Automation, IIoT, I/O, edge controllers can be easy to apply

Expanded technology options for easier automation, control and industrial internet of things (IIoT) applications were explained by Opto 22 at the Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago.

By Mark T. Hoske June 25, 2024
Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

 

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the advantages and some automation-related applications of the edge programmable industrial controller (EPIC) system.
  • Explore 50 years of quality automation, IIoT innovation, changes, people, engineering mindset and standards integrated into Opto 22 I/O devices, controllers, edge controllers, networking and support.

 

Automate 2024: industrial edge controller insights

  • The edge programmable industrial controller (EPIC) system provides advantages for many automation applications, as explained at the Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago.
  • Quality automation, IIoT innovation, changes, people, engineering mindset and standards are integrated into 50 years of Opto 22 I/O devices, controllers, edge controllers, networking and support.

Expanded technology options for easier automation, control and industrial internet of things (IIoT) applications were discussed with Benson Hougland, Opto 22 vice president, marketing, at the Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago. Opto 22 offerings include programmable automation controllers, input/output (I/O) devices, edge devices and software that help with monitoring, control, operational technology (OT) data transfer, cybersecurity, Industry 4.0 and digital transformation. Hougland reviewed technologies and trends, noting that Opto 22 is in its 50th year. (See also, company progress).

‘World’s first’ edge programmable industrial controller is EPIC

The Opto 22 “groov” edge programmable industrial controller (EPIC) system allows software firmware updates that add features and functions after the initial purchase, Hougland said, while groov RIO (remote I/O) has software-configurable I/O connections. Three Opto 22 groov RIO types are RIO MM1 Universal I/O, RIO MM2 Universal I/O with Ignition (SCADA platform from Inductive Automation) and RIO EMU Energy Monitoring unit.

The Opto 22 groov edge programmable industrial controller (EPIC) system is configurable using online software with components to meet application needs, including the groov EPIC Chassis, groov PR1 Processor (and Manage screen), software, groov EPIC Power Supply and groov I/O Modules, as shown at at Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

The Opto 22 groov edge programmable industrial controller (EPIC) system is configurable using online software with components to meet application needs, including the groov EPIC Chassis, groov PR1 Processor (and Manage screen), software, groov EPIC Power Supply and groov I/O Modules, as shown at at Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

The Opto 22 groov EPIC has a CODESYS runtime programmable controller with software configurable I/O can be programmed with CODESYS or with Opto 22 PAC Control flowchart-based automation software with optional scripting, part of Opto 22’s PAC Project automation suite. OPC UA is built in, Hougland said, without configuration for manufacturing and other applications. It can be used as an energy monitoring device, it provides data democratization and cybersecurity, and it helps collect, sort, organize and send data for any application using native Node-Red, message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) and Sparkplug B. This is the only edge controller using all three, Hougland said, helping with on-premise, cloud-based or hybrid automation applications. Using Inductive Automation Ignition software, you can create a dashboard in 10 minutes to track assets with contextual data for Snowflake or SCADA level communications.

Many applications include raw materials, electric utility industry, digital transformation, Industry 4.0 and automation. Online software helps configure an Opto 22 groov EPIC system to meet application needs. An energy monitory application case study will be presented at the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference (ICC), Sept. 17-19 in Folsom, California. A representative from the state of Indiana will help present.

Company progress: 50 years of quality automation, IIoT innovation

On April 3, Mark Engman, Opto 22 CEO and president, shared views on the company’s beginnings and progress over 50 years in industrial automation. In part:

“My dad, Bob Engman, was an engineer who helped develop a better way to manufacture solid-state relays. SSRs had just been invented in the early 1970s, and the improvement was to pot SSRs with epoxy to protect the electronics from shock, vibration, and environmental contaminants. When Opto 22 began in 1974, our first products were, you guessed it, 22 SSR models manufactured by the new method.”

