Automation is now a big part of every industry on the planet today. From automobiles, medicine, transportations, food industry and much more. The reason why automation is becoming the most important part of every industry today is that they can have the control over automation’s variation and its process. Automation engineers discovered that if they can control the variables, either reduce or increase it, they can control the productivity and efficiency of the machine. Because of the vision and machine’s motion control, it helps with its flexibility and can minimize the variation of modern machines especially with the automation. Because of its flexibility, it has increased range of automation, not only that, it pushes the processing limit of its hardware. PLC has been the norm in every industry today. With the technology changing by the minute. Upgrades to the equipment are not new when it comes to PLC. Due to its increased workload, the PLC operating system has to be upgraded as frequent as possible. But customizing these technologies will just add operating cost to the company. Not only the cost, but also the functionality, user option as well as its expandability are big factors when it comes to the automation industry. More and more facilities that use PLC are beginning to look for a device that has a larger data, bigger memory and has a lot of processing power, the days of PLC as the industrial computer powerhouse may come to an end.
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Control Process is divided into three categories. The actuator, the sensor, and the controller. Sensors send signals of information to the controller. It is called closed loop switch or feedback switch. The information that was sent to the controller is very important to the whole process. Most personal computers have built-in USB ports and Ethernet ports, same with PLC. It helps improve the device’ connectivity as well as it can improve its memory. PLC’s uses a high performance P3-550E Central Processing Unit that uses multiple ports for communication that includes USB ports and an Ethernet port. The System is very flexible and the memory is expandable using a P3-RS or P3-RX circuit. It also uses an expandable remote I/O. The CPU of a computer serves as the “brain” of the computer. It processes any information the sensor gives and decides on an action depending on the algorithms or program it was running. The controller sends a signal to the actuator in case the system inputs a value that is way out of its limit. The signal will tell the actuator to adjust whatever error in the process until it met the allowable operation. If the CPU is the brain of the control system, the actuator is the muscle. The actuator modifies anything the controller tells it to do. Actuators are composed of pumps, motors, pinions, chains, pulleys, and drives. The controller is aware whatever is happening to the system. If any error appears, the controller will decide an appropriate action. PLC is at the top of industrial automation. PLC means Programmable Logic Controller, the words Programmable Logic begun during mid 60’s to early 70’s when controlling a device needed an electrical component within a fixed feature. When changing a certain specification of the system, engineers have to change the design as well as re-engineer the entire control logic using an actual component that is shuffled. With PLC, engineers don’t have to fix the entire hardware. All they need to do is to update the software since all the design used to control the algorithms are all in the software. Although PLCs are very sturdy, their program language is easy to use since it is a standardized language, on the other hand, lacks standards since every PLC company offers different solutions to a problem. Troubleshooting a PLC is very easy. In fact, it is much easier compared to troubleshooting a personal computer since it has so many complex software. PLC is very modular.
It plugs in almost every setups depending on the need of each task. Some of the examples of these setups are communication card base on Ethernet, safety modules and I/O ports. PLC’s design allows it to be easy to use and easy to troubleshoot because it uses a common automation technology called Profibus. If it integrates with the Ethernet used by PLC, it allows replacement very easy. One of the advantages when using PLC is it can be expanded. It is also quite cost-effective, simple and is very tough with its design. Using an old technology like relays is very tough since it has a lot of moving parts in its system. Using PLC will minimize it. Another advantage is PLC uses personal computers in its system. It allows easy access when designing. The only disadvantage when using PLC is it will add extra cost for the new system and additional PLC training for the people using it. Companies that already use PLC will continue to use it in since most of their people are already familiar with the system. Because PLC has a very simple design and most of the people in every industry are quite familiar with it, it is safe to say that PLC will be here for a long time. But we should also look at the future. Everything is evolving, including industrial computers. As machinery and robotics became more and more complex, PLC is also starting to branch out.
PLC’s memory and, if compared to a personal computer, is a bit unfair. Automation and especially robotics needs a lot of input and output that require PLC to have more control modules and electronics. On the other hand, a personal computer can process a lot of data at a faster pace. It can also minimize the size and have better vision in its machinery. It also has a better control and flow of data. All in all, personal computers are a little bit superior compared to PLC’s in some aspect. But both PLC and personal computers need each other to work efficiently.
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