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A flair for motion

The H2-CTRIO four-channel, high-speed counter from Automationdirect.com enhances the motion capability of PLCs. Priced at $269, the PLC counter module partners with a DL205 CPU, H2-EBC Ethernet Base Controller, or the WinPLC to provide easy-to-use motion control. "Since we sell direct to customers over the Internet, it's important for us to offer intuitive products," says Tim Hohmann, founder and company captain. "The new module is easy to set up with programming software that offers 'fill-in-the-blank'configuration capabilities." Each counter module supports four independently configurable counter/time channels with up to 100 kHz response, as well as four isolated high-speed dc outputs. It's also programmable for handling local processing of count-based events without assistance from the controlling CPU. "Since the counters run independently of the PLC program scan," Hohmann says, "the response time between a counted event and the discrete output action can be reduced to microseconds."

Power in the palm

The VersaMax Nano Controller from GE Fanuc Automation targets high-volume applications with cost, space, and fast-processing-speed constraints. "Its $180 list price makes it a more flexible option for engineers designing counter-, timer-, and relay-based control systems," says Product Manager Bill Black. With only 10 I/O points, Nano targets applications that need powerful control, but not high I/O counts. The compact (75- x 80- x 47-mm) PLC includes 2K words of memory, PID, floating-point math, subroutines, and serial read/write commands. It supports up to two high-speed counters (10 kHz) and has three PWM/pulse train outputs (5 kHz). Standard RS-232 communication can be used for SNP Slave, Modbus RTU Slave, or Serial In/Out commands. Plus, the new VersaMax SE Module connects Micro and Nano controllers to Ethernet so users can solicit and send information, upload/download programs, and monitor and control devices over Ethernet.

Rackless, not backless

Ongoing design changes can make it tough to size and configure control racks. So why not go rackless? Omron's CQM1H uses a modular architecture that supports up to 512 I/O and offers powerful PID and floating-point math instructions, and a data memory of 12k. "Starting at $357, CQM1H achieves two times the power and capacity of what we had before in the same size," says Product Manager Don Sondermann. "And it lets users build and add on to the system easily as the design changes." Targeted at applications that require communication among PLCs, the serial communication board lets engineers use the protocol macro function to transfer data between the CPU and external third party serial devices. Moreover, the ControllerLink module allows data exchange between multiple Omron PLCs or a PC via a ControllerLink network.

Sequential and motion

Allen-Bradley's latest addition to its Logix PLC Platform, called SoftLogix5800(TM), is actually software that runs on a PC. The soft control uses the PC's capacity to configure which CPU runs the SoftLogix engine. According to Rockwell Automation's Rick Ludlow, tight integration of sequential and motion improves machine cycle times, and delivers high performance, ease of use, and improved integration capabilities to PC-based control applications. SoftLogix5800 uses the same Logix execution engine, programming software, and the NetLinx(TM)networks (DeviceNet(TM), ControlNet(TM), and EtherNet/IP). While not the first soft controller with the ability to perform sequential and motion control within a single system, its software wizard handles motion control integration, system diagnostics, and governs automatic tuning to determine position and velocity loop gains. "The biggest challenge integrating motion control systems is getting everything to play together," explains Ludlow. "Now we offer a single program to develop and manage motion control, sequential control, and I/O configuration."

Ethernet + web server & $300

With embedded Ethernet and web-server capability, iSeries controllers connect directly to an Ethernet network with a standard RJ-45 connector to send and receive data in standard TCP/IP packets and serve up a web page. The device serves a web page over an Ethernet LAN or over the Internet so engineers can monitor and control the process through a web browser from anywhere in the facility, or in the world. "In fact, iSeries devices are full stand-alone Internet appliances that do more than just bridge between serial and Ethernet," explains Newport General Manager Steve Hollander. "It's actually one of the world's smallest web servers, so it works without a computer functioning as a proxy server and master to slave instruments connected though serial communications."

I/O meets GUI

The SmarTouch Controller combines a C-programmable single-board embedded computer with dozens of I/O, and a built-in graphical user interface. "I/O and user interfaces don't normally come in the same package," says Mosaic Industries'Lead Design Engineer Jeremy Wade. Combining a high contrast 128-x240-pixel display and a 5-x4-inch touch screen, it comes complete with menuing software that makes it easy to control an application using buttons, menus, graphs, and bitmapped pictures. Commanded remotely from a PC or used stand-alone, the SmarTouch Controller handles eight 12-bit analog input channels, eight 8-bit analog inputs, eight 8-bit D/A lines, 24 digital I/O, four high-current drivers, and two RS232/485 ports. Pre-coded I/O drivers facilitate data acquisition, PWM, motor control, frequency measurement, data analysis, analog control, PID control, and communications. With a real-time multitasking operating system, hundreds of pre-coded device drivers, 256K flash, and 128K RAM, it promotes a high level of software/hardware integration for rapid prototyping of new products.

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