EC: Opto 22 SoftPAC

Machine and Embedded Control - PACs: Opto 22 SoftPAC works like a hardware PAC but uses a PC's processing speed and file handling to run computationally intensive applications or those needing to log, manipulate, and exchange large amounts of data. This is a Control Engineering 2013 Engineers' Choice Awards Honorable Mention.


Opto 22 SoftPAC works like a hardware PAC but uses a PC's processing speed and file handling to run computationally intensive applications or those needing to log, manipulate, and exchange large amounts of data. This is a Control Engineering 2013 Engineers' Choice finalist.Part of a control engineer’s job is to choose equipment that best meets an application’s particular requirements. For many automation projects, engineers choose a programmable automation controller (PAC). An industrially hardened hardware-based PAC is a reliable workhorse for many applications, notably those in harsh environments and those requiring closely timed, deterministic operation. Yet, for some applications, a PC-based software controller can be a better choice.

Gas density formulas used in a control system, for example, require fast floating-point calculations, while a data acquisition system at a refrigerated warehouse may log gigabytes of temperature, power, and compressor status data. Such applications can benefit from Opto 22 SoftPAC, a PAC that runs on a PC. SoftPAC uses a PC’s speed, memory, and file handling. Its suitability for applications like these stems from the ongoing evolution of PC components: central processing units get faster, RAM sizes grow, and hard drive capacities expand.

For computationally intensive applications, SoftPAC uses a PC’s computational speed to improve calculation time and increase overall performance of the complex logic encountered. Data acquisition applications involving large volumes of data can be difficult using a hardware PAC, but are possible with SoftPAC due to a PC’s extensive storage and networking capabilities. File operations are limited only by the size of hard drives and the available network volumes.

SoftPAC can also reduce costs for machine builders and OEMs who integrate a PC into their products. Running SoftPAC on the PC built into the machine avoids the cost of a separate, hardware-based controller and saves valuable space inside compact machines. The same control program runs on SoftPAC and Opto 22 hardware PACs, so an engineer can develop once and then choose the best PAC “hardware or software” to get the job done. Opto 22

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