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Next generation controller ranges are 'Industry 4.0 ready'

01 April 2015

It is now more than 30 years since Mitsubishi introduced its F series programmable logic controller (PLC). Almost a decade on, came the FX platform, which, to date, has led the PLC sector in terms of market penetration and continuing innovation.

Now, for 2015, the company has announced its first controller format change in 20 years with the introduction of two new platforms: the MELSEC IQ-R programmable automation controller and MELSEC iQ-F compact PLC ranges.

Each of the new products addresses different segments of the machine control, process control and automation markets, with industry leading performance and functionality. Both ranges benefit from unified interconnectivity with other iQ models, a unified programming environment and an improved user experience.

The MELSEC iQ-R provides a programmable automation controller (PAC) platform that brings substantial added value while reducing total cost of ownership, enabling users to build automation systems that ensure the highest levels of productivity and consistent product quality.

It has been developed from the ground up to address user issues focused on increasing productivity and reducing development costs, maintenance effort and operating costs. At the same time, considerably improved processing performance will guarantee increased security, enhanced safety, reliable production processes and reduced downtime.

Designed to meet the needs of ‘Industry 4.0’ automation concepts, the iQ-R incorporates a number of innovative features, including embedded database functionality. This enables recipe, batch or other process data to be stored in a user-friendly format and provides essential information for optimising production or preventative maintenance.

With the MELSEC iQ-R control concept intellectual property is guaranteed to be fully protected by the wide range of security functions, which include an additional security hardware key and an IP-based access filter and user authentication. These security measures will also offer considerable protection against the growing threat of cyber-attacks.

Improved debugging and error recovery functions will enable commissioning and maintenance work and associated costs to be reduced further. The functions provided include the creation of an operating history as well as error and event logging.

The optimised system design allows the integration of standard and safety control systems on one single rack and it is also possible to connect to open networks such as CC-Link, CC-Link IE Field and a wide range of other open networks. Users will also have a range of integrated communication protocols to choose from in order to make the process of connection as simple as possible.

Building on the FX platform
The iQ-F series builds on the legacy of the market leading FX series of PLCs and will extend over the coming years, offering even more choice in the compact PLC range.

The first model in the iQ-F series is the FX5U, which continues the FX tradition of total flexibility by offering a huge range of new and existing add-on options further enhancing the built-in functions of Ethernet, analogue I/O, data logging, position control, security, communications and networking functions, all incorporated as standard. 

The FX5U offers functions which hitherto have only been available on larger PLCs, such as motion control, data logging and sophisticated security features. For example, the 4-axis simple motion module brings sophisticated motion control in an easy to use format, providing features such as torque control and circular interpolation. 

To meet the future needs of Industry 4.0, the FX5U offers comprehensive data logging functionality as standard, with all data from energy consumption to product throughput captured on a standard SD card for further analysis.

With security being a key issue today, the FX5U offers sophisticated security features to protect both the developer’s intellectual property and the final installation. Each PLC can have a security ‘key’ that allows users to easily manage access to both software and hardware.

All of this functionality is combined with a processing speed of 34ns per instruction and a bus speed 150 times faster than previous generation FX PLCs.

Both the iQ-R and iQ-F controllers are programmed using the new GX Works3 software which provides an intuitive, graphical, structured programming environment. GX Works3 offers a wide range of programming options including dynamic labels, parameterisation instead of programming, and the automatic creation of hardware function blocks and visual function blocks, including HMI templates.

This drag-and-drop hardware and software configuration reduces overall configuration time by more than 60 percent, whilst the intuitive approach to programming reduces development costs and development errors.

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