Thrill-seeking engineers are now taking advantage of new propulsion systems in their mission to scare people to death. Top Thrill Dragster, at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH—the world's largest and fastest roller coaster—uses a hydraulic launch system to hurtle passengers from 0 to 120 mph in the 4-second launch period and to pull the 16 passenger trains up a 420-ft hill. Thanks to PLCs and an advance monitoring system, up to six trains can run on the tracks at the same time.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.