PLCS, PACs, IPCs – Does it matter?

Get the right functionality and most-advantageous programming software for your next controller application, no matter what the technology. Here’s a sampling of controllers for your next set of applications. Watch for the January Control Engineering cover story on the future of industrial controllers.

January 13, 2011

Get the right functionality and most-advantageous programming software for your next controller application, no matter what the technology. Here’s a sampling of controllers for your next applications. Watch for the January Control Engineering cover story on the future of industrial controllers.

Consistent controls platform enhances automation, efficiency

Cleaning Technologies Group (CTG) LLC, a global manufacturer of parts washers, found a consistent controls platform to boost the flexibility, efficiency, and automation capabilities of its LeanJet product platform. The Siemens Simatic S7-1200 controller and HMI Basic panel programmable have one engineering software package. Ransohoff, a CTG division, and Blackstone-NEY Ultrasonics, CTG’s ultrasonics division, were already using lean manufacturing practices for all platform product lines, striving to add value and ensure products were competitive. Implementing one PLC line across several products promised increased efficiency and continued improvement; benefits include more efficient production flexibility and greater automation capability.

HMIs can integrate PCs or PLCs; here’s an IPC

Human-machine interfaces can integrate industrial PCs or PLCs. The B&R Industrial Automation Panel PC 725 can be used directly on machines. Installation on a support arm system permits a flexible mounting position and ergonomic operation, even in tight spaces. It has IP65 protection, an integrated 15-in. touch screen display, Intel Atom N270 processor (with low power loss and no fan), two Ethernet interfaces, two USB 2.0 interfaces and one serial interface. When using CompactFlash cards, the Panel PC 725 does not have any rotating parts, which guarantees a long lifespan.

PACs can integrate logic, motion, HMI

GE Intelligent Platforms PACSystems RX3i controller is a programmable automation controller (PAC) with RX3i that features one control engine and a universal programming environment. 

Such programming provides application portability across multiple hardware platforms, for convergence of control for logic, motion, HMI, process control and high availability applications, based on GE Intelligent Platforms Reflective Memory technology.

Small PLCs can list under $100

Addressing new market needs, PLCs adapted quickly in size, functionality. and price. The AutomationDirect Click micro brick PLCs with standard CPU units have eight discrete inputs and six discrete outputs, available in four combinations of built-in I/O types.

Two RS-232 RJ12 communication ports, one RS-485 communication port, a real-time clock, and battery backup for the internal SRAM are among other features; standard CPU, as of early January, started at $99.

PLC: Math capability, integrated analog inputs

Phoenix Contact Nanoline controller has a base station. The nLC-055’s four-function math capability and integrated analog inputs increase the Nanoline’s flexibility. The simple controller is for small to mid-size machines with limited I/O points. It can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and perform percentage operations. It has two analog inputs with 12-bit resolution, eight digital inputs, two high-speed counters, a built-in real-time clock and retentive memory and four relay outputs. The base station is compatible with the original Nanoline expansion modules for GSM, Ethernet, I/O, RS-232, RS-485 and USB and uses the same operator panel and mounting kit. Version 3.0 of the nanoNavigator software has flow chart and Relay Ladder Logic (RLL)  programming and is free at

Embedded real-time PAC

National Instruments offers the NI CompactRIO. The NI cRIO-9025 embedded real-time controller has a -40 to 70 C deg extended temperature operating range along with a higher performance processor, suited for industrial and embedded engineers prototyping and deploying advanced monitoring and control systems. It uses a FPGA (reconfigurable) and LabView graphical programming software, which can take existing C code or text-based models and run them embedded on the NI cRIO-9025 real-time controller.

Programmable automation controllers, PACs

Rockwell Automation says the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix L73 and L75 Programmable Automation Controllers provide advanced memory, speed, and process capabilities to enhance motion and information capabilities.

The PACs integrate process, discrete and motion control capabilities on one platform to help manufacturers minimize cost and improve the flow of manufacturing data. The PACs interface seamlessly with motion drives through EtherNet/IP and SERCOS network interfaces and can support up to 100 axes of integrated motion.

Embedded PC, PAC

Beckhoff Automation CX5000 Embedded PC has energy-saving Intel Atom technology, up to 1.6 GHz processing power, rugged magnesium housing, and is  very light-weight, offering improved mechanical stability and resistance to EMC.

The powerful DIN rail-mountable PAC features a fanless design with a maximum power loss of 12.5 Watts.

PACs before they were called PACs

Opto 22 offered PACs, programmable automation controllers, before that term was used. In addition to a unified programming package, the company has offered one platform of controller for wireless or wired Ethernet applications. Opto 22 Snap-PAC-R1-W Wired+Wireless Programmable Automation Controller offers IEEE 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi wireless networking and wired Ethernet networking.

– Controllers edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media. For additional controllers, see

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Other Articles in this Series

Cover Story: Balancing PLCs, PACs, IPCs

LinkedIn discussion on PLC vs PAC: When and where?

IEC 61131-3, CoDeSys standardize control logic programming