller platform from Rockwell Automation currently includes two PACs in its Logix controller platform: the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix for large, complex applications and CompactLogix for small-scale applications.

For more information Rockwell’s vision for the future of PACs, contact the Rockwell Automation Response Center, 10701 Hampshire Avenue South, Bloomington, Minn., 55438, 800-223-5354, Ext. 1667.

—David Greenfield, Editorial Director, Control Engineering,

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