First, it’s probably helpful if we address what exactly a PLC is. PLC stands for “Programmable Logic Controller”. It’s a modular, ruggedized, industrial type of computer which continuously monitors inputs values, runs them through a program (software), then determines the correct output values and adjust the “system” accordingly. The PLC (hardware) and the program (software) complete the necessary duo for an autonomous system which ultimately determine the overall effectiveness. Figure 1. below is an example of a PID loop, the software base layer of how any PLC operates and makes decisions.
PLCs are a valuable part of almost any production line or machine function as they give the process automation the ability to operate without the need for human intervention. Better yet, PLCs are able to analyze data and make decisions 10,000 times faster than any human and do it all day long. But to achieve efficiency and effectiveness, these PLCs read values and analyze data every second and then make decisions on how to react and adjust, we call this optimization.
Part of the optimization equation is understanding what it means to be efficient. Efficiency signifies a peak level of performance that uses the least number of inputs to achieve the highest amount of output. It is measured by the ratio of useful output to total input.
With the advent of PLCs and the superpowers they bring to the table manufacturers are able to improve their efficiency, which means reducing waste (energy output), therefore increasing the bottom-line ($$$). Now that’s something that grabs the attention of managers and C-suite personnel across the board. “You mean I can increase production, reduce waste, and add 20% to my bottom-line?” Yes, this is the superpower a PLC coupled with sound software brings to the table.
Now how does all of this apply to an air compressor or a compressed air system? Well, for any major manufacturer compressed air is a fourth utility. There isn’t a plant out there that doesn’t use it in some shape or form and without it everything pretty much comes to halt. It’s no secret that compressed air generation is one of the most expensive operating costs a plant endures, and is generally grossly inefficient and misapplied. According to the Department of Energy, “the overall efficiency of the typical plant compressed air system operates at 10-15%”. Sounds like PLCs make a perfect fit… and they do! Implementing a PLC based control scheme is going to improve efficiency, reliability, and transparency all while lending peace of mind with a hands-off approach. If compressed air systems are vital to production shouldn’t they be protected and robust?
Furthermore, PLCs offer an array of other features and benefits…
User Friendly Systems
PLC based systems are designed for anyone to use without the needs for special training. They offer a user-friendly and open-source platform, meaning you don’t have to be a factory or OEM qualified technician to work or troubleshoot the hardware or programming. They offer deterministic logic execution with reliable and consistent functions. Companies are risk adverse and are always looking to avoid errors which can lead to downtime, that is where things can become costly.
Great Input/Output Capabilities
PLC systems have good input/output capabilities from a range of potential interfaces to the ability to be linked with traditional desktops as needed. In a world where technology changes often, it’s good to know PLCs are adaptable and can last decades with custom software. If you work in a place where upgrades are constantly required, PLCs are your smart option. PLCs work well for sequential relay control, motion control, networking, and/or distributed control systems. They’re easily expandable and allow for all kinds of customization to meet specific needs.
Case Engineering, Inc. (Case Controls) has been building PLC based control systems for compressed air systems since the 1980’s. As the leader in control automation for compressed air systems our solutions are timed tested and fully customized to meet the specific requirements of our customers. If you’d like to know more please give us a call or send us an email. We would be happy to help you do more and take control. Call Case Controls in Evansville, Indiana, at 812-422-2422 to discuss PLC systems to control your industrial air compressors.