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ABB take on big players in automation market with scalable PLC

06 September 2006

ABB is increasing its Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) offering for industrial automation applications with the launch of the AC500 system, which comprises three new automation products; the AC500 PLC, the S500 Input/Output (I/O) module, and the CP500 HMI operator interface terminal. Available through ABB’s low voltage products division, the AC500 system will complement ABB’s existing AC31 PLC and the 800xA DCS family of controllers.

ABB has identified a potential UK client base for the AC500 worth £55million. It is being aimed primarily at OEMs and plant operators looking for a system that can be readily expanded to meet changing requirements. Typical potential applications for the system range from water pumping for utilities, through to complex heavy industrial applications.

The AC500 system can be easily upgraded as user needs change over time. It is available with three different CPUs; PM571 (micro), PM581 (mini) and PM591 (midi). The PM571 has a memory of 64kbits, while the PM591 has a memory of 4MB, to manage complex multiple tasks. Based on a plug and play design, these CPUs can be quickly interchanged when necessary to meet changing demands.
To allow easy upgrading as operations become more complex, all CPUs for the AC500 share a common physical size, eliminating the need to change connecting parts or the terminal base to accommodate increased CPU sizes.

Further flexibility is also provided by the S500 I/O modules, which provide extra expansion options for the AC500 PLC including decentralised expansion, making it possible to both adjust the PLC and control operations remotely. The module heads are fieldbus neutral and can be set up to use any one of five fieldbus protocols – PROFIBUS DP, CANopen, DeviceNet, Modbus or CS31 – by using ABB’s fieldbus plug. This enables different fieldbus protocols to be used to communicate with any AC500 or S500 device through a single interface.

The AC500 can also be accessed remotely from a PC via Ethernet or serial networks, enabling operators or maintenance staff to change command settings offsite.

No electronics are required to install the products, reducing stockholding. Installation is also simplified by the wiring terminals using both spring or screw-clamp fittings. The plug-in connectivity of the modules also reduces time spent changing components.

Operating the AC500 PLC is simplified by an LCD display that can help users to identify and locate specific problems via on-screen diagnostic codes. Other key features include an operator keypad, two integrated serial interfaces, and an SD card to download or upload data, such as firmware updates or programming codes, without the use of a PC. Data can also be written to and from the SD card to enable data logging.

The AC500 system is programmed using Control Builder CoDeSys software, programmed according to IEC 61131-3 standards including programming languages, ladder logic, function block diagram, structured text, instruction list, sequential flow chart and continuous function chart. The software is built on an open standard platform, and can be employed for planning, programming, testing and commissioning of an automation application. Amongst its various functions, the software can provide process/operator screens to enable offline simulation testing before installation, avoiding any disruption to existing operations.

Further monitoring options are provided with the HMI CP500 operator terminal. The CP500 provides local monitoring and control options to users, including alarm management, recipe management, trend curve analysis and data logging.

The CP500 HMI has 10 different displays available, ranging from a 2 x 16 character text display to a 10.4 inch TFT touch screen display. The functions of the 10 versions vary depending on the customer’s needs and cost limits. The full version provides numerous functions including moving graphics and an interactive touch screen display.

The AC500 system can be purchased as a complete solution, or each of the three products can be bought separately, as each can be integrated into an existing automation system. For example, additional I/O modules can be added to different parts of a factory plant to help handle increased data traffic.

The AC500 has recently been employed in a number of applications. It is being used as the control system for the robotic cells used at the Lander automotive plant, based in the UK. It is also being employed to provide automated control of a replica of the motor engine used in the steam ship SS Great Britain, based in Bristol.

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