PC-based control is making a quiet comeback, in part because of an eroding dividing line between PLCs, PCs and ‘soft’ control. At least, that’s the opinion of David Humphrey, an analyst for ARC Advisory Group (http://rbi.ims.ca/4927-535) who reports on automation trends. PC-based control today ranges from software such as a ‘soft’ PLC delivered on a CD-ROM that runs as a task on a Windows platform, to PLC-like controllers running small footprint or embedded versions of Windows. The lines are blurring between PLCs and PC-based control, and the focus is on software integration. Humphrey uses a “Programmable Automation Controller”(PAC) to describe solutions that provide users with an integrated view of control tasks from a single tag database. New products are offering a variety of solutions, but ultimately the premium is providing users a unified environment for control.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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