Each SSR was tested twice, and “We still double-test every single SSR and I/O module we manufacture. That’s also one of the reasons our factory is not overseas, but attached to our company headquarters in California. It’s easy for our engineers and factory team to work closely together to design and build products that are high quality. That’s why we can afford to guarantee our SSRs and I/O modules for life. And you’ve told us how much you appreciate that.”

Five decades of industrial automation changes

“When we started, the personal computer had barely been invented and factories were just beginning to automate production lines. As a manufacturer of automation equipment, we’ve had to look forward and adjust again and again to new technologies, new bus standards, new protocols, new communication methods—and new competitors in our field.”

“50 years later, still supporting your legacy products and building new products that meet your needs today—needs no one could have imagined when we began.”

Tenure shows people are happy to work for Opto 22

“I believe the main reason the company has been successful for so long is our people. My dad worked in a corporate environment and didn’t like the results of all those layers: delays, lost ideas, employees who felt powerless and unappreciated.

“So when he started Opto 22, he cut the layers and created a flat organizational style. We hire good people, get them started, and then let them do their jobs. And unlike most tech companies, we don’t lay people off the minute there’s a downturn in the industry. We don’t overhire, and we keep our people because we know their value.

“The result is a loyal, experienced staff who produce higher quality products and give better service to our customers in design, manufacturing and support. They work together to build success for all of us, with very little of the internal politics you typically find in a corporation. The average tenure of our factory workers is 26 years, and of our engineering and support staff, 24 years. People are happy to work here, and it shows.

Engineering automation mindset, structure, standards, design

“Opto 22 has always been run by engineers who get excited about new tech. We want to play with it, see where it takes us, build products that use it.

  • Because we’re engineers ourselves, we know what you deal with, day by day. We know budget restraints as well as technical ones, and everything from wiring to the frustration of systems that don’t talk with each other.

  • Our company’s flat structure encourages new ideas instead of squashing them in corporate layers. We can engineer new products quickly and bring them to you.

  • Open standards make the most sense when you’re trying to build systems and interconnect devices and software. So we’ve always helped establish open standards for the industry, like OPC and Ethernet.

  • We design new products for the long-term and continue to support the legacy products you’ve had for years, offering upgrade paths to newer solutions.

I/O devices, controllers, edge controllers, networking, support

“You can count on Opto 22 to introduce new ideas that expand your options and make your job easier—ideas like programmable automation controllers (PACs), which are a hybrid of the earlier PLCs and PC-based control. We introduced the PAC concept way back in 1990 and then expanded on it in the mid-2000s with our SNAP PAC System, still sold, supported and used worldwide.

Opto 22 groov RIO (remote I/O) module includes software-programmable I/O capabilities to ease installation time, configuration, integration and troubleshooting, as shown at Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Opto 22 groov RIO (remote I/O) module includes software-programmable I/O capabilities to ease installation time, configuration, integration and troubleshooting, as shown at Automate 2024 event by A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, in Chicago. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

“With groov EPIC (2018) for edge control and groov RIO (2020) for edge I/O, you can meet the new demands you’re seeing for data and connectivity. groov industrial construction, CPU power and memory, easier networking and cybersecurity, OT and IT protocols, built-in software and web-based management are leading the way to effective new industrial automation architectures and digital transformation for better business decisions.”

Opto 22 continues to offer live customer support by phone or chat “so personal customer service from free Pre-Sales Engineering to free Product Support is a big part of what we do. All support comes from knowledgeable engineers here in California. That extends worldwide, too. Our partners in the U.S. and other countries are capable distributors and integrators you can count on to handle sales, service, and training for all our products.”

Engman offered thanks to all “customers, integrators and distributors, for everything you do: using our products, telling us what works—and what doesn’t—and sharing your ideas for features you need. With your help we’ve taken this 50-year journey from highly reliable SSRs to state-of-the-art Edge Programmable Industrial Controllers. What will the next five decades bring?”

Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief, Control Engineering, WTWH Media, mhoske@wtwhmedia.com using notes from Opto 22, website and Opto 22’s 50th anniversary press release.


Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.