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PLC/PC hybrid is first major controls launch since Series 90

01 May, 2003

PLC/PC hybrid is first major controls launch since Series 90

GE Fanuc Automation has launched a family of "programmable automation controllers" — its first major controls product line since it introduced the Series 90 at the start of the 1990s. The PACSystems controllers are a PLC/PC hybrid that use a single control engine and a common programming environment. This approach is said to allow portability between different hardware platforms and to provide other benefits, such as improved performance, higher productivity, and easy migration for existing GE Fanuc PLC users.

The PACSystems family consists of integrated control systems comprising a control engine, Cimplicity Machine Edition software, and various hardware platforms. The control engine is built on an embedded architecture and uses commercial operating systems. This allows users to choose the hardware and programming language that best suits each application. The system supports distributed I/O through standard communication protocols including Ethernet, Profibus, DeviceNet and Genius I/O.

"PACSystems represents a revolutionary change in the control industry that enables control convergence rather than integration of disparate parts and pieces," suggests John Pritchard, senior vice-president and general manager for automation equipment, GE Fanuc Automation Europe. "With one engine, coupled to a single development tool, users can take advantage of a powerful engineering environment for multiple applications.

He adds that the flexible technology "can help users to boost the overall performance of their automation systems, reduce engineering costs, and significantly decrease concerns regarding short- and long-term migration and platform longevity."

The PACSystems controllers operate with almost the entire existing range of GE Fanuc I/O, thus offering more than 100 variations of I/O hardware from their launch.

The first PACSystems controller to be released is the high-performance RX7I, which is claimed to be four times faster than existing PLC backplanes. It supports up to 10MB of memory for programming and documentation storage. The controller accepts standard VME modules, including Series 90-70 I/O. GE Fanuc plans to release more platforms during the course of the year.

"The PLC has evolved by incorporating open standard interfaces, multi-domain functionality, distributed modular architectures, and modern software capabilities integrated as turnkey automation solutions," comments Craig Resnick, director of research for ARC Advisory Group. "The new PAC concept will play a major role in plant and factory automation, today and in the future."

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