Rockwell Automation looks to control logic future
More than a year ago, the term programmable automation controller (PAC) emerged to better describe controllers that combine multiple platforms, such as sequential, motion, and process control, with expanded information-handling capabilities. By converging the best attributes of the PLC, PC, DCS and open control platforms, the PAC has proven it can meet requirements of an integrated manufacturing enterprise, according to Rockwell Automation.
More than a year ago, the term programmable automation controller (PAC) emerged to better describe controllers that combine multiple platforms, such as sequential, motion, and process control, with expanded information-handling capabilities. By converging the best attributes of the PLC, PC, DCS and open control platforms, the PAC has proven it can meet requirements of an integrated manufacturing enterprise, according to Rockwell Automation
Today, manufacturers leverage PACs to access greater amounts of control system data from business systems, ranging from supply chain integration to shipping logistics. According to Rockwell Automation, the PAC must evolve as the demand for control system data continues to increase in volume and complexity to share information inside the corporation, with customers, and suppliers to help build a leaner enterprise.
"We've seen an unprecedented thirst for control system data, as users gather information for safety, finance, quality assurance programs, regulatory control, and countless other initiatives," said Ken Deken, vice president, Rockwell Automation Control Systems. "To quench this thirst, what users need is a direct connection between the controller and business systems, ultimately providing information 'on-tap.' " Moving forward, Rockwell Automation says, PACs will provide a wide array of ways to serve data, become even more scaleable, while making major strides in multidiscipline control, integration with business systems, diagnostics and life-cycle cost management.
The company expects:
Greater scalability: The Logix controller platform from Rockwell Automation currently includes two PACs: the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix for large, complex applications and CompactLogix for small-scale applications. 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. Click here to view a controller comparison
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. "As information throughout the manufacturing enterprise becomes more available, it is only natural that security become an integral part of the solution," Deken said.
Integration with business systems: To make "on-tap" information 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. 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 (such as 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. 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, Microsoft Windows-based operating systems, and off-the-shelf silicon, the company says.
—Mark Hoske, Editor-in-Chief, Control Engineering, MHoske@cfemedia.com