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New-generation controllers `will revolutionise automation`
Published:  09 August, 2011

Omron in Japan has announced a new generation of PLCs and software which it describes as “the first step toward revolutionising machine automation”. Working with Intel, Omoron’s Industrial Automation Business (IAB) division has rebuilt the architecture of its PLCs and software “with the aim of creating the best factory automation devices on the market”.

The company hopes that the developments, coupled with a string of new “Automation Centres” providing customer support around the world, will help it to become “an automation partner to more global manufacturers than ever before”.

Traditionally, says Omron, factory automation devices have been designed to meet the demands of factory environments, such as robustness, stability and reliability. But the fact that each automation supplier develops the functions and performance of their controllers independently, and installs them on custom chips called Asics (application-specific integrated circuits), means there is a time lag in responding to customers’ needs, limiting the speed at which customers` automation systems can advance.

In addition, the ladder language used to program PLCs was designed originally for use by electrical engineers, with each manufacturer having their own version. This makes it difficult to train software engineers, because they need to learn different ladder language variations for each supplier.

Omron’s new Sysmac NJ controllers have been designed with the aim of creating the best factory automation devices on the market by integrating high-speed Intel Atom processors with Omron`s factory automation
expertise. The result, says Omron, is a series of robust, high-speed, high-performance, next-generation controllers.

From now on, Omron’s controllers will allow the seamless connection of a variety of I/O devices, including servo drives and vision sensors, that are capable of high-performance motion control (which is difficult with conventional PLCs), and that allow one device to control an entire system.

The new controllers will be updatable in parallel with advances in Intel`s processor technology, allowing users to benefit from the latest processors, and their programs to be transferred and accelerated to improve the performance of their machines and devices. Users will no longer need to go through a learning process when upgrading to new controllers, and will be able to focus more on enhancing the functions and performance of their machines.

The new controllers conform with the IEC 61131-3 programming standard, allowing users to choose the programming language that best suits the functions of their machinery. The architecture supports the use of variables, allowing software to be re-used, and helping users to enhance design work efficiency.

Omron`s new programming software, called Sysmac Studio, uses Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and offers the latest user interface, integrated setting methods, and operability covering I/O device configurations.

In addition to launching the new controllers, Omron is establishing a series of Automation Centres in Japan, China, and Europe to enhance support for its factory automation customers. By 2013, it plans to boost the number of systems engineers available to provide engineering support to 600 – about three times more than today.

The company is also setting up a series of laboratories to perform compatibility testing between its own devices and with those from third-party suppliers. The first of these will open on 1 August, 2011, in Japan, followed two more in September in Shanghai and Europe.

The new controller platform will be launched at the SPS/IPC/Drives show in Germany in November and at the System Control Fair (SCF) 2011 in Japan.

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