By Ram Sathappan and Jean Anne Booth, Texas Instruments
Embedded.com (05/18/10, 04:09:00 PM EDT)
Modern factories and processing plants are technologically sophisticated operations. To control machinery and processes accurately, operations utilize the latest generations of sensors, actuators and servos.
As an example of the technology added to derive benefit from the availability of precise control capabilities, layers of networking and automation have been added on the factory-floor level with control networks linked to IT networks that provide business information and strategies which in turn drive production decisions.
This centralized, networked vision of industrial control offers technicians and industrial engineers access to a wealth of data for observing, tweaking and optimizing operations. Plant managers and corporate executives can consult operations dashboards at a glance for a comprehensive view of the overall factory’s efficiency.
In the past, processes were manually controlled and each bay in the plant operated independently. Having access to real-time data summarizing the actual plant operation enables executives to be better informed of daily activity and to adjust business strategies based on real-time loading.
A gradual transition from isolated nodes to fully networked facilities has been in progress for some years. Since this transition has been largely ad-hoc and unplanned, with each aspect of current industrial control design still focused fairly tightly on its own particular assortment of buses, networks, and controllers, it has given rise to the design of disconnected industrial control systems.
Although today there is a unified vision of networked industrial control from a top-down perspective, the view from the bottom up – looking from the central processing unit in each segment - is very fragmented. Until now, a single IC processor architecture that works effectively at all levels of a control infrastructure was simply not available.
Recent developments in processor technology give design engineers an opportunity to innovate within a unified industrial control paradigm. By carefully analyzing the performance, functionality, and communications requirements at each level of control, designers are able to utilize a unified, standard processor core architecture that not only provides optimal solutions at a competitive price, but also provides a reduction in software development cost and a significant reduction in design cycle time through software reuse.
Click here to read more ...