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£60 mini-controller pops up in pneumatics and air-con

01 February, 2000

£60 mini-controller pops up in pneumatics and air-con

A small, low-cost programmable controller with a built-in screen is starting to appear in various guises targeting different applications.

The controller, developed by Mitsubishi, first appeared in the UK with a Crouzet label, but now SMC is offering a version for controlling valve islands while Mitsubishi is promoting it for building automation applications including air-conditioning.

The catalogue company RS Components is also selling a version for around £60, excluding software. The Alpha controller - dubbed Millenium by Crouzet and PneuAlpha by SMC - is a compact, integrated module combining timers, a real-time clock, counters, and high-current relays with a programmable memory.

It is available in various versions from 6 I/O (inputs/outputs) to 20 I/O with larger models accepting analogue inputs. The nearest rivals are Siemens` Logo and Moeller`s Easy devices.

The Alpha can be programmed either via its eight pushbuttons and four-line LCD display, or from a laptop. It is programmed using a language called Visual Logic which allows you to drag and drop function blocks or icons into a schematic. Pre-written programs can be stored on plug-in memory cassettes or downloaded from the Internet.

SMC has developed a module to link the PneuAlpha to its intelligent pneumatic valve islands. As well as controlling the valves, this will allow the user to monitor variables such as pressure levels and the number of valve cycles. SMC also plans to offer ASi bus connections.

PneuAlpha prices start at around £60 for four input, two output versions, including software. Mitsubishi`s automation division is aiming the Alpha controller at OEMs, but admits that it could affect sales of its conventional PLCs. The controller is also being sold through specialist refrigeration and air-conditioning distributors. The ability to program events in months or even years makes it ideal for building automation applications.

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