Contrary to popular belief, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are as prevalent as ever. Even the introduction of concepts such as Industrial IoT have done little to harm the legacy controller; in fact, it has forced OEMs to bring positive changes to PLCs and other PC-based controls, ensuring they keep up with modern requirements.
A proactive approach is gaining popularity among companies who wish to keep their automation infrastructure up to date. Waiting for end-of-life to approach simply erodes the competitive edge of a company giving room for others to grow and takes away prospective business. Plant managers simply can’t afford this, and thus can’t adopt a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to adding automation assets.
The lifetime of electronic components is rapidly shrinking, something that requires frequent software & hardware updates. If too much delay is created, other factors can also set-in, such as difficulty in finding personnel qualified to troubleshoot & repair primitive faulty equipment. The ARC Advisory Group stated in its 2015 report Distribution Control Systems Worldwide Outlook that almost $65 billion worth of automation systems are nearing their useful life cycles. It is even more astonishing that over $12 billion worth of such systems were installed in the late 1970s as distributed control systems.
The number of controllers available in the market are almost as many as the number of applications in which they are used. Most controllers are application independent and can be used for more than one purpose. So which one would you choose? A PLC, a PAC, a DCS or a IPC? Names are of little importance when compared to the functionality of a device.
Understanding the applications and practical limitations of industrial control panels is essential to guarantee proper usage as per the situation and requirements. According to the NEC (National Electrical Code) section 409.2, industrial control panels are defined as an assembly of two or more power circuit components or any combination of power and control circuit components. Industrial panels are factory-wired assemblies of control equipment like switches, motor controllers, relays, etc. However, it must be noted that UL listed industrial panels do not include any externally connected load.
A bright sunny day for you may be a disaster in the making for your VFDs. Air conditioning systems are installed to ensure that machinery such as drives, panels, etc. run within the optimum temperature range. But if the temperature surpasses expected levels, things can go wrong very quickly. Heat dissipation is often overlooked in the case of VFDs or AC drives, leading to devastating downtime. Keeping into account a few factors can greatly help keeping the energy dissipation in check, and reduce the risks of unexpected shutdowns.
Remote I/O modules have been an integral part of the industrial world for decades. Whether there’s need for receiving sensory data or for sending actuator commands, remote I/O modules have always been there to make sure your automation scheme works. Today, this technology is undergoing changes, it’s becoming better, smaller, faster and more intelligent.
Universal Logic, Inc., an AI software company and robotics integrator that offers supply chain solutions, needed a design and complete build of control panels to house 130+ VFDs and a PLC. With a low bandwidth of in-house engineering resources, Universal Logic Inc. needed a turnkey solution they could trust.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a century old consulting and certification company that is known throughout the world for its stringent levels of certification for electrical devices and components. Industries such as manufacturing, mining, energy, etc. need to follow a certification system for the equipment they procure to make sure their property and personnel are out of harm’s way. Out of the several UL standards that exist, company's that provide electrical components should be UL508A certified.
The 1970s saw the introduction of PLCs or Programmable Logic Controllers, which would forever change the way automation is achieved in industrial environments. Known for its rugged design and scalable implementation, the PLC was adapted by all major manufacturers and to this day is the norm for industrial automation. Allen-Bradley, Omron, Siemens, AEG, etc. became the leaders in PLC manufacturing, and soon the controllers had the processing capability of a computer while withstanding harsh industrial conditions.
Electric Control Panel design is not just about selecting the dimensions of the cabinet, the rating of the enclosure and the IP protection it should offer. It’s actually about creating a design that would ensure comprehensive yet simple control of your plant/machine/process. Planning is the key to proper control panel design, as preemptive rectification of errors is easier than rewiring an established unit. No matter how complex the control requirements are, it’s better to think of the entire design as a continuous process rather than a static entity.