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New generation of controllers will ‘stretch the limits’

05 February, 2020

The German automation and drives manufacturer Lenze has developed two control platforms that, it says, “stretch the limits of what is technically feasible”. The first is a dedicated controller said to be powerful enough to handle complex projects that previously required industrial PCs. The second is a combined PLC and IPC for tasks, such as database management, that require Windows capabilities.

The new c500 series represents “a new performance class for controllers”, according to Lenze. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will no longer have to worry about whether their controllers have enough computing power for complex tasks, it adds. The new controllers exceed the performance limits of existing PLCs and thus the threshold at which you need to switch to PC technology.

At the heart of the c500 controllers is Intel’s most powerful CPU for compact designs. These processors “redefine the upper performance limits for controllers,” Lenze declares. This allows the controller to keep pace with the rapidly increasing requirements for control and motion applications made by Industry 4.0.

OEMs will no longer need to turn to industrial PCs, which require more programming and work on connections. Instead, they can operate in a familiar environment and make use of the software modules of Lenze’s Fast Application Software Toolbox. Existing programs based on IEC 61131-3 can continue to be used.

Lenze cites the example of printing machines which place high demands on timing to synchronise their numerous axes, as well as requiring high precision. The new controllers will deliver sufficient performance for such applications, it says.

For tasks that require Windows software, Lenze is offering the new c750 cabinet model which, it says, blurs the boundaries between PLCs and industrial PCs. The controllers' OpenSystem architecture splits the computing power between two independent operating systems. Real-time Linux handles control tasks, while Windows 10 IoT Enterprise is available for software applications.

Lenze’s c750 cabinet controller blurs the boundaries between PLCs and industrial PCs

Each system runs on a physical processor core that can split into two virtual cores, thus processing two tasks in parallel. This is made possible by virtualisation at the processor level that is integrated in the CPU and allows available resources to be assigned directly – not just the processor cores, but also the main memory and interfaces.

The c750 offers an alternative to using an additional PC in a compact form factor. It can run Windows applications, such as configuration management and data evaluations, with the help of AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning. Other applications include image analysis for barcode readers, 2D/3D scanners and vision applications, as well as robot teaching applications. The c750 can also pre-process data and make it cloud-compatible.

In addition to the new controllers, Lenze has also developed gateways and a cloud-based platform for Web services, allowing machines in smart factories to be integrated into the cloud.

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