PLC, Embedded System or Hybrid?

Greeting to all visitors,

Today we will discuss about choosing the right platform for your projects. In order to optimise cost and project complexity, choosing the right platform is the key. The most popular platform are PLC and Embedded System but some choose for hybrid. Lets explain each platform functionality and typical usage.

#1 PLC

Programmable Logic Controller or PLC are widely used in Industrial Automation and every manufacturing factory. PLC programming language is Ladder Diagram which have similar operation as digital logic (AND,OR,XOR etc.) for simple process to keep simple and less errors done by fresh graduate engineers. Most PLC are covered under Ingress Protection (IP) rating to withstand harsh environments in factories. With PLC, you will not have to worry about installation or mounting since it has DIN rail mounting for easy installation. DIN rail is conventional rail for PLC mounting and others control panel devices such as Inverter Drive, Timer, Logic Module etc.

PLC also known for its modular design which mean you can start purchasing a PLC with limited number of Inputs/Outputs or communication and able to add more of them later. Wiring installation also are never been easier with Screw Type Terminal Block or Connector Type. User only need to strip off the cable strands and snap them on PLC. Usually PLC cabling size are 22/24 AWG, depending what user want to transfer as to transfer power supply, much larger cable (lower AWG value) are needed to suppress the heat from power transferred.

Some PLC models can be expanded for more I/O, advanced peripheral (ADC/DAC) and communication (Modbus, Ethercat, Profibus etc.). Integration between PLC and other motion modules such as Inverter Drive and Touch Screen Display are much easier by those communication protocol. Most of the communication program are readily written in the library so user only need to insert parameters for them to work as it should.

#2 EMBEDDED SYSTEM

Generally embedded system are referred to devices/controller that are embedded together to stand as one application. While PLC is a high-end product which is working out of the box, embedded system in the other hand are like DIY solution which need to develop and tested before ready to be use as an application. The best things about it is highly customisable (processor, peripherals, communication and size) and can lowering your project development cost. Some of them are super fast to use (Arduino, Raspberry Pi etc.) for simple projects. Most R&D department that we worked for are using Embedded System as their solution. However due to its complexity, some technical skills are required for assembly and programming process.

Embedded System (ES) solutions are favourite choices for beginner or student in Electronics/Electricals work. This might factored from its price much lower than PLC or Hybrid PLC as both of them are meant to use by Industries (they make a lot of money right?). ES are a game changer for hobbyist and maker. User can bring latest technology in peripheral and communication by adding a new bare module and start tweaking the code to make it run. This is very useful for prototyping (low-cost and fast) solution. However stability and thousands of testing should be done before deployed as High-End products.

By increasing pace of IoT trends, many embedded system manufacturer add more peripheral in one ES development board. We can see the pattern that from year 2000 to 2010, the regular ES usually have on-board communication for SPI, UART, I2C and RS232 and peripheral like ADC, DAC, Timer, Encoder, LVDT etc. but afterwards, they bring on-board Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with on-board sensors such as Gyros, Accelerometer, Barometer, Capacitive and Light sensors. These would accelerate prototyping process and saved time for debugging for hardware connectivity.

#3 HYBRID

Ever heard CompactRIO from National Instruments (NI) ? they are great companies that develop highly customisable Embedded System with PLC industrial grade. CompactRIO is one of their products that make you able to choose which communication or peripheral to have in your system. It is as simple as plug-and-play and less wiring works required. Then by using their own programming software (LabView) you are able to debug, simulate and flash into CompactRIO. Even though the cost is not cheap, but it can accelerate your complex projects in R&D and Industrial Automation process.

This platform are usually be used in Research and Development work for high profile or profitable companies. The best thing about NI are, they provide a complete package for developer to work under professional environment with more stables debugging/programming software and high accuracy tools.

Conclusion or Concussion?

Now you knew there are three (3) general platforms to build your projects. Well, it’s always not easy when making a decision isn’t? Our advice is, any platform could deliver the same or similar output as you want, but what really matter is you know what you are doing and your budget obviously.

If your project is related to R&D which obviously under “research and development”, then it is recommended to use Embedded System/Hybrid since this will make you understand completely each process in your system and it will pay-off on the long run, less time debugging etc. But, if your projects are for professionals and other companies, it is highly recommended to use PLC, Timer, Logic Module and Inverter Drive (ready made device) since they are less errors, fast installation and you can accurately estimate project timeline. It also will cut your cost too since its functions are not that vast than Embedded System/Hybrid.

We hope your projects are going as planned and if you need consultation for your project, you can always reach us at admin@thmuda.com

Regards,
TH Muda Engineering

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