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Topic: Arduino for industrial automation (Read 14208 times) previous topic - next topic

strantor

Any reason why Arduino seems (to me) to be relegated to hobbyists and science fair projects? I'm a technician working in industrial automation, and for the last few PLC installs I have done, I have been thinking how much cheaper and better it would be to install an Arduino. I have been reluctant to approach my supervisor with the idea because i fear the scenario where I mention it, he looks it up, sees nothing but "how to make an automatic home plant waterer",  laughs at me, and never considers anything I say again. Is there really any reason why a 25$ arduino should not be trusted to do the same job as a 2500$ PLC* (that is, control a multi-million dollar piece of machinery which could kill/maim operators if it doesn't function properly)? I really want to thrust arduino into industry and I dream of the day when I can program in real code instead of an inefficient archaic relay logic graphical interface designed for semitards**.

*The only things that  I can think of:
1. it resets every time you download to it, which in some settings could alter vital external processes
2. you can't easily monitor I/O from the laptop and force bits high/low
3. No true analog outputs without going out of your way with A/D converter
4. incompatible with the 24V standard used in industry
5. Not (to my knowledge) officially approved for use in industrial/hazardous environment = the kicker I'm sure ...(WHY NOT?)

** Yes, many PLCs these days can be programmed in a text-based interface, but the support for the programming language is not nearly as extensive as for Wiring, and you have to take Very expensive classes to be taught it (taught is a joke, really; the classes are a couple days long for a few hours). So far the only one I have encountered is the Allen Bradley Compactlogix which seems like a weird fusion of Basic
and relay logic.

Sorry for rambling; i know I blurred my point. Basically I just want to replace a PLC with an arduino and I want somebody here to tell me that it's perfectly O.K. to do so....

retrolefty

Quote
Sorry for rambling; i know I blurred my point. Basically I just want to replace a PLC with an arduino and I want somebody here to tell me that it's perfectly O.K. to do so....


If it's your plant on your property that is one thing, but if it's your employers site I could think of a ton of reasons why they would not want an Arduino to replace a PLC. I worked in a oil refinery for 27 years before retirement. We had hundreds of PLC subsystems in dozens of plants. PLC systems are rated for for the area classifications used in industry and the Arduino doesn't carry such classifications. It could probably be rated for such, but someone would have to spend the money to gain such equipment approvals. Besides the Arduino is really not a system solution, but rather just a component part. You talked about training. Does Arduino offer training course such that their personnel software and hardware, present and future. can be made qualified to work on them?

It's not that an Arduino based system could not do the same functions as a PLC, but rather that PLC are total systems that have been approved and utilized for industrial use for decades. Getting an Arduino designed system installed into an industrial sitting are pretty slim. At my refinery it wasn't up to a technician or even supervisor to select or bless a given system installation, rather a refinery engineering group would have to approve and sign off on such a request. And believe me if the hardware didn't come from a company they had prior experience with it would wouldn't even get a look at.

Lefty

Graynomad

#2
Feb 02, 2011, 06:54 am Last Edit: Feb 02, 2011, 06:56 am by Graynomad Reason: 1
Quote
25$ arduino should not be trusted to do the same job as a 2500$ PLC

No chance there, the PLC costs that much for a reason.

However that's not to say that you couldn't harden an Arduino to be suitable and come up with something at a price point somewhere in between.

But in terms of getting that into a real industrial installation, no chance I would say, too many big boys have that market sown up.

______
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

Inprogress


Quote
25$ arduino should not be trusted to do the same job as a 2500$ PLC

No chance there, the PLC costs that much for a reason.

However that's not to say that you couldn't harden an Arduino to be suitable and come up with something at a price point somewhere in between.

But in terms of getting that into a real industrial installation, no chance I would say, too many big boys have that market sown up.

______
Rob



I've worked in the auto industry, apart from seeing a industry throwing away money like there is no tomorrow, there's too many players in the field. PLC is robust and have been used for decades, which means if you want it recognised as a standard you will have to run it for at least 5 years in some application, plus how its robustness wit regard to variables like power failures, nosy fingers and screw drivers, high repetitive functions, etc etc. I have also been playing around with the idea of using Arduino for PLC-like applications and my thoughts were applying it to small scale automation scenarios, or non-critical applications where a limb wont be lost.
"The really amazing thing is how many people are successful with their Arduino projects considering the fact that so many of them do not have a technical background.  A lot of them seem to try, and succeed with, projects that no sane engineer would even attempt." - floresta commenting on the proper use of LCD displays

Graynomad

#4
Feb 02, 2011, 08:17 am Last Edit: Feb 02, 2011, 09:18 am by Graynomad Reason: 1
Quote
I have also been playing around with the idea of using Arduino for PLC-like applications and my thoughts were applying it to small scale automation scenarios, or non-critical applications where a limb wont be lost.

I'm designing something similar now (a monitoring and control system) but for small non-critical uses as you say. I would say what I'm doing is maybe "commercial" strength. I'm not even thinking about replacing PLCs, maybe 20 years ago :)

_____
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

Valalvax

#5
Feb 02, 2011, 12:28 pm Last Edit: Feb 02, 2011, 12:30 pm by Valalvax Reason: 1
When you get rid of your PLCs can I has? ;p

Currently learning PLCs in school and while I have the Allen Bradley software at home (yea, I... um... bought.. it) I don't have any equipment..


