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  • Writer's pictureEric Reiner

Simple Yet Powerful Programming – Industrial PCs vs PLCs, Part 4

IPCs offer advantages over PLCs when it comes to engineering and consolidating software into one environment

PLC programming screens in TwinCAT 3 automation software from Beckhoff

The usual suite of standard PC- and EtherCAT-based connections on all Beckhoff Industrial PCs (IPCs) is optimized for industrial use and enhances system performance, flexibility and openness. An added benefit of PC-based machine controllers is that any remote access, setup and connection to the IPC through a secure, encrypted Internet connection requires no special features, programming or hardware.

In addition, the IPC brings with it a wealth of connectivity tools that is much more difficult and expensive to implement with a PLC or PAC. Leveraging protocols such as OPC UA, manufacturers, machine builders and integrators can immediately create cloud-based databases and implement a robust Big Data management system – all standard with a PC-based control platform. No managed hardware or dedicated “black box” equipment is required to make this happen.

These features of PC-based control deliver a direct positive impact on production by dramatically reducing the need for scheduled downtime as well as the frequency of unplanned downtime. Once again, this shows how IPCs offer unparalleled power and flexibility for automation.

Hardware PLCs and PACs perform useful functions, but they are narrow and difficult to change or upgrade. By moving to a platform based on scalable, robust IPCs and TwinCAT 3 automation software, controls engineers gain access to all the benefits and features available from a PLC or PAC. However, engineers can also add flexibility to cost-effectively change and upgrade systems as plant demands necessitate by leveraging PC-based control from Beckhoff.

Want to learn more about the benefits of PC-based controllers in automation? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


Eric Reiner is the IPC Product Manager for Beckhoff Automation LLC.

A version of this article previously appeared in Control Engineering magazine.


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