Punya Prakash and Adrian Valenzuela (Texas Instruments)
6/1/2015 08:00 PM EDT
Factory automation equipment has traditionally relied on dedicated network ASICs, but the platform approach is gaining ground.
Technology is going soft. Software, that is. And although factory automation may have gotten a late start, it is now starting to catch up with the many benefits that programmable systems have to offer, such as increased flexibility, easy scalability, fast provisioning, and both efficient and timely upgrades. Executing industrial communications protocols largely in software rather than in hardware specifically targeted at an individual communications protocol offers a prime example of these benefits and a glimpse into the future of factory automation.
Although the topological layers that comprise an industrial factory automation network are not changing, the topological architectures of many of the systems in such a network are migrating away from hard-wired inflexible systems toward agile platforms.
The typical factory automation network today contains three tiers or layers. The top layer consists of an industrial personal computer (PC) acting as the master management unit for the factory’s automation network and subsystems. In addition to this, a second industrial PC might function as the human/machine interface (HMI). The HMI is the graphical user interface that simplifies the complexity of the connected subsystems so that human operators can intervene when called upon and generally manage the factory from a high level.
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