Choosing an industrial automation controls platform (IACP for convenience) for your industrial machine is a pivotal decision that will drive your machine’s capabilities, the customer’s acceptance of your machine, and ultimately, the success of your endeavors.
The IACP covers the majority of the hardware and software of the controls system, such as, but not limited to:
- Motion Control
- Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs)
- Servo and Stepper drives and motors
- Numerical Control (NC)
- Safety and Redundancy
- Network Protocol
These components usually come from a single IACP provider such as one of The Big Three in order to streamline both component integration and price negotiations.
The PLC, HMI, motion controllers, safety hardware, etc. from the same company will communicate with each other much easier than buying individual components from different companies. If you buy a PLC from one company and a VFD or HMI from another, it will need a custom interface (usually a GSD, EDS, ESI, or other forms of device descriptions) in order to pass data back and forth. Buying the major components from a single controls provider makes passing data between different controls components more convenient and reduces complexity in your controls system.
Buying from one service provider also gives you leverage on negotiating the best price for hardware, software, licenses, training, technical support, etc. Sales people like selling the whole package and will usually give you great incentives to use as much of their company’s components as possible.
Robots, control valves, sensors, and other final control elements are excluded as they are built to integrate with most IACPs.
Below are critical criteria for choosing an industrial automation platform for a new machine:
- Customer or industry preference
- Maintenance group’s knowledge
- Industrial segment
- Database integration
- Hardware and software capabilities
- Numerical control
- Redundant safety/Safety requirements
- Ease of use
- Machine “Agility”
- Platform Accessibility
- OEM Technical Support
- Skilled labor
This article serves as an introduction into our multi-part series on choosing an IACP for your machine.