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20 April, 2018

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The PLC is dying, long live the PAC

01 June, 2004

The PLC is dying, long live the PAC

An emerging technology, the "programmable automation controller" - or PAC - is set to change the face of industrial automation, a new study suggests.

"The term `PLC` no longer stands only for logic control and programmability," says Himanshu Shah, a senior analyst with the ARC Advisory Group, and the report`s co-author. "Communications capabilities, large memories, and fast CPUs have turned the PLC into a universal automation component that fits all applications."

The report identifies several sub-classes of controller that are finding niche markets. Nano-PLCs, for example, are replacing relays, while micro-PLCs are benefiting from the recovery in the machine tool market. Larger PLCs are moving towards simple DCS and SCADA applications.

According to ARC, the threat to PLCs from PC-based controls has passed. It points out that modern PLCs contain PC-based technologies themselves.

ARC predicts that the global market for industrial controllers will grow by about 4.6% a year over the coming five years, despite falling prices. It expects the market, which was worth more than $6bn last year, to exceed $7.5bn by 2008.

ARC attributes this growth to two main factors: expanding applications outside of manufacturing; and demand from developing regions.

It points out that PLCs have become such a commodity that suppliers often do not know the end-uses of the small controllers that they sell through distributors. But many of these uses are outside the traditional industrial arena.

Markets such as China, Eastern Europe, Russia, India and Brazil now have populations that are demanding cars, processed foods and beverages, and appliances - and manufacturing plants are being built to meet these needs. Parts of Eastern Europe are growing as rapidly as China, ARC adds, and could provide a major opportunity for the PLC market, especially as trade becomes easier following their joining the EU in April.

Changes in the market share of the leading PLC suppliers are not dramatic, but they are gradually increasing their monopoly of this market, ARC says. The top seven suppliers have increased their share of the global market and reinforced their dominance of regional markets. .




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