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Control Techniques `dominates smart drives market`

01 October, 2006

Control Techniques has captured almost half of the market for "smart" drives with embedded PLCs in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region, says a new study. According to the analysis, by IMS Research, CT has three times the market share of its nearest rival.

IMS says that this specialised market is growing faster than the general drives market and that most of the drives with PLC functions are being bought by OEMs. The attractions of the technology include lower cabling and installation costs, and smaller panel sizes.

The report sees a trend towards decentralised controls, with automation decision-making being distributed away from central controllers to PLC-enhanced equipment such as drives and HMIs, spread around the factory. As well as freeing up main controllers for system monitoring and diagnostics duties, this trend is making controls installations more stable and robust.

IMS quizzed systems integrators, machine builders and end users who reported that communications is a key attraction of using equipment with embedded PLC functions.

Control Techniques predicts that its lead in this sector could increase further with the launch of a new plug-in programmable controller for its Unidrive SP AC drives. The SM-Applications Plus module (shown above) uses a faster processor that delivers 150-200% more power than its predecessors. This means that a position loop will now run synchronously with a drive`s high-speed internal control loops, with enough spare capacity to carry out other tasks.

Drive-to-drive communications will also improve significantly, says CT, because the module has more power to process data and to clear its buffers. The improved communications will allow more functions to be added — the first of which are PLCopen function blocks for 1.5-axis applications.

CT product manager Imad Rajraji says the new module is "blisteringly fast, with more processing power, better diagnostics, and more features that greatly extend our technology leadership in this sector.

"Even the standard on-board processor in the Unidrive SP gives micro-PLC performance," he adds, "and covers many applications where the purchase of a PLC is an over-kill. But our SM-Applications Plus module definitely eliminates the need for a PLC, bringing control right to the point where it is needed."

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