The future of programmable controllers relies not only on the continuation of new product developments, but also on the integration of PLCs with other control and factory management equipment. PLCs are being incorporated, through networks, into computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) systems, combining their power and resources with numerical controls, robots, CAD/CAM systems, personal computers, management information systems, and hierarchical computer-based systems. There is no doubt that programmable controllers will play a substantial role in the factory of the future.

New advances in PLC technology include features such as better operator interfaces, graphic user interfaces (GUIs), and more human-oriented man/machine interfaces (such as voice modules). They also include the development of interfaces that allow communication with equipment, hardware, and software that supports artificial intelligence, such as fuzzy logic I/O systems.

Software advances provide better connections between different types of equipment, using communication standards through widely used networks. New PLC instructions are developed out of the need to add intelligence to a controller. Knowledge-based and process learning–type instructions may be introduced to enhance the capabilities of a system.

The user’s concept of the flexible manufacturing system (FMS) will determine the control philosophy of the future. The future will almost certainly continue to cast programmable controllers as an important player in the factory. Control strategies will be distributed with “intelligence” instead of being centralized. Super PLCs will be used in applications requiring complex calculations, network communication, and supervision of smaller PLCs and machine controllers.

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7 Responses to “Programmable Logic Controller and Future”

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