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Machine Automation Edge Control

by | Sep 26, 2019 | Control & Safety Systems, Machine Automation

Jim Cahill

Jim Cahill

Emerson's Kyle HableEmerson’s Kyle Hable provided an update on product developments in the Machine Automation Solutions part of the business at the 2019 Emerson Exchange conference. Kyle discussed the RX3i Edge Controllers, which combine the capabilities of traditional PLCs with the software and application flexibility of Industrial PCs to provide a broader range of control, analytic, and optimization capabilities close to the physical equipment. The RX3i provides high speed deterministic control for a broad range of standard and mission critical machine and unit control applications.

Kyle opened describing edge control. Edge runs the machine or process on the logic side and apps collect and analyze the data collected locally. The evolution of control leads to the edge. While PLCs started with ladder logic (based on relay control logic) to multilanguage support today including structured text or text-based programming. In the mid-1990s, co-processors came along that opened general purpose computing (PC-based) with the deterministic control in the PLC. This advancement enabled creative higher-level optimization and other hypervised control strategies.

The PLC-side supports extremely fast control strategies for machine-based applications such as bottling lines and other high-speed execution applications.

He described the addition of an OPC-UA Server in the PACSystem and on the PACEdge side a Linux-based Ubuntu server that enables an incredibly wide range of applications and connections to other systems through the manufacturing operation. The Linux operating system is embedded in the edge device, with Python as the scripting language, Apache as the web server for visualization application, SQLight for database storage, connections to cloud-based host providers and more.

Here’s an architecture diagram that Kyle showed:

RX3i Edge Controller

The PACEdge can be used in conjunction with a data diode network device to ensure communications is only unidirectional out from the edge to cloud-based analytics applications.

Kyle shared some common applications used such as Graphana for visual dashboards. He shared some use cases. The first was tunnel maintenance application with alerts with geolocation of issues for maintenance personnel to address. A second application was a chemical process skid in a research lab where data formerly was collected manually and was automated to collect continuously with reports and dashboard visualizations automatically generated.

A third use case was for gas turbine combustion development and testing. Customers would have other fuel sources become abundantly available and needed testing for how their turbines would respond and how they would need to be modified. The test cycles were shortened by 12 hours by removing the manual data transfer previously required. The savings added up to more than $1 million USD per year.

With edge control, it’s possible to use the latest technologies to collect, analyze, and move data to cloud-based applications for deeper analytics and collaboration.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.