A PLC may give the impression of being a mature technology without much scope for enhancement. However, with artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and big data analytics transforming the manufacturing sector, PLCs are also evolving to play a key role in the future scope of industrial automation.
PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) is an industrial device used to regulate a procedure or carry out a particular function automatically. It uses various connected sensors to record information from the external world, like the temperature of a liquid or an object's velocity. They are converted into electrical signals by their connected sensors that are sent back to the PLC, which uses them to complete its pre-programmed task.
With their hardened embedded processor, which runs on a real-time proprietary operating system, PLCs have become an indispensable part of industrial automation or industry 4.0. They can be envisioned to play a great role in the future scope of industrial automation as an input center, main control, and as a Human Machine Interface (HMI) for industrial workers.
PLCs are being continuously evolved and improved. Smarter than before sensors, the ability to operate remotely due to IoT technology, and a sturdier design of PLCs have made its impact felt in industrial automation.
To better understand the role of PLC in industrial automation, let us go through the various advancements in this field.
Latest tools being used in industrial automation
Various tools in the form of control systems that are affecting different aspects of the manufacturing process are PLCs, PACs (Programmable Automation Controller), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA), Human Machine Interface (HMI), and Robotics.
Through these tools, the automation industry is bound to progress towards greater productivity and, consequently, greater profitability. Thus, the future scope of industrial automation is tied to these tools that are developed, keeping in mind aspects of energy efficiency, enhanced design, and safety protocols.
They will shape the automation industry, making manufacturing better than before by enhancing efficiency and reducing cost. The tools, through their advanced control strategies, are aimed to reduce human intervention to a minimum. By being more accurate and precise, the automation systems will lead to improved product quality and service.
Role of PLC in the future scope of industrial automation
PLCs role in industrial automation is linked to enhanced reliability, stability, and performance. Working as standalone units, they can constantly track, monitor, and automate a particular machine function. PLC networks can control and regulate the complete production line. More recently, a suite of PLC programming options has emerged. They are evolving in response to technological innovations in hardware, software, and communications. It can be seen in the enhanced cycle time through quicker processors, improved memory, and new features for communication.
The current market dynamics will make mid and high-range PLCs transform themselves into a more compact, user-friendly version of themselves. With the evolving USB technology and the availability of miniature USB connectors, the process of coming online and monitoring the control system has become simpler than before. All this makes it possible to conclude that PLCs prove to be the right choice for various industrial automation applications.
The future scope of industrial automation is likely to include the combination of PLC with other automation tools like PAC and HMI.
PLC and PAC
As both PLCs and PACs evolve, there will be immense market scope for high and low-end processors. The enhanced memory and high-speed processors will undoubtedly lead to modern features like motion control, integration of vision system, and synchronic support for various communication protocols.
The technological advancements have made manufacturers incorporate into the rugged PLC hardware cost-effective technologies from the world of PCs and mobile devices. These technology innovations are being used to fulfill the dynamic user requirements in the form of PLC-based PACs.
PLC and HMI
Concepts like lean manufacturing are at the heart of industrial automation as both have the same goals, i.e., increasing productivity while eliminating waste.
A genuinely lean automation solution is achieved through the merging of PLC-HMI. This combination of control and visualization has many benefits like:
Quicker machine design through an integrated development environment.
Minimized equipment construction expenses through the removal of wiring and components.
A centralized remote administration and access, which minimizes machine support expenses and enhances operations.
Thus, we see PLC evolving in response to the demands of industry 4.0. It can be seen in the drastic changes that are taking place in the fundamental architecture of its control system. Integrated HMI-PLC technology will streamline functionality, minimize machine cost, and pave the way for taking machine control to the next level.
Evolving PLC communications
PLC communications are advancing due to industrial needs and technological innovations. Ethernet, USB, and Bluetooth exhibit the future course of PLC communications in the wireless age, allowing it to communicate worldwide.
The future scope of industrial automation is predominantly linked to wireless technology providing enhanced range and data integrity maintenance. We may see wireless communication protocols that will be suitable for all applications like Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) and for those monitoring applications where real-time control is not needed.
The industrial automation landscape is filled with innovations and breakthroughs. PLCs are increasingly used in industrial automation enterprises. Significant changes are in store for PLCs in the coming future, with wireless and high-speed communication, reduced size, and enhanced storage capacity being only a handful.
A PLC programming company is thus likely to significantly optimize manufacturing industries' production operations with its tailormade PLC solutions for industrial automation.