Depending on the uniqueness and size of that machine automation project at hand, machine builders choosing a PLC often need to start from scratch with their programming. Machine performance and capability could be limited by the skill of the designers, the programming tools at their disposal and the time available to do the job.
From labeling applications in packaging to overhead cranes in steel mills and everything in between, there’s a wide variety of complexity in machine design, and all are typically part of a larger system and manage a critical process, which if not handled correctly, could adversely impact the entire system.
Schneider Electric just unveiled its Modicon M238 PLC as the newest addition to the Modicon line for machines requiring power and flexibility in these demanding applications.
“To remain competitive, machine builders need to streamline development cycles, cut machine costs and deliver solutions to the market faster,” says Jeff Jervah, business director for automation & drive solutions for Schneider Electric. “Flexibility is at the core of the Modicon M238 PLC design and one of the primary advantages it provides to machine designers. It offers a wide range of control capabilities, communication options and a library of pre-tested, validated and documented function blocks to make design and integration simple.”
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With the Modicon M238 PLC, says Jervah, Schneider Electric has built a library of control function blocks stored in a library available to machine builders and developers. “These application requirements are built into the M238’s functional library to make using it to manage these processes extremely reliable and practical,” he adds. “Working from existing designs, the PLC can be programmed and modified quickly to meet the needs of the specific application and linked to the entire system to provide constant evaluation of performance and coordination with other systems.”
These function blocks are designed to handle the needs of critical systems and are tested to comply with local and national regulations, provide machine and worker safety and simplify the integration of components.
The M238 PLC uses the same programming software as some of Schneider Electric’s HMI, motion and drive products, making it easier to select the exact level of control, regardless of the application, and eliminate the need to relearn another programming tool. “As part of the M238 release, the company incorporates its SoMachine flexible machine architecture, which allows a machine OEM to start its development process using a system that could already be 85% complete,” says Jervah. “This includes ensuring total hardware and software compatibility between devices specified in those designs. SoMachine embeds intelligence in drives, HMI displays, motion and logic control products, simplifying machine programming and commissioning by using a single software tool to design, commission and maintain multiple machines, and pre-configuring architectures and application function blocks that can be adapted easily to specific applications.”
The company states that, as a compact logic controller solution, M238 provides extensive cabling flexibility with input/output extension modules to expand machine performance. This includes 14 inputs including eight fast inputs dedicated to special functions such as HSC high-speed counting and 10 solid-state outputs including four fast outputs dedicated to special functions such as PWM and PTO.