PLCS, HMIS & INDUSTRIAL PCS FEATURE With PLC-based control systems helping boost

production levels, it’s no surprise that the market for PLCs is continuing to grow. Here Mitsubishi

Electric takes a look at the PLC vs IPC debate, and explains how a new control system at a brewery helped production rise by 300% in under a month

Sadler’s Ales is seeing growing demand for products such as its Peaky Blinder range

Controlling productivity


espite predictions about the rise of industrial controllers with PC based

internals versus purely PLC solutions, the PLC market is continuing to grow. However, the technologies are changing, with each now incorporating some of the features of the other. With PLCs, this includes everything from the inclusion of embedded web servers to the availability of plug-in PC modules such as Mitsubishi Electric’s C-Controller, or the MES module which means PLCs can now link directly to higher level systems without the need for intermediate PC hardware. Furthermore, the combination of PLCs and HMIs means that PLC platforms can also provide a very PC-like environment for SCADA and other visualisation applications. Broader functionality is another feature of today’s PLCs – including embedded robot controllers with the related safety systems and aspects of AI that allow for flexible learning and intelligent decision making. There are therefore many good reasons to remain with a PLC orientated approach. They are, for example, reliable, and when the user does eventually want to upgrade to a new control platform, the PLC offers an inherently easier migration path than the IPC solution. Longevity of support is another benefit, and systems integrators are reporting that customers are calling


deciding between IPC or PLC, it is

for longer product lifetime support, with even 15 years becoming common. Because PCs evolve and transform over much shorter product cycles than PLCs, they will often be much more of a challenge to support over the longer term, even if at the specification stage they might have tangible advantages over traditional PLC-based alternatives. According to feedback from machine

important to define the

application requirements and then look at each technology on merit, always focusing on implementing the best solution”

builders producing serial volumes of the same machine, they often feel the IPC route could be convenient for them. In contrast, machine builders and systems integrators who are adapting or customising individual machines to meet different requirements frequently report that they find it easier to configure PLCs. There are many other reasons why the appeal of the PLC endures. The issue of cyber security continues to grow, and many users are still reticent to put what they see as more vulnerable PC hardware into critical automation systems, even though there have been a number of high profile cyber attacks and viruses targeting PLCs. So, when deciding between IPC

or PLC, it is important is to define the application requirements and then look at each technology on merit,

always focusing on implementing the best solution for the individual task.

Making the decision: PLC or IPC?

A NEW CONTROL SYSTEM Looking at the application benefits, a Mitsubishi Q series PLC is part of a new process control solution at Sadler’s Ales. Located near Stourbridge, the

company has been crafting beers since 1900 but, with growing demand for products such as its Peaky Blinder range, it extended the brewhouse, which contains all the equipment needed for the brewing process. This includes a mill to crush barley grains, a hot water tank, a mash tun to obtain wort and separate it from the mash, a copper to boil the wort while adding ingredients such as hops, a heat exchanger to rapidly cool the liquid, as well as several


fermentation tanks and filter systems. According to Chris Sadler, managing director, the new facilities should help it to quadruple production, with the goal of producing up to 1,000 barrels a week. With the overall objective being to create a higher capacity brewing process that could be monitored and controlled more easily, the brewery contacted local specialist Clarke Controls & Distribution which turned to Mitsubishi Electric to help specify the ideal automation system components. First, Clarke Controls & Distribution engineers produced an accurate P&I diagram, which allowed Mitsubishi Electric automation engineers to determine the number of inputs, outputs and analogue signals, as well as the presence of critical electric motors (mainly pumps) where variable speed control would be required. So, the pumps, compressors and fans

in the system were fitted with either Mitsubishi Electric’s FR-E700 compact variable speed drives, or where appropriate the FR-F800 model that is specifically designed for maximum energy saving on pump and fan control applications. The various sensors and analogue components were connected to the control network using MELSEC ST Lite Remote I/O Nodes to include all the relevant process variables. The inverters and I/O units were then connected via a CC-Link industrial fieldbus network to a Q series Mitsubishi Electric programmable logic controller (PLC), which is suitable for building medium to large-scale control systems. The PLC is housed in a robust metal enclosure, linked to a GOT2000 Human-Machine Interface (HMI) that displays live information and alarms. As a result, brewers can monitor the equipment, as well as adjust the processes parameters live on the touch- screen operator terminal. The operator desk was set as the main focal area, with the PLC and HMI located there to centralise the control system architecture and provide easy access for control, maintenance and upgrades. Thanks to the new control system,

production rose by 300% in less than a month, resulting in 650 new barrels available every week, and corresponding to approximately 200,000 pints of beer.

Mitsubishi Electric Europe


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