Product advice on easy, affordable modern control, IIoT implementation

Next-generation programmable logic controller (PLC) platforms inexpensively and securely deliver reliable and familiar functionality for basic automated control, combined with advanced features like Wi-Fi and data logging, and increased security measures for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications, according to a company with a Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Award product.

By Bill Dehner February 8, 2022
Courtesy: AutomationDirect

 

Learning Objectives

  • Explain how PLCs can be used for scalable platforms.
  • See how PLCs can extend connectivity, communications.
  • Understand how PLC data can be captured, logged and transmitted.

Plant engineers, electrical technicians, machine builders are among the users who need industrial-grade automation platforms so they can create practical control systems and advanced Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications. Many of these projects are smaller-scale, perhaps 100 or fewer input/output (I/O) points, and these users require compact, capable, and connectable options that provide versatility and value. Some modern programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are targeting the needs of these users, advancing the possibilities for developing reliable automation and interconnectivity.

PLC for scalable platforms

While traditional PLCs have long offered dependable and robust control capabilities, designers are looking for adaptability to meet varied project needs. For instance, a stackable micro modular form factor and a family of various expandable I/O options lets designers develop scalable systems from just a few analog and/or discrete I/O points, up to over 100 points.

Small- and mid-size automation projects generally need a simplified yet robust instruction set, with certain advanced capabilities like high-speed counting and PID loop control, to handle a wide range of applications. And end users always appreciate free programming software, complimentary online training, in-an-instant system connectivity using a standard Micro-USB port, and the option for a free mobile app enabling CPU provisioning. These features enable a quick start without requiring interpretation of complex manuals.

PLC with extended connectivity, communications

The real differentiator for modern IIoT-capable PLCs is the availability of extended connectivity and communications options. Even compact PLCs should be available in wired, wireless, and wired/wireless versions. Built-in Ethernet capability is a must, and a serial port should be offered for connections to legacy devices and systems in the field.

To fulfill the IIoT role, modern PLCs should include native support for common industrial operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) communication protocols like Modbus RTU/TCP, EtherNet/IP, ASCII, the IIoT-standard MQTT, DHCP, SNTP and DNS. While wired Ethernet offers strong communications performance, many end users are specifying Wi-Fi models due to the simplified installation and reduced cost because no network cabling is needed.

The AutomationDirect Click Plus Series of PLCs provide the simple control, easy communications connectivity, flexible I/O options, and enhanced security measures needed for automation and IIoT applications, defying the concept that low-cost can’t have advanced features. The AutomationDirect Click Plus PLC was announced as the Control Engineering 2022 Engineers’ Choice Awards winner in the “Controls Systems: PLCs, PACs” category, on Feb. 7, 2022. www.controleng.com/engineerschoice Courtesy: AutomationDirect

The AutomationDirect Click Plus Series of PLCs provide the simple control, easy communications connectivity, flexible I/O options, and enhanced security measures needed for automation and IIoT applications, defying the concept that low-cost can’t have advanced features. The AutomationDirect Click Plus PLC was announced as the Control Engineering 2022 Engineers’ Choice Awards winner in the “Controls Systems: PLCs, PACs” category, on Feb. 7, 2022. www.controleng.com/engineerschoice Courtesy: AutomationDirect

PLC data captured, logged, and transmitted

Today’s control systems incorporate more sensing elements than ever, meaning extensive data is available—if it can be captured, logged and transmitted. For greatest flexibility, PLCs used in these applications should offer local data logging to an external microSD card, in addition to network and cloud connectivity. Like any modern network-connected device, these types of PLCs must address cybersecurity concerns by incorporating security measures like password management, encryption, port management and other capabilities.

Combining so many features into a straightforward platform that can come in below any budget is a tall order. However, end users everywhere are discovering options are available to help them quickly and easily create affordable modern-day control solutions that include advanced IIoT and cloud connectivity.

Bill Dehner is technical marketing engineer at AutomationDirect. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: PLC advice, Engineers’ Choice Awards

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Bill Dehner
Author Bio: Bill Dehner has spent the majority of his 14-year engineering career designing and installing industrial control systems for the oil and gas, power and package handling industries. He has a BSEE with an associate degree in avionics from the USAF and is currently working for AutomationDirect as a technical marketing engineer.