Top Control Engineering articles, August 2013

The most-visited articles at during August 2013 included: HMIs of the future, safety and collaborative robotics, servo sizing, additive manufacturing (3D printing), IT vs. OT, panel building, HMI alarms, industrial networks and PLCs, lean automation, and virtual reality for CNC programming, among others.

By Mark T. Hoske September 10, 2013

Most-read Control Engineering online articles during August 2013 at included: HMIs of the future, safety and collaborative robotics, servo sizing, additive manufacturing (3D printing), IT vs. OT, panel building, HMI alarms, industrial networks and PLCs, lean automation, and virtual reality for CNC programming, DCS market and Invensys bidding, technology focus, flexible testing, and others.

Because Control Engineering posts fresh content each business day, some articles posted later in the month don’t get as much time for exposure as those posted earlier. Therefore, articles are divided into two sections: Those posted during the past two months (July and August 2013) and those posted prior to July 2013. More about each article and links follow, along with links to the most-frequented Control Engineering pages during August 2013. A link to each article or page is provided.

August 2013 most-read online articles, among those posted in July and August 2013

The HMI of the future will look very familiar – July 7 – HMI/SCADA applications enable companies to benefit from commercial off-the-shelf technologies adapted for industrial automation to lower costs and improve operations.

Safety and control in collaborative robotics – Aug. 6 – Robotics technology is moving at the speed of light, and the standards process is struggling to keep up. New types of collaborative robots can be safely implemented: Do a risk assessment, work with experienced suppliers, and get involved with standards development.

How to size servo motors: Advanced inertia calculationsJuly 18Inside Machines: To properly select the appropriate servo motor for a motion control application, find the inertia of the load being rotated. Applications where the center of rotation is on a different axis than the center of mass can lead to some challenging inertial calculations.

Additive manufacturing: Disruption or evolution?Aug. 1Either way, 3D printing (additive manufacturing) needs controls and materials engineers and technologies to increase speed, quality, and material properties related to these rapidly advancing machines, so think again.

IT vs. OT: Bridging the divide – Aug. 16 Traditional IT is moving more onto the plant floor. OT will have to accept a greater level of integration. Is that a problem or an opportunity?

Panel building: Optimizing control panel design, construction – Aug. 13 Modern control panel wiring methods can reduce the costs of manufacturing and ownership.

Is that light supposed to be blinking? July 30If finding an alarm on your HMI is like playing Where’s Waldo, you might want to reevaluate some of your operator display graphics. A process upset is no time to try and remember what a flashing light means.

Industrial networking expands PLC functionalityAug. 9Combining real-time Ethernet with visualization, control, and communication capabilities allows PLCs to open the door to a new level of visibility and control for manufacturers.

Control panel before and after: Gain productivity with lean automation, connectivity – Aug. 14Get wired for efficiency. This video, photos, and text explain how a cabling system can speed control panel design and construction, with build-time control panel assembly savings of 60% or more.

Virtual reality applied for programming CNC machine tools Aug. 16Future CNC programming may have a manual teach mode. Mechatronics researchers demonstrate how future CNC machines could be designed with virtual reality elements to allow an operator to move body elements manually so motion sequences can be saved in the machine program.

DCS market may be crucial in Invensys biddingJuly 15Schneider Electric acquisition would boost company’s position in global markets, according to IHS Inc. comments.

Consequences of focusing too much on technologyAug. 13As you’re launching a new project, ask yourself a tough question: Can you justify what you’re doing for solid business reasons, or are you simply captivated by a cool technology?

Faster flexible testing, higher throughputAug. 7Case study: Harman accelerates infotainment system testing and throughput, including increased automation and throughput. Additionally, the stations can easily be adapted to handle evolving products and provide Harman with a competitive advantage.

Real-time monitoring is critical for sustaining solar PV energy outputAug. 15SCADA technology monitors, controls, and delivers system performance data down to the string level.

Most read online Control Engineering articles during August among those posted prior to July 2013

2013 Engineers’ Choice AwardsControl Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation, and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering‘s print and online subscribers. Subscribers to the North American print and digital editions are asked to select the best products based on technological advancement, service to the industry, and market impact.

How to select a VFD – These guidelines dispel the confusion about matching variable frequency drives (VFDs) and motors to fans and pumps that are typically encountered in commercial building applications. While the motivation to increase energy efficiency could be financial (reduced energy costs) or ethical (reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with power production), it is taken for granted that VFDs are an easy way to improve energy efficiency in a motor application. And with these noble intentions in mind, the engineer will specify a VFD for his client. Often, that isn’t the end of the story for the engineer.

Control Engineering Salary and Survey, Advice – Career Update: The 2012 Control Engineering salary and career survey showed enthusiasm for automation, controls, and instrumentation professions. Pay is up, and survey respondents encouraged those interested in engineering to continue learning. Strategies for workplace success follow.

Tuning thermal PID loops – When dealing with critical temperature applications, PID controllers are a common regulatory approach, but tuning these often requires a different strategy than other types of loops. Auto-tuning features can help if you understand them.

Which one is counterfeit? – Identifying phony electrical products can save lives and profits.

System Integrator Giants of 2013 – The 100 firms on the System Integrator Giants list represent the largest system integrators of 2013, among the companies listed in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide. In the survey, system integrator revenue is defined as automation integration services minus the cost of all off-the-shelf products: hardware, software, and equipment. The system integrators who responded to this survey provided information about engineering specialties, industries served, products integrated, associations/affiliations, and challenges from their industry.

Temperature sensors: Make the right choice, RTD vs. TC – When you need a temperature measurement, one of the most basic decisions is choosing which kind of sensor to deploy. The application should guide your decision.

Inside Machines: PC versus PLC: Comparing control options – To choose between a PLC or PC, analyze and compare characteristics that could differentiate the two technologies, such as operation, robustness, serviceability, hardware integration, security, safety, programming, and cost. Graphics illustrate some key considerations.

PLC vs. PAC – These technologies continue to evolve, making differences harder to distinguish. Here are some thoughts on what does what, and how to choose between a PLC and a PAC for your next application.

5 best ways to extend Ethernet – For many applications of TCP/IP networking, the 100-meter range limit of copper Ethernet cable becomes a problem. With conversion and extension, networks can cover distances that are measured in kilometers.

Is ‘ZigBee vs. Zwave’ the wrong battle? – An analyst’s insight into ‘up and coming’ smart home technologies.

Transformer efficiency: Minimizing transformer losses – Matching a transformer to its anticipated load is a critical aspect of reducing energy consumption.

System Integrator Giants of 2012 – These 100 firms represent the largest system integrators of 2012, from among 2,334 in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide.

Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2013 – Average annual base salary was $92,918 among respondents to the 2013 Control Engineering salary and career survey, with 70% expecting an increase and average bonus of $10,486. Best skills to get ahead are engineering skills, project management skills, communication and presentation skills, and computer skills. Other career advice follows.

Directdrive wind turbines flex muscles – A different drive train design that eliminates the gearbox between a turbine’s rotor and generator is attracting wind turbine manufacturers in the quest for higher power output, increased offshore reliability, and potential cost savings over the system’s lifetime. See photos, diagram, links.

Network redundancy reduces risk, downtime – Building network redundancy into the industrial network infrastructure helps avoid unplanned production stoppages. Practical guidelines from Belden follow on selecting the right network redundancy “insurance policy” for an application.

Reduce energy consumption: cement production – How conducting manufacturing energy assessment can help identify a wide range of changes to help reduce consumption. Metering, power quality, load shedding, motor management, power factor, and energy optimization all can help cement operations and other plants, as well.

PLC: Switches, Circuits, and Basic Functions and Sensors and I/O – Online training listing for PLCs, switches, circuits and more.

Industrial networking: One network for full enterprise connectivity – Industrial networking goes beyond connecting the back office to the plant floor. Today’s networking technology delivers fast, secure, and reliable data transfer factory-wide, so users can proactively improve efficiency and productivity.

System Integrators of the Year for 2013 – Automation Integrator Guide cover story: Control Engineering recognizes the best system integrators in the industrial automation business. The winners are… 

Pages: Most popular Control Engineering pages in August follow

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Control Engineering System Integrator Hall of Fame – Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories (based on the size of the organization). Three general criteria are considered for the selection of winners: business skills, technical competence, and customer satisfaction. Winners are then inducted into our System Integrator Hall of Fame. This page was updated in December 2012 with the class of 2013. 

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– Compiled by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering,