Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING

Articles

Virtualization, Cloud Analytics November 2, 2018

Model, Simulate, Execute Simulation in Discrete Control

KEY WORDS PC-based control Machine control Software for control Flowchart programming Simulation Imagine a product design, completed in software, and rendered in 3-D graphics. This rendering allows designers to strip away layers to view and work on components underneath. Next, manufacturing engineers can design the machines, fixtures, and processes required to produce components and completed ...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mobility May 1, 2002

Beam Up Some Information, Scotty

Not too long ago the idea of a machine dialing a maintenance technician's cell phone to call for help seemed far fetched. Then came the great success of Palm spawning the "palm top" market. Research In Motion's Blackberry e-mail device was next in the commercial hit parade. It is only natural that engineers using these devices for part of their business life would ponder how to exploit them fo...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control February 1, 2002

One (or more) Controller for Every Application

Engineering conferences and publications thrive on controversy. There's nothing like a good religious debate to get one's blood flowing, and some engineering debates assume a religious air. There are the "fieldbus wars" and the "PLC vs. DCS vs. PC-based control" arguments. Technology and competition are combining to put a "double whammy" on these arguments.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control February 1, 2002

Information at Internet Speed

A healthy manufacturing sector is essential to the health of all of the world's economies. Yet, manufacturing ended 2001 in the U.S. with its 17th straight month of decline, although signs of a recovery in 2002 are popping up. Forecasters predict that when this essential market rebounds, it will do so with fewer people employed.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Data Acquisition, DAQ January 1, 2002

Software Standards Propel Information Exchange

Engineers needed a better way to move data from I/O devices through controller data tables to their HMI/SCADA (human-machine interface/supervisory control and data acquisition) software. Traditional methods were limited to moving blocks of bits from Remote I/O or other devices over a proprietary network or a slow serial network.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control December 1, 2001

Distribute Intelligent I/O Devices for Effective Control

Systems theory requires studying the whole to learn about the interconnectedness of the parts, says Fritjof Capra in The Web of Life, rather than just the Cartesian study of parts. "Ultimately, as quantum physics showed so dramatically, there are no parts at all. What we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships," he says.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control October 1, 2001

Use Sensors Intelligently

Intelligent sensing for discrete manufacturing is finally coming of age. With cost of embedded controller chips on a continual decline and performance ever increasing, manufacturers can apply them economically in smaller packages. Meanwhile, advances in vision system software have reduced complexity to the point where it no longer requires a Ph.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Robotics September 1, 2001

Toolbox overflows for control programmers

Software programming no longer entails sitting before a blank screen and either entering contacts and coils or typing arcane commands and keywords that become long strings of spaghetti in ladder or text. Today's tools aid program organization and provide powerful command sets that make complex control easier and faster to accomplish.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control July 1, 2001

Technology Advances Power Integrated Control

Imagine designing a packaging line or material handling system with the control all in one package rather than separate logic control, motion control, vision systems, and bar code over RS-232. Real-world data are sent directly from the control program to a SQL database for analysis, selective sharing with customers or suppliers, and production and quality reporting.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
DCS, SCADA, Controllers May 1, 2001

Control, MES Partner for C-Manufacturing Solutions

KEY WORDS Software Manufacturing execution systems (MES) Enterprise resource planning (ERP) It used to be so easy. Of course, it didn't look like it at the time. All a control engineer had to do was automate a piece of machinery, maybe a production line, or a process. Now, there are more pressures.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Machine Safety March 23, 2001

Protect Plant Personnel

Spurred by European directives, companies provide enhanced safety devices and risk assessment education to enable control engineers to design better safety into machinery and processes.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
I/O Systems, I/O Modules January 1, 2001

OPC Integrates the Factory Floor

Manufacturing has been given the challenge. Enable smaller lot sizes, allow flexible options in products going down the same manufacturing line in random order, allow customers to make changes until just before actual production, communicate seamlessly with all suppliers and customers. Do all this and hold, or even decrease, costs, and just maybe the company will survive for a little whil...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control November 1, 2000

CNC Technology: Another Weapon in Integrated Manufacturing’s Arsenal

Look for that big, honkin' steel structure back in the plant with chips flying and cutting fluid spraying and you'll find CNC (computer numeric control) at its nerve center. These specially designed controllers handle high-speed, high-precision, multi-axis coordinated motion control. CNC are at the core of large machining centers that manufacture complex metal parts for automotive, aerosp...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Robotics October 1, 2000

Distributed Control Goes Discrete

Process control has been distributed for quite some time. In fact, the concept is immortalized in the TLA (three-letter acronym) "DCS." Discrete control, until recently, depended on an architecture featuring one large PLC with large racks filled with I/O modules. The view across a discrete manufacturing plant is usually blocked by large centralized control enclosures packed with PLC I/O r...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Workforce Development September 1, 2000

Manufacturing Does Windows … Linux Knocks at the Door

The much-anticipated arrival of Microsoft's (Redmond, Wa.) version 3 of Windows CE with "hard real time" has refocused attention on operating systems. Just a few years ago, only design engineers knew which microprocessor chip and real-time operating system (RTOS) powered a controller. Now every control engineer seeks information about the guts of a controller before specifying one.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Industrial PCs August 1, 2000

Displays’ Future Looks Flat – Panels That Is

As greater responsibility and authority gravitate to operators in manufacturing, information must be available to them quickly in an easy-to-understand format. Software suppliers continue to improve information presentation in more ways than just the famous tank-filling example. Multiple windows with highlighted error messages that automatically boot a screen containing control logic requ...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control August 1, 2000

Display products roundup

Windows CE bundled HMI Ann Arbor, Mich. -'panelLink' Windows CE platform bundles hardware from Ann Arbor Technologies and software from Intellution (Norwood, Mass.) into a complete HMI solution. The product features a 200 MHz Hitachi SH4 processor with 32 MB on-board SDRAM and 16 MB flash ROM.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Data Acquisition, DAQ July 1, 2000

Web Technologies Power Automation Interface Software

Commercial technologies and business needs continue to propel human-machine interface (HMI) software. Only a few years ago, HMI software provided graphical representations of PLC data to enhance operator information. Software development has meshed with corporate needs to enable greater functions that assist made-to-order manufacturing with ever-shrinking inventories and lead times.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control July 1, 2000

Signatures Unlock Secrets

Any vendors can take a voltage or current signal from sensors, capture a waveform, and perform some analysis. Two can take waveform analysis to another level. Sciemetric (Nepean, Ontario, Canada) and Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, Wis.) have applied additional mathematics to waveform signals, offering tools to improve manufacturing quality and productivity.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Energy, Power June 1, 2000

Power Up for Control

Power supplies are found everywhere in manufacturing. Yet, when did any engineer stop to consider what advances in power technology contribute to control strategy implementation? Control architecture objectives include reducing enclosure size, enhancing safety for technicians troubleshooting problems within the enclosure, distributing control throughout a production line or process plant,...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Energy, Power May 1, 2000

Ethernet’s in Control

Already facing several choices when choosing a fieldbus network, engineers now have another—Ethernet. Yes, that's the same Ethernet IT uses to connect PCs to the enterprise and ultimately the Internet. Well, it is almost the same.In the face of all the other fieldbuses with vendor groups, big company support, technical committees, and compliance testing, why is anyone looking at Eth...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Motors and Drives April 1, 2000

How to Build a PC-based Control System

PC-based control can be one of those subjects not to be discussed at dinner parties, ranking right up there with politics and religion. Many companies have emerged staking their existence solely upon it, many seeing the control market as "us versus them." The concept is powerful enough, however, to also draw the attention of the large PLC manufacturers—so the "them" are often also "...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control February 1, 2000

How to Succeed with Open Control

The promise of open control can also be a curse. Control engineers have the ability to choose hardware, software, and networking products that best match application requirements. Since all vendors pledge their products are "open," this automatically means there will be no problems hooking it all together and making it run with no more than the usual start-up bugs.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control January 1, 2000

Robotics Integrate PCs, Networks

Remember the "gaps" of past decades? The Sixties began with a missile gap and ended with a generation gap. The search for more "gaps" was rewarded in the 1980's with the discovery of a "robot gap." American industry was supposedly doomed because Japanese manufacturers had more robots than anywhere else.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Project Management January 1, 2000

Montreal Team Has Winning Habit at SAE “Walking Machine” Competition

F or the second consecutive year, a robot designed by a team of students from Ecole de Technologie Superieure (ETS), a part of the University of Quebec, won the Society of Automotive Engineers 'Walking Machine Decathlon' competition in 1999. 'We're fortunate to have a great deal of expertise on our team-mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and automated production engineering,' says this year's team leader, Michel Gendron, a third year mechanical engineering student. 'It gives us a running start in the competition.' Nonetheless, the team begins working together a full year before each year's competition. Early in the cycle, team members may stop at the dedicated shop and work on the project once or twice a week.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
PLCs, PACs January 1, 2000

Fiber Optic card allows remote monitoring

B ehr Systems (Auburn Hills, Mich.) had to find a way to provide tight connection to the human-machine interface display located 2,000 feet from the controller on its paint line. The system includes custom software running on a VME single-board computer controlling paint amount and airflow with a VME-based Allen-Bradley PLC for automation control. Added memory in the system holds process data. HMI for the system is developed in Visual Basic running on Microsoft Windows NT.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Industrial PCs January 1, 2000

MIT’s Bouncing Baby Robot?

S ci-fi movies are full of them. Walking, talking, human-like robots. In fact, as long as the field of artificial intelligence has been around, people have dreamed of creating robots that not only look like humans but can think, feel, learn, and make mistakes-just like the real thing. MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab has succeeded in turning science fiction into fact with Cog, a humanoid robot that's been in development since the early '90s.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Control Systems December 1, 1999

I/O Strategies Live Distributed or Die

Adapting New Hampshire's motto, "Live Free or Die," controls designers must change to a distributed architecture to reduce cost and increase future flexibility or see their company lose its competitive advantage—"Live Distributed or Die." Distributing I/O modules closer to the action connected to the controller with one network quick-connect cable reduces total wiring costs, increas...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Manufacturing IT, MES November 1, 1999

XML is in your future

C hances are if you use a personal computer and access data using web technologies, then XML is in your future. XML is the three-letter acronym for eXtensible Markup Language. It is a markup meta-language and syntax used to create declarative languages.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Robotics November 1, 1999

Graphic Interfaces are Programmers’ Friends

Programming editors and languages are increasingly loaded with powerful functions. Faster, more powerful controller microprocessors and Microsoft's Windows-based graphic environment have combined to allow programmers to accomplish complex tasks.PLC programming was originally strictly Boolean. A statement would be something like "If (limit switch contact) A closes OR (motor starter contac...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Industrial PCs October 1, 1999

Flat Panels, Touchscreens Lead HMI Hardware Trends

Increasing options for designers and users of control systems are driving almost every supplier of control system components. This concept is seen in such areas as controllers, networking, I/O modules and devices, and now in hardware for human-machine interface (HMI). Cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors borrowed from the computer industry followed little electroluminescent alphanumeric displa...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control September 1, 1999

Open Systems Mean Freedom of Choice in Manufacturing

Formal and de facto standards enable control engineers to construct a system from components of different vendors, extend and modify it as requirements change, and avoid being at the mercy of a single vendor.It has been over 10 years since employees of Opto 22 (Temecula, Calif.) wore black armbands to commemorate the demise of proprietary PLC control in manufacturing at the hands of Open ...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
PLCs, PACs July 1, 1999

HMI Software Powers Diagnostics

The telephone rings. It's midnight, and the plant maintenance foreman is on the line—Op 30 is down again. That's okay. Just boot up the laptop, log on to the company's network via the Internet, and find out what's wrong without leaving home. This vision of the future has come true.But why be awakened at all? What if the operator fixes the machine without calling an engineer because ...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Edge and Cloud Computing June 1, 1999

Vision Systems See New Technology Bring Lower Prices

Want to banish the "magic" from machine vision integration and pay less? Machine vision systems today reflect commercial microprocessor advancements as well as software enhancements to make systems easier, more powerful, and less expensive. The power of Intel's Pentium microprocessor with MMX (multi-media capability) has allowed many suppliers to leverage commercial technology that is les...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Industrial PCs May 1, 1999

Window CE Moves From Pocket to Control

Serious consideration of Microsoft Windows CE as an operating system for industrial applications began slightly over a year ago. First referenced in January 1997 Control Engineering, most mentions since have occurred in the last six months. In a short period of time, this real-time operating system (RTOS) has managed to focus attention on the little-known embedded RTOS market and has domi...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Industrial PCs April 1, 1999

5Machine Control Size, Connectivity Drive Hardware Strategies

PLC or PC? If that were the only question facing engineers, then it would be easy. If PC (personal computer) is the choice, then what type of PC? If PLC (programmable logic controller), then should I/O modules be on a backplane or distributed? Add to this the impact of Microsoft Windows CE and Ethernet.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Machine Safety April 1, 1999

STD 32 Computer Controls Insertion Machine

The Image Packaging System from K&M Newspaper Services uses a dual-processor STD 32 Star System from Ziatech Corporation (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) to tailor the contents of newspaper inserts targeting specific insert packages to certain zones or demographic segments. According to system architect Jack McDaniel of McDaniel Control Systems, the STD 32 Bus was chosen because of its multiprocessing capability, upgrade capability, and reliability in the 'dusty environment'' of a newspaper printing room. The inserting machine works like an assembly line, with moving pockets passing under hoppers that drop inserts into the pockets. When a complete package of inserts is built, it is dropped onto a delivery conveyor. The STD 32 system controls which inserts are fed into the pockets and which pockets are dropped on the delivery conveyor.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Data Acquisition, DAQ March 1, 1999

HMI Software Blasting the Boundaries

Opportunities for manufacturing process improvement now come from beyond the boundaries of the machine line. Human-machine interface (HMI) packages that provide only a look inside the controller are quickly becoming inadequate. With Information Technology (IT) programmers and analysts looking for real-time information, HMI vendors are providing controls engineers with solutions.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics February 1, 1999

PCs Are Gaining Control

Benefits of using PC technology for machine and process control have been extolled for some time. Vendors have responded with many new products—both hardware and software. Even though sales of PC-based control products for manufacturing have not grown rapidly, there are many success stories showing what the technology can deliver.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Motors and Drives February 1, 1999

Detroit Diesel uses PC control

D iesel engines power the equipment that transports people and goods around the world. For more than 50 years, Detroit Diesel Corp. has built heavy-duty engines for transportation, construction, industrial, and military applications. The company retooled its Series 60 assembly line in Redford, Mich.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control December 1, 1998

PCs Power Programming Tools

In the past, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) were programmed with proprietary software in relay ladder logic. Screen navigation was with function keys. Almost no way existed to reuse the program from one machine to the next. For some issues from a user's viewpoint see the sidebar from General Motors Power Train.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control November 1, 1998

New at IMTS PCs Boost CNC Capability

One trend from the recent IMTS '98 show sure to appeal to control engineers is the merging of PC technology with CNCs (Computer Numerical Control). Application of PCs to CNCs varies from an "open" solution comprised of CNC motion control software running on any PC that meets specifications to adding chipsets with the desired functions to existing CNC boards.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics October 1, 1998

Machine Control Strategies It’s Only Logical

Will that personal computer (PC) on your desk be controlling the next machine installed in your factory? Some say, "Yes, the PLC is dead as a control platform." To others, the PLC is not dead, it is morphing.At times this discussion sounds like a religious debate. But users need not be locked into an either/or decision about the future control platform for their factories.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Energy, Power September 1, 1998

Networked I/O Strategies Connect

Pressures on manufacturing engineers to cut costs, commission production lines faster, and increase machine uptime never end. With every improvement come management demands for more.The technologies that helped in the past are now often in the way of more improvements, but help is on the way. Many new technologies will solve these new problems.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Machine Safety July 1, 1998

Copper’s Not the Only Way to Network

You have to install a new manufacturing data network. Before you call for a truck-load of twisted-pair copper wire, better check out all the applications. There may be areas where copper won't work.There are other choices. Fiber-optic technology is not new, but is becoming easier to use. Radio frequency is moving from warehouse data collection to sensors and networking.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Industrial PCs May 1, 1998

PLCs Adapt, but Will They Withstand Assault of PCs?

Rumors of the death of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) may be—as Mark Twain said—greatly exaggerated. Originally called programmable controllers ("PC"), the PLC has been the foundation of factory control for almost 30 years.But technological battle lines have been drawn. Only a few years ago, few engineers would have considered using a personal computer (PC) for machine ...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control April 1, 1998

Operator Interfaces Shrink, Expand, and Web-Connect

Exciting new technologies are making larger flat-panel displays with sharper images possible. The first products with technology derived from the web (the world wide web or Internet) are appearing. The popularity of micro PLCs has opened a market for small operator interface devices while technology is giving them a new, improved look.

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING
Mechatronics and Motion Control March 1, 1998

PLC I/O Devices: More Options for Better Machine Control

PLC I/O devices have gone a long way from being wiring devices on a backplane. Once thought to be dinosaurs replaced by smart sensors and device networks, I/O devices are showing new life by offering users new ways to improve control of machines in a cost-effective manner. Several trends in the market are occurring simultaneously, but all have one direction—increased opportunities f...

By Gary A. Mintchell, CONTROL ENGINEERING