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How will industrial automation systems change? It will be different this time

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  What is the future of industrial automation systems? What possible changes will there be? If this topic is pushed forward 10 or even 5 years, it is estimated that there will be very few respondents. But today, more and more people have realized that the traditional industrial automation system may undergo radical changes, and we are currently in the early stages of change. Possible changes will greatly change the industrial automation system architecture that has been available for more than 40 years with DCS and PLC as the core, and the Pudu model that we respect as a classic multi-layer hierarchical structure.

  From an objective point of view, the possible changes in industrial automation systems are mainly from the penetration and promotion of IT technology; and subjectively, they are determined by user needs.

  Take PLC and DCS as examples. They are all closed systems for at least 20 years after their introduction in the 1960s and 1970s. At the end of the last century, it began to be infiltrated by IT technology, and gradually accepted open development ideas, introducing commercial IT technology and components, but limited by the limitations of IT technology at the time and the special requirements of industrial applications, it was more fragmented After repairs, the entire system architecture has basically not changed.

  Traditional factory automation control system architecture

  Since the new century, especially in the past five years, the rapid development of IT technology innovations, especially in the fields of cloud computing, edge, container, microservices, time-sensitive network technology, etc., have created better innovations for traditional industrial automation systems. Conditions, this time may "really be different."

  If in the past, the industrial automation system was an independent, closed and dedicated system, then the subsequent changes were to gradually introduce IT results to increase openness; emphasize integration with IT systems, but retain independence; and in the future, The possible trend is to become a subset of the overall plant IT system, but there are specific application requirements. From the perspective of the development of the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet of Things has always been regarded as a subset, rather than a parallel concept. This is also the difference between it and Industry 4.0.

  In the future, major changes in industrial automation systems should occur in the traditional control layer. The function of the field layer is sensing and execution, and the perception function is more important in the digital age; the upper information layer has low real-time requirements, and today has successively implemented solutions based on cloud platforms. And how to change the control layer, will it become totally unrecognizable or even disappear? There are various conservative or radical schemes on the market. The most radical idea is a solution directly from the sensor to the cloud, while the local data collection, analysis and other functions are completed by the edge platform.

  Real-time has always been the weakness of commercial IT technology, and these emerging IT technologies have not been able to solve this well. But judging from the general trend, in the past 10 or 20 years, the advancement of IT technology in the field of automation has been continuous and faster. Based on the extremely strong technological innovation power of the global IT industry and the resources that can be invested, it is not appropriate to be overly pessimistic about the solution of real-time obstacles. TSN is a good example.

  The last thing I want to say is that user needs are always a driving force that cannot be ignored in promoting technological progress. In fact, it is at the time of major technological changes. The birth of PLC back then came from the needs of General Motors. The big background is that the third industrial revolution has come, and computer technology is beginning to be introduced into the industrial field. They put forward a demand plan, and the original DEC company developed the first PLC based on demand.

  Today, we are at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution. A very similar example is ExxonMobil. Based on the latest IT technology advances that can be applied, they proposed a new generation of DCS architecture and organized related partners. Working together on the development, promotion and application of the new system, the logic behind it is that all DCS currently on the market cannot meet their needs in the areas of technology and cost.