Embedded Systems For Automation and Control
Embedded systems are often used in industrial settings for automation and control of factory systems and machinery. Embedded systems are used in larger systems to perform specific tasks, such as controlling motors and valves, assembly-line speed, adjusting temperatures and other variables, and managing networking equipment. The overall purpose of embedded systems for automation and control is to control processes in order to maximize the performance and efficiency of the overall process. Also, its purpose is to produce the best product possible, all while operating reliably and optimally in challenging environments.
Typically, embedded systems for automation and control are made from the same components that go into consumer-grade desktop computers. These components include the CPU, GPU, chipset, storage, and I/O ports. That said, there is one vital difference between components that are used in regular desktop PCs and those used in industrial embedded systems. The components in industrial embedded systems have been tested and validated to operate reliably in challenging environments. However, the components in regular computers are not capable of performing properly in challenging industrial environments. Ultimately, the entire package allows embedded computer systems to communicate with machines, devices, and other equipment located in industrial settings, as well as allow such devices to communicate with the cloud via the internet.
Automation & Control
Embedded systems are often used in industrial settings to automate the various processes that are used to manufacture a product or component thereof. For example, automation computers can be used to automate the various tasks involved in assembling a product or a component of a product. Many organizations are moving towards automation because it results in greater efficiency and products that have a much lower error rate when compared to products that are manufactured by humans. Of course, machines are not intelligent on their own; they need embedded systems to automate the process, instructing the machines on how to make a product or component. Embedded systems are also used to inspect products and components by analyzing information sent to them from high-speed vision cameras that scan products for defects.
For example, embedded systems can be used to monitor and control the temperature of a device that creates plastic bottles and monitor and control the speed of the assembly line, automatically adjusting the speed according to the output of plastic bottles. Furthermore, machine vision can be used to scan bottles for defects, discarding bottles that do not meet predefined requirements.
Of course, many factories already have PLCs (programmable logic controllers) that monitor and control assembly lines; however, embedded computer systems can be integrated into existing machines to control and consolidate a number of workloads onto a single system.
Overall, industrial embedded PCs can be used to create a central system to monitor and control the variety of processes, resulting in a more simple system that requires less maintenance since there are fewer systems that operators need to keep track of.
In addition to controlling and automating processes, embedded systems enable the remote monitoring of factory equipment and machinery. This is so because industrial computers collect information that they can then upload to the cloud via the internet for remote monitoring and control. Embedded computers can monitor and control both new machinery and legacy machinery and equipment thanks to the inclusion of USB Type-A ports and Serial COM ports, which are used to communicate with factory equipment, machines, and IIoT devices.
The data that’s gathered, processed, and analyzed by embedded computers can be used to create valuable insights that factory operators can use to measure performance and improve industrial processes’ productivity.
For example, if a factory is producing plastic bottles, the factory may have a requirement for the stiffness of the bottles it creates. A closed-loop control system can be used to achieve the ideal stiffness. This is done by placing a sensor that monitors the stiffness of the bottles outputted by the process and comparing it to the required stiffness. If the bottles are not as stiff as they should be, the system can use the output data to make corrections to the process in order to achieve the required bottle stiffness.
What Are Some of the Common Industrial Automation and Control Applications?
1. Smart Factories and Manufacturing
Embedded systems are often deployed in manufacturing facilities to control systems and manage factory machinery and equipment that’s used in the manufacturing process of a component or product. Automation has taken off because it allows manufacturers to create products with as few deviations as possible from the ideal dimensions or specification of a product or component that’s being manufactured.
Embedded systems used for automation function the same way humans function. They take inputs from the various sensors deployed in manufacturing plants and use that input to fine-tune the production process. Sensors can obtain data that includes heat, humidity, pressure, light, and many other types of sensory data. The data is then measured, analyzed, and aggregated by local edge embedded systems. The analyzed data can then be used to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process, and it can be sent to the cloud, allowing organizations to remotely monitor and control their manufacturing operations.
2. Agricultural Automation & Irrigation
Embedded systems are being used for agricultural automation and irrigation. That is, embedded computