PLC or Programmable Logic Controller is evolving and continues to be the best choice for different types of industrial automation applications. Ease and good programming flexibility, scalability, more memory, very high-speed Ethernet, built-in wireless, and smaller size are among the evolving PLC features.
If a company uses Programmable Logic Controllers or is thinking of doing so, they may consider them to be a ripe technology with little to no room for enhancement as they have been in this industry for at least 50 years. But like their counterpart in the consumer electronics industry, substantial improvements continue with no end result in sight, promising smaller, lower cost, and promising solutions.
Its hardened embedded processor and running on a real-time operating system has proven to be a centerpiece of the industrial automation industry, fighting on all issues to its supremacy. Windows-based open systems have made progress, but lag behind Programmable Logic Controllers, a trend that experts expected to continue with its purpose-built hardware, one-supplier support model, and specially designed software remains a perfect choice for most control apps.
From the start, when this technology was usually replacing scores of thousands of relays and timers, there has been a push to decrease the automation system size, as well as simplifying maintenance and support. For many years, parts like relay panels have been substituted with a rack-based PLC system (smaller and more efficient) or smaller but automated remote Input and Output.
When it comes to software, ladder logic programming or LLP usually mimics an automation system based on timers and relays, as well as continues to use PLC programming language. But other options are starting to get noticed, as the IEC 61131-3 suite of automated programming options.
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In the near future, this technology will continue to evolve and develop while also adapting improvements in hardware, software, and communications. Part of this evolution will include the merging of PAC and PLC functionality and advancements in communications from the plant’s bottom floor to the top floor.
Better, faster, smaller
Modern components like circuit boards and processors are starting to get smaller and smaller throughout the electronic world. These improvements are slowly making it to the automated logic controller, although the need for effective, ruggedness, reliability, and stability slows the acceptance. Current development includes additional memory capacity, new communication capabilities, and a faster processor to help improve cycle time.
In response to the market demand, a lot of functions and features are starting to migrate from higher-end to low-end controllers. For example, people can expect that small automated controller will evolve to include a lot of functions and features of high-level controllers, and mid- to high-range automation systems will offer smaller and more compact solutions to meet the user’s needs.
Automated controllers are also taking gain from the slow decline in solid-state memory size and costs. It permits the increase in local data storage and allows the use of the technology in many applications that traditionally require an expensive data acquisition system. This technology also opens the door to other capabilities like on-board storage of product info, which can help expedite maintenance and troubleshooting.
Today’s automated systems are already taking advantage of the USB or Universal Serial Bus technology. It makes a lot easier to get online, monitor the control system, and program compared before. Automation technology is continuing to develop and evolve.
With the availability of smaller micro and mini-Universal Serial Bus connectors, individuals can expect to see communication options on the smaller and more compact PLCs. Another example of a fast-moving electronics industry that is starting to penetrate the industrial controls market is the non-volatile memory device that people can carry everywhere.
This offer greatly benefits the PLC consumer by giving a considerable amount of added memory in small packages. Options include miniSD, microSD cards, and Universal Serial Bus to Secure Digital, adding 32 gigabytes at most of the additional memory to the device as needed by users, system integrator, or machine builder.
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Fifty years ago, hardwired RL or Relay Logic was replaced with LD or Ladder Diagram. This language kept everything simple for engineers and technicians who are used to using Relay Logic, but it had limitations, particularly when it comes to data handling and process control.
The IEC 61131-3 standard help introduced other automation programming languages used by industrial controllers, but LD responded with advancements and has shown a strong staying power. There are apps where a sequential task chart is a lot better, especially when it comes to processing control.
The structured text works well for International Electrotechnical Commission languages, and data manipulation has strong points. But LD forges on, and it remains the leader in terms of automated logic control programming languages.
Customers and suppliers support a sizeable installed base of equipment controlled by PLCs programmed using ladder logic. There are also a lot of technicians, engineers, maintenance personnel, and electricians who prefer to use this programming technology.
Regardless of what hardware is used, many professionals have used this language and have gone a very long way to making the industry standard. The trend is expected to continue for many years. While LL is the center point of machine control simplicity, the function block programming method can minimize the amount of code, especially as PLC codes merge into one programming environment.
Perhaps the most significant change in this technology’s future will be the merging and integration of ERP or Enterprise Resource planning and other high-level computing systems to factory floors. In the past, it was a vital integration job to process data or extract machine and feed it upstream to the system.
Still, future technology will include functions, features, and hooks needed to simplify the integration. With this in mind, PLC manufacturers need to consider the user’s needs and provide solutions where this technology is not only controlling the app but also providing tools to present processes and seamlessly manipulate data to users who need it.
In the near future, this technology will still be used for every industrial automation controller, although essential changes will be made to purpose, performance, and form. The Programmable Logic Controller’s size will continue to decrease, and improvements in the hardware will expand the capabilities, functions, and features of this long-lasting and rugged industrial controller.
Communication and software capabilities will also improve, creating new industrial automation platforms with old names. Just remember that this technology is still improving, and our world is starting to embrace automation. It will be a vital part of every industrial machinery and even in our home devices.