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Control Panels Double as Processors

Article-Control Panels Double as Processors

Control Panels Double as Processors

Windows CE-based touch-screen control panels from Phoenix Contact combine functions of a PLC and HMI (human machine interface) in a single unit. Bridging the gap between PLCs and high-end PCs, this integration eliminates the need for separate operating and monitoring devices for small-to-medium OEM machines in applications ranging from packaging to wastewater treatment remote terminals. Such consolidation cuts cost, machine size, and design time.

The control panels are targeted for applications that do not require a high-performance PC but still need an adequate display of vital machine information. With 48 Mbytes of RAM for user program memory, the panels have on the order of five to ten times the memory of typical PLCs and two to three times the memory of HMI-only panels. Automation Product Marketing Manager Larry Komarek says the control panels integrate the control and HMI functions at a cost 30 to 50 percent of systems made up of separate devices.

A key panel feature is a dual-processor design. A separate processor is available to handle I/O and while a primary unit tackles control and HMI. "Processing in milliseconds can chew up cycle time in a microprocessor," notes Komarek. "This frees up the main processor."

The panels were developed in a joint effort with Entivity and Iconics. Phoenix Contact developed the hardware, fieldbus interface, graphic display software, and I/O interface. Entivity's Studio flow-chart software and Iconics PanelWorX software for graphics and HMI visualization were ported into CE for Phoenix Contact's use. These allow users fast programming development with runtime (the actual running code for operations) already pre-installed and pre-integrated into the control panels. Programs and configuration data can be stored on a 32-Mbyte flash card, with larger cards available as an option.

Komarek highlights the coordination among the three partners as vital to development. "There was tight orchestration in the three companies' effort, particularly in defining common databases and clean HMI interfaces. And testing was conducted at all three companies."

The CP3xxT-STUDIO-IB control panels come in 6-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes, have a built-in device-level fieldbus master with a 10/100BASE-T Ethernet port for eased networking, and are IP65 panel-mount compliant. Added isolation circuitry, filters, board component layout, and low-noise inducing connectors are designed for electrical noise isolation even in a factory floor environment. Phoenix Contact Inc.

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