As for the Arduino in a industrial environment... it seems to me that it'd be a lot harder to implement than a PLC, and ontop of that you'd have to pay someone to program it (you know how to do it, but in the future you might not be around or available to do it)

Digger450

It really depends on the application.  I have around 30 Arduinos running in an industrial automation setting without any problems.  A lot more thought and preparation has to go into it, but it makes sense in some applications.  I don't use them on mission critical stuff.  As far as injuring operators, that is always a concern even if you are using a PLC.

On a multi-million dollar machine, an Arduino would not be my first choice  :)

Terry King

The actual processor used for industrial automation is not really the issue, it's all the things around it, networking, power reliability, external interfaces, etc etc.  I've used or been around dozens of different computers and PLC's used in automating IBM Chip fabs. There was resistance to bringing in Non-IBM Processors (Like DEC and SUN). I remember filling out the great form" Request for Foreign Processor in IBM"  :)

And then there was resistance to using PC's in factory automation.  The IBM Industrial Computer line finally settled that issue.

Certainly any important automation job can done in an X86 environment with almost the same basic code environment as Arduino. I see Arduinos more as peripheral processors in specific equipment and areas. But they are adequate in non-real-time automation like home automation.

My Son designs complex data handling and logging equipment for the Wind Energy industry. His latest designs have 2 or 3 ATMEL processors combined. Written in C++.  (http://nrgsystems.com) 

A lot of moderately complex automation systems could be built with a few Arduinos on an RS-485 network sort of like this:


Anyway, let's keep in touch on this stuff.....
Regards, Terry King  ..On the Red Sea at KAUST.edu.sa
terry@yourduino.com  LEARN! DO! (Arduino Boards, Sensors, Parts @ http://yourduino.com

Inprogress

That networking of Arduino's is very interesting. As far as using Arduino's for industrial automation is very possible and highly probable I would agree, its merely acceptance as mentioned that will be a stumbling block since many factories also strive to standardize on say Allen Bradley only, or Siemens for example like my previous manager - Siemens only thank you very much.  :)
"The really amazing thing is how many people are successful with their Arduino projects considering the fact that so many of them do not have a technical background.  A lot of them seem to try, and succeed with, projects that no sane engineer would even attempt." - floresta commenting on the proper use of LCD displays

djc

If you are looking for a more cost-efficient route, have you considered the CUBLOC stuff? The learning board is under $100. Only disadvantage I see is that it uses (spit) BASIC instead of C.

TomKi

I don't know all that much about industrial automatons but if a safety lockout is mediated by a processor it is wrong in the first place.  If there is not a standard that says so there should be.  I have spent a significant amount of time pulling parts out of a 300 ton press and even if it had skipped its timing, that electromechanical lockout on the door would have kept it from engaging.  You'd better believe that all of my eyes were on that ram.  Yes, I have the usual two eyes, but when you're watching something that close...

The big problem would be the potential for damaging machinery and ruining production runs.  Even then, as much as possible the machinery is built to make it difficult to damage that way.  Nothing that can cause severe problems in a plastic injection mold is totally under control of its CPU.  There will be a fusible link or a limit switch or something.  There should be no safety measure that can be overridden by software.  When any machine is taken down for repairs it is locked out so that it is physically impossible to start it without unlocking it.  This includes physically blocking an item like a shear so that it cannot move. 

Graynomad

The system I'm currently designing has interlocks, feedbacks and timeouts on a "point" to be used to help make it more reliable when controlling mechanical devices.

However, I state that the system is specifically NOT for use on critical systems and in areas where a malfunction can cause real damage and/or injury. For example in a motorhome you may have all sorts of sensors that tell you not drive, say the steps are still down, but the system should never actually cut the motor, rather it should just fire an alarm and let the driver deal with it.

I suspect the reasons a $2500 PLC cost that much is the amount of testing, extra hardware, and software development time needed, but also to pay for the insurance needed to cover any stuff ups :)


______
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

JacobChrist

We are building an industrial form factor open system based on 80MHz PIC32 chipKIT (Uses same wiring libraries as Arduino).  More info quick240.com.

Jacob

robtillaart

Ready for sale - http://www.industruino.com/ - it is Leonardo based IIRC

demo on youtube

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhE1zlwsUu0 -
Rob Tillaart

Nederlandse sectie - http://arduino.cc/forum/index.php/board,77.0.html -
(Please do not PM for private consultancy)

I know this thread is quite old but I think it's worth mentioning for people finding this.

We had a good experience using Arduino to run two different systems on a digital printing machine - there's a fully write up at  http://paulfurley.com/arduino-isnt-just-for-hackers/

As you can see from the linked discussions there are a lot of disagreements around whether Arduino is suitable *in general* for industrial use. However in my view it really can't be generalised - there's a whole spectrum of applications with different requirements. In this particular case it was a good fit (and still is as of August 2014).

I'm not involved any more but I'm sure my dad (who runs JF Machines) would be happy to answer any questions about their more recent experience: http://www.jfmachines.co.uk.
Freelance developer with industrial Arduino experience and background in C++ on Linux.

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