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Control platform `will change the way automation is done`

17 July, 2012

GE Intelligent Platforms has announced a new control and industrial computing platform that, it suggests, will change the way automation is done as well as delivering productivity benefits. The compact PACSystems RXi platform has been “designed for the needs of the industrial Internet”, and is supported by an emerging system of cloud-based support tools.

“The RXi controller is the next evolution of PAC controllers,” declares Steve Pavlosky, general manager for GE Intelligent Platforms’ Control & Communication Systems products. It “supports several trends in the industry, including control sustainability, standards-based open architectures, computing and control at the machine level, and integration into the industrial Internet.

“The platform’s Profinet-based distributed architecture offers the best combination of high-performance control with distributed I/O, for lower installation and maintenance costs, coupled with redundant I/O networking for high reliability,” Pavlosky adds.

As well as acting as a controller, the platform can also be used as a rugged industrial PC, combining the flexibility of an IPC for factory-floor computing with the reliability of a PLC.

The design of the controller differs from traditional control systems in several ways:
♦  it has no local I/O, making upgrades easier;
♦  it has built-in Profinet with ring redundancy to provide a simple, low-installation-cost, high-performance, redundant I/O network that allows users to choose the best I/O and devices such as drives and vision systems, for their systems;
♦  control and IPC modules can be interconnected to provide compact, high-performance installations for applications requiring visualisation, data archiving, or other advanced computational tasks at the point of control;
♦  because the controllers are based on a standard Intel architecture, they can provide large memory capacities and on-board storage capabilities; and
♦  built-in “intelligent” display modules will allow users to perform maintenance without needing separate computers, and to create bridges between control systems and the Internet.

The new platform builds on GE’s expertise in designing embedded control platforms, as well as open architecture technologies that deliver high performance, integration with the Internet, extended uptime, and a low total cost of ownership (TCO).

At the platform’s core is an architecture based on COM Express with multicore CPUs, allowing GE to update the products without affecting users’ applications. Built-in high-speed interfaces include multiple gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports.  

The rugged COM Express modular CPU platform incorporates a patented thermal monitoring technology with passive cooling, eliminating possible failures that can arise when shutting down systems that rely on fans for cooling.

Connectors on the controller and IPC versions allow the two products to be mounted together for cable-free communications in applications where both control and computing are needed. The IPC can also be mounted on the back of touchscreen displays to create modular panel IPCs.
 
The compact, fanless industrial PC configurations can run HMI, historian and analytics applications at the machine, even in harsh environments. According to GE, this will make real-time control easier and improve integration with plant-wide and enterprise systems.

The RXi platform supports GE’s new cloud-based collaborative automation platform development and deployment paradigm. It runs the same high-performance PACSystems control engine found in GE’s RX7i and RX3i products, allowing applications to be transferred seamlessly between the various systems.

“The platform is a key element in our strategy to deliver high-performance control solutions that can be developed, deployed, and maintained with our new collaborative, cloud-based automation platform – delivering true integration with the industrial Internet,” says Pavlosky.

“Customers expect their manufacturing assets to outlast the control system,” he concludes. “This new way of developing a control platform allows them to maintain their investment while taking advantage of the newest technologies to make their assets more productive, reliable and cost-efficient.”




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