Integrate a PC into your industrial PLC networkFollow article
Boost up your manufacturing processes with the combined power of a PLC and a PC
Linking production PLCs with PC-based data acquisition and analysis allow manufacturers to produce customized, complex and tight tolerance products at highest quality.
Let´s take the example of a CNC machine where a PLC is perfectly suitable to control the tools and table movements while also functioning amid the harsh environment of the shop floor. Also implementing the different fabrication steps with tight tolerances and complex motions to defined precision shapes and precise dimension is a perfectly suited task to a PLC.
But the PLC is not an appropriate controller for analysing or preparing the machine´s operation, or for providing the long, carefully timed set of instructions, because it is limited in both computation capability and sequencing ability.
PCs which can work in conjunction with PLCs are the solutions for those tasks. PCs have the necessary calculation-intensive capabilities for CAD / CAM applications to work out complex dimensional analysis. In addition PCs provide legacy interfaces like RS-232, Ethernet connectivity and other standard I/O ports. Furthermore the array of available software that can run on a PC is nearly unlimited.
A production line that is embedded into a wider network of PC can benefit from software solutions which support things like production planning, tracking, traceability or scheduling. Using CAD/ CAM applications tools allow a PC to work out the machine specifics and feed it with a long sequence of precise instructions. All this enables further optimisation of the production line and finally helps to improve margins and profits for the company.
The challenge is that engineers cannot easy replace the installed base of legacy PLCs which are running the machines including their unique I/Os. So how to integrate PC-based functionality, keep the installed legacy hardware and software and remain open to the inevitable future requirements?
One example is the ED-204 Ethernet switch from Brainboxes which combines a dual-port Ethernet switch, an Ethernet to RS-232 interface and an Ethernet to 4-channel digital I/O in a compact 3-in-1 solution.
At the networking and management levels this module can be configured, monitored and controlled by using a Windows COM port driver which enables legacy software support by providing an interface to the Windows platform. The port is compatible with industry-standard PC packages such as LabView, MATLAB, and Agilent VEE so users can continue to exploit the benefits of their existing development and process-control system.
All in all the ED-204 switch is a non-costly and easy to integrate solution to boost legacy applications to the next level.