Under a new marketing campaign dubbed “Turn your PLC into a Genius,” Superior Integrated Systems (SIS) is hitting the road with a new traveling demo that shows the ease of wirelessly connecting PLCs operating on the production floor with the powerful LabVIEW™-based data programs.
“This is definitely a case of where the ‘show’ can do a lot of ‘tell,’” SIS President John Hibma said. “People are amazed by the seamless way we can pull data from their PLCs that they already have on the shop floor, effectively leveraging assets they already own.”
Hibma said manufacturers are using the system to collect and analyze test data from their processes to improve quality, reduce scrap and satisfy customer requirements for lot control and quality assurance.
SIS follows a general protocol when it is designing and implementing a system, he said. The SIS team assesses needs of the customer, then takes inventory of its hardware and software capabilities to leverage existing assets. SIS then develops a cost effective solution to monitor what’s happening on the shop floor and analyze the data using the LabVIEW™ software platform and proprietary hardware.
In general terms, PLCs are I/O driven devices. A typical scan reads inputs, determines actions based on the input states, and updates outputs. PLCs are robust, reliable, and make up the backbone of nearly all production lines.
In contrast, LabVIEW™ (LV) is a data driven environment. It is a graphical programming language which was developed specifically for collecting and processing large amounts of data. Combined with an industrial PC and Data Acquisition (DAQ) boards, LabVIEW™ systems can read analog data in excess of 2 million samples / second, Interface directly with common hardware and communication protocols including CAN, LIN, ModBus, ProfiBus, among hundreds of others. Analog channel counts can extend into the hundreds. Data processing in the Giga Byte range is common, and can even extend to Tera Bytes. Built in calibration support and a vast library of data analysis tools have made it the de facto standard for test and measurement across the globe.
With the correct implementation of software and hardware, a LabVIEW™ system can seamlessly complement PLC systems. For example, a typical Allen Bradley® ControlLogix® PLC system can be connected quite easily with LabVIEW. If the processor has an Ethernet port, then a simple wired or WIFI connection to the host PC running LV establishes a physical link. LV includes a driver for AB SLC and Logix platform PLCs, which allows direct PLC tag read/write from either system. Through the link, the PLC now has access to all information available within the LV system. Typically LV will read sensors and inputs at a high rate, process the information, and pass results or other process information back to the PLC, with minimal PLC programming. The LV driver works with Micro- and CompactLogix® systems as well. It can also integrate with ProfiNet and ProfiBus systems with the addition of a bus card in the PC.
There is a common misconception that LabVIEW™ systems are automatically very expensive. In truth, the LV run-time license, including the AB PLC driver, are free. Companies that don't want to develop their own LV systems save the cost of having to buy development software. Tools like TeamViewer™ allow LV developers including SIS to remotely apply upgrades and modifications as needed.