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Lower costs will boost demand for built-in PLCs

01 May, 2002

Demand for automation products, such as drives and HMIs, with built-in PLCs "will increase dramatically" by 2004, according to a new study. The survey of automation users, conducted by IMS, revealed that almost half of them expect to buy operator panels with an embedded PLC within two years. There was also considerable interest in variable speed drives with built-in PLCs, with nearly a third of the companies questioned expecting to buy such devices by 2004.

The main perceived benefit of equipment with an integrated PLC is the financial saving of buying one product instead of two. This attraction was cited by about twice as many users as those who cited other potential benefits such as reduced size, simpler installation and easier programming.

According to IMS analyst John Devlin, the lower level of interest in drives with integral PLCs can be explained by the small number of such products on sale so far. "As more companies develop and market drives with embedded PLCs, market awareness will be raised, in turn stimulating demand," he predicts.

There are many more examples of operator panels with integrated PLCs. Suppliers include GE Fanuc and ProFace, with recent entrants including Unitronics and Messung Systems.

The IMS survey also identified a string trend away from PLCs towards PC-based controls, although PLCs are expected to remain the most common form of industrial controller for the foreseeable future. According to the survey, the number of companies expecting to buy PC-based controllers in 2004 is double the 2001 figure.

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