For many years, factories have used PLCs for automated control over industrial equipment. These systems are usually expensive, proprietary, and generally incapable of being reprogrammed. [Oliver], an engineering student in Ireland created a system for factories to develop their own application-specific PLCs as a final project for Automation Engineering.
In-house PLC creation has many benefits for manufacturers, not the least of which is the opportunity for customization. Making your own PLCs also means no licensing fees and total control over equipment automation. This system is a complete setup including an HMI interface with touchscreen input and a SCADA system for remotely controlling various pieces equipment of equipment from a laptop.
[Oliver] built a metal frame out of industrial-grade strut channel to house an XP machine, two monitors, and the beautifully breadboarded PLC design station. It’s based around a PIC16F887 and includes rugged features expected of a system that never goes into sleep mode, like eight channels of opto-isolation. [Oliver] also developed an environment for engineers to easily program their custom PLCs through a simple HMI interface and ladder logic.
The folks over at PONTECH have just released a pretty impressive opensource PIC32 library for controlling a linear slide at speeds of 800 inches per minute!
PONTECH makes the Quick240 (Quick Universal Industrial Control Kard) which is based on the open source chipKIT platform. It was designed for industrial automation systems, where typically a ladder logic PLC might be used. The benefits to using a system like this is that because it is open, you are no longer stuck with proprietary hardware, and it is much more flexible to allow you to “do your own thing”. Did we mention it is also Arduino compatible?
Using this system they’ve successfully controlled two 8″ Velox slides at a whopping 800 inches per minute with a resolution of 0.00025″ — just take a look at the following video to appreciate how freaking fast that is.
Continue reading “800 inches per minute at 0.00025″ Resolution”
[Dr. Wilfried Stoll] and a team at Festo have created an incredible robot kangaroo. Every few years the research teams at Festo release an amazing animal inspired robot. We last covered their smartbird. This year, they’ve created BionicKangaroo (pdf link). While The Six Million Dollar Man might suggest otherwise, Bionics is use of biological systems in engineering design. In this case, Festo’s engineers spent two years studying the jumping behavior of kangaroos as they perfected their creation.
Kangaroos have some amazing evolutionary adaptations for jumping. Their powerful Achilles tendon stores energy upon landing. This allows the kangaroo to increase its speed with each successive jump. The kangaroo’s tail is essential for balancing the animal as it leaps through the air. The Festo team used a thick rubber band to replicate the action of the tendons. The tail is controlled by electric servomotors.
Festo is known for their pneumatic components, so it’s no surprise that the kangaroo’s legs are driven by pneumatic cylinders. Pneumatics need an air supply though, so the team created two versions of the kangaroo. The first uses an on-board air compressor. The second uses a high-pressure storage tank to drive the kangaroo’s legs. An off the shelf Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) acts as BionicKangaroo’s brain. The PLC monitors balance while controlling the pneumatic leg cylinders and electric tail motors. Unfortunately, BionicKangaroo isn’t completely autonomous. The Thalmic Labs Myo makes a cameo appearance in the video. The Kangaroo’s human controller commands the robot with simple arm movements.
While the BionicKangaroo is graceful in its jumps, it still needs a bit of help when turning and taking simple steps. Thankfully we don’t think it will be boxing anytime soon.
Continue reading “Festo Creates Bionic Kangaroo; Steve Austin Unimpressed”
Let us be the first to say: Not a hack! Nonetheless this is an interesting read about how the Arduino movement has made hobby microcontroller boards attractive for industrial applications.
This is a digital printing machine which looks like it is used for industrial packaging. [Paul Furley] worked for the company which produces it, developing the software for the control interface. He recounts the story of how he helped guide the company away from choosing a microcontroller, and toward using an Arduino board. Actually, using three Arduino boards. We can already hear the flame war boiling up in the comments section. But before you rage, read the article and see if you don’t agree with [Paul’s] reasoning.
The most compelling argument to us is that choosing Arduino is absolutely future proof. If the company goes out of business there are hundreds of clone devices already available. As the Arduino platform evolves it will keep pin compatibility in order to support the older shields. And if they choose a different microcontroller the Arduino IDE will still compile the same sketch for the new hardware.
One thing that pops into our minds is write protection. The machine uses a big PCB to which the three Arduinos mount. That can be produced anywhere without threat of having the source code leak as the PCB doesn’t include chips that need to be programmed. Arduino uses AVR chips that have write protection fuses which can be burnt in-house after they flash the control firmware.
In industrial applications, controlling relays, servos, solenoids, and the like isn’t just a matter of wiring in an Arduino and plugging in some code. No, for reliable operation you’ll need a PLC – a programmable logic controller – to automate all your hardware. PLCs are usually pretty expensive pieces of hardware, which led [Warwick] to come up with his own. He built two versions, one large and one small that can handle just about any task thrown at them.
Both devices are powered by an ATMEL SAM7S ARM chip running at 48 MHz. The smaller of the two devices has 10 digital inputs, 4 analog inputs, and 8 digital outputs able to sink 200 mA each. The larger PLC has 22 digital ins, 6 analog ins, and 16 digital outputs. Both of these devices have a ton of connectivity with USB, RS-232 and RS-485 ports
Below you can see the large PLC being used as a barcode scanner and as a strange device using compressed air to levitate a ping-pong ball. There’s also a demo of the smaller PLC lighting up some LEDs.
Continue reading “Open source PLC”
Stepping out onto just about any factory floor you’ll find complex automatons building anything and everything imaginable. These machines need to be controlled somehow and before the age of computers these manufacturing robots were controlled with relays wired together to produce a multitude of actions. Relays, no matter how reliable and bulletproof the are, can’t be programmed without rewiring the entire machine. Now, factories have programmable logic controllers to take care of their automation tasks.
[Thiago] built his own programmable logic controller and released it as open hardware.Included in the OpenPLC are four 24V inputs, four 24V outputs (two with PWM), 0-10V analog inputs, and USB, SPI, and I2C for programming and expansion.
If you’re building anything from an industrial machine in your garage, or simply want really awesome Halloween (or Christmas) decorations, the OpenPLC can take care of driving all the solenoids, motors, and actuators needed. With the extendable I2C and SPI busses, it’s possible to add a plethora of sensors to bring a project to life.
The OpenPLC is based on an ATMega328 and is compatible with Arduino code. There are a few extension boards for digital and analog IO, as well as Ethernet.
[Q] is an Electrical Engineer who works in an industrial setting. He frequently uses Programmable Logic Controllers at work but had never built one himself. He decided to undertake the project at home and managed to build a PLC that outputs 120V AC or 12 V DC and has optoisolated inputs.
On the circuit board you’ll find an ATmega8 and an EEPROM for extra data storage. Six outputs are controlled by relays since they are able to output either alternating or direct current. There are eight inputs which use optical isolators as buffers to protect the microcontroller.
So what did he end up using this for? It was part of his Christmas light setup last year. The image above shows the PLC in a water-tight electrical box with extension cords running to each of the devices he wishes to control. The example code is what he used on the X-mas setup, but it should be enough of a guide to program this to work with just about any application.