Future Automation Architectures @ EIF 2024

Author photo: Constanze Schmitz and David Humphrey
ByConstanze Schmitz and David Humphrey
Industry Trends

ARC’s European Industry Forum is part of our successful series of worldwide conferences in Europe, America and Asia. The next European Forum will be held in Sitges (Barcelona), Spain on May 6-8, 2024 and focus on “Managing Digital Transformation in the Age of AI, Open Architectures, and Sustainability”. Participants are invited to attend exclusive presentations and workshops on strategies and case studies from the digital front lines.
ARC industry analysts and other experts from the end user and supplier communities will analyze and discuss trends and drivers for hot industry topics, such as:

Future Automation Architectures: Everything Software-defined? Everything Virtualized?
Machine automation architectures today look much like the architectures of 25 years ago. Except for the use of industrial Ethernet, not much has changed. Production and packaging lines are made up of machines delivered by individual machine builders, each equipped with a controller, an operator panel, and sometimes an industrial PC with additional software. Each provider delivers and commissions his own machine on-site, while a system integrator connects the machines.

Driven by the growing influence of information technologies (IT) in the plant, automation architectures are starting to look more “IT-like”. Following the IT trend to hyper-converge architectures and realize nearly every function in software, automation architectures are undergoing a virtualization of traditional hardware-based control systems. As non-time-critical software is consolidated on a server or in the cloud, real-time control is now becoming virtualized on a common platform.

While it’s not the first supplier to introduce a vPLC, market leader Siemens last year announced its first virtualized PLC, the S7-1500V, last year. But will the vPLC ever replace the traditional PLC? Maybe, but not for a long time. As nice as a software-defined architecture sounds, there are still many applications for which a piece of control hardware is better suited – ranging from low-cost, no-nonsense jobs that don’t require so much sophistication, to complex jobs with lots of coordinated motion control that currently test the limits of purely hardware PLCs. After all, hard real-time motion control is not for sissies!

The benefits of software-defined automation architectures are many, but there are plenty of caveats. Many machine builders lack the IT skills necessary to realize them, and some have concerns about IP protection. Moreover, virtualized solutions many not (yet) offer the performance needed for complex motion control tasks.

ARC’s European Industry Forum
Join us at ARC’s European Industry Forum to speed up your digitalization and sustainability initiatives with strategies and use cases from which technology end users and suppliers will benefit alike. Discover what your peers and industry leaders are doing today and what steps they are taking to prepare for the future.
For more information about attending, speaking, and sponsoring, please contact Ann-Kathrin Blech (mailto:ablech@arcweb.com).

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