Process Control & Automation

Process Control and Automation are broad categories and in this spirit, the material contained herein is a broad brush stroke on this topic with the focus on soft plc and industrial control pc. Under the umbrella of CAE or computer aided engineering, the OEM or controls engineer has the facility and framework to create distributed function blocks for industrial processes, measurement and control systems. Under the emerging guidelines of IEC 61499, the robust benefits are the ease and maintenance of developing robust control and automation logic.

Automation often requires devices with different interfaces to be able to communicate with each other. For example a controller may need to receive input from a fire alarm system, a lighting system and various sensors all made by different manufacturers. In such cases it is often necessary to convert data from the protocol used by one device to another protocols. The main advantage of the automated manufacturing are: higher consistency and quality, reduction in lead times, simplification of production, reduction in material handling, improve work flow and a shift of the work force towards higher value tasks and away from repetitive job functions. This creates a secondary effect of higher employee morale with the proper automation implementation.

Process control is a discipline for controlling the variables of a process and distributing information and signals to the process in such a way that the output of the process is maintained at steady state. The PLC is still widely used today, however the soft plc or control PC has made significant advances with the development control software environments with are intuitive, feature rich and follow the IEC 61131 and IEC 61499 international automation standard. This coupled with significant advances in computing power, real time operation environments and reliability provide a high degree of flexibility, performance and functionality.