Automation is an ever-evolving industry with new products and processes continually pushing the limits of possibility. In 1968, the first programmable logic controller (PLC) was conceptualized and automation was born shortly thereafter with the development of the industry’s first functioning prototype. Named the Modicon (Modular Digital Controller), this early PLC started in the automotive industry, but soon spread across many others. In the late ‘60s, the PLC was revolutionary. Now, other products are changing the ways in which we approach automation.
The industry has most recently shifted its focus to wireless technology, and it’s here to stay. From advanced components such as HMIs and PLCs to simple products like pushbuttons, wireless capabilities allow access to machines’ logic from virtually any location. This means that control, diagnostics and maintenance are exponentially more efficient. Machine operators can replicate machine interfaces on their smart devices, making HMIs and PLCs much more powerful than in the past. Pushbutton devices can now be detached from their control panels, allowing operators to completely assess the state of their machines.
This wireless revolution has also given us greater data collection and alarm monitoring capabilities. Organizations can now upload data such as live production rate records and schedules to their remote servers. If issues arise, maintenance employees can monitor systems and provide live status updates from offsite with simple emails or SMS text messages.
At first, PLCs replaced mechanical switches and timers. Now, we’re seeing an evolution from wired devices to wireless connectivity. Have any ideas on the next innovation that will influence the automation industry? Comment below.
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