Controllers Share a Diverse Table

PACs Reach Out to More Advanced Machine Control Systems, While PLCs Maintain a Hold on More Straightforward Automation

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“The paradigm shift by manufacturing plants to PC-based controls is a major challenge to the PLC industry,” says a research report from Mindbranch, which apparently thinks highly of PC-based control in industrial environments. “Higher processing power and lower costs for commercial PCs will accelerate the shift to PC-based systems, which will facilitate more advanced networking among fundamentally different controllers. PACs combine PLC ruggedness with PC functionality in an open, flexible software architecture.”

Not so fast, my friends. PLCs have evolved to incorporate analog I/O, communications over networks and new programming standards such as IEC 61131-3. Engineers create 80% of industrial applications with digital I/O, a few analog I/O points and simple programming techniques. Experts from ARC Advisory, Venture Development Corp. (VDC, vdc-corp.com) and the online training source PLCs.net estimate that 77% of PLCs are used in small applications of less than 128 I/O, 72% of PLC I/O is digital, and 80% of PLC applications are solved with a set of 20 ladder-logic instructions.

The PLC market is alive and well for smaller applications, where PACs might be overkill.

The growing market in China also propels PLC growth. “Global economic integration and increasing domestic demand contribute to the emergence of China as the world’s manufacturing hub,” writes Senior ARC Analyst Himanshu Shah. “The fiercely competitive market and the need to improve productivity drive manufacturers to think strategically and increase investments in new technology. “

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