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Targeting Low Cost PACs

AutomationDirect's Productivity3000 is a new programmable automation controller (PAC) platform from the makers of the DirectLOGIC PLC. That product family, well known by engineers as a low cost controller option, has shipped thousands of units since the early 1990s and has its roots in the GE Series One PLC a decade earlier.

The new platform combines more of the features and capabilities of a PC-based control system with that of a typical programmable logic controller (PLC). It is a modular, rack-based system providing up to 116,000 I/O points with local, expansion and remote I/O bases and a full lineup of discrete, analog and specialty I/O modules. A high-performance P3-550 CPU offers 50 Mbyte memory, sub-millisecond scan times (3 Kbytes of Boolean logic and 1Kbyte of I/O in less than 650 µsec) and seven built-in communication ports for just $599.

"The Productivity3000 was not specifically designed with a programmable automation controller in mind, but we found that our finished product was tailored for application space currently occupied by PACs," says Jeff Payne, a product manager for AutomationDirect.

Payne says what drove the development project was feedback from customers about shortcomings in the existing product, the availability of new technology and the desire to maintain its place as a low cost controller solution. Compared to the DirectLOGIC line, the Productivity3000 product offers major upgrades.

"Built-in communications capabilities have to be the first unique feature of the Productivity3000 that catches your attention," says Payne. With a total of seven communications ports on the CPU, the product offers USB and Ethernet programming options, Ethernet networking using the ModbusTCP protocol, serial Modbus RTU support plus ASCII and custom protocol capabilities using the unit's RS-232 and RS-485 ports. Also included is built-in support for expanding local I/O, the ability to master remote I/O and a USB data port that allows engineers to log process data and transfer projects to and from the CPU.

A USB local expansion port supports up to four additional I/O bases, while a dedicated Ethernet remote I/O expansion port can connect up to 32 remote base groups; each remote group supports up to four additional local bases, for over 116,000 maximum I/O.

Another key development is that the free downloadable ProductivitySuite programming software now features tag name based programming to simplify program documentation and eliminate many boundaries set by fixed memory addressing commonly found in traditional PLCs. Advanced "fill-in-the-blank" function block style instructions are also used to compliment the basic ladder logic instructions.

Another major difference from the DirectLOGIC product is the easy integration of the company's GS drives on the Ethernet remote I/O network. Using networked drives, engineers can connect to the CPU and the drives are automatically discovered in the hardware configuration. The drives can be configured and saved into the user's program, and they become part of the project file. Instructions within the controller make it easy to read and write data, or control drive operation with the instructions inside the program rather than mapping Modbus registers.

DataWorxTM P3K data logging software provides an easy and inexpensive way to collect data by connecting it to enterprise database systems using SQL, MS-Access or any ODBC compatible database. Report-by-exception operation eases network traffic by sending information only when needed. It also allows the device complete control to store data to a computer database or to store it locally if the network is down.

AutomationDirect also has immediate plans for expanding the Productivity3000 product line with high speed input and output modules and also a new Ethernet and serial communications module.

The Productivity3000 product focuses on low cost, while adding communication and software enhancements. Photo:  AutomationDirect


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