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24-core industrial PC is ‘world’s most powerful PLC’

01 December, 2014

At the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, the automation manufacturer Beckhoff has unveiled a 24-core industrial server which it describes as the world's most powerful PLC. The IPC can perform 20 PLC tasks in parallel with 100µs cycle times and perform its fastest cycles in 25µs.

According to Beckhoff's managing director, Hans Beckhoff, the C6670 IPC is the company’s first industrial server and “the most expensive PC we've ever built”. A 12-core version will cost around €6,000, and a 24-core version twice as much. The PCs, which can handle up to 2TB of memory, can perform a million PLC instructions in 100µs.

At the heart of the IPC is a motherboard containing two 2.2GHz Intel Xeon processors with a combined total of up to 36 cores, or 72 with hyperthreading. The PC also contains two Gigabit Ethernet controllers, a powerful graphics card and two 1TB hard drives. Various interface cards can be added via four PCIe III x16 slots, one PCIe III x8 slot, and one PCIe II x4 slot.

Control programs can be organised into multiple tasks which can be executed in parallel. The latest version of Beckhoff's TwinCat software can distribute the individual control tasks intelligently between the multiple cores. In theory, it could supervise up to 256 cores with up to 64 tasks per core. As well as performing complex control duties such as motion, robotics and CNC, the software can handle other functions such as image processing, condition monitoring, visualisation and advanced measurements simultaneously.

Beckhoff's multi-core industrial server can handle a variety of automation and PC tasks simultaneously at high speeds

Hans Beckhoff points out that many industrial machines have parallel control system designs and describes the development of multi-core processors as “a blessing for machine control”. He says that the new IPCs will be able to achieve performance figures “that you can’t imagine using normal control technologies”. There will be “almost no limits” to the application ideas that the PC can handle. 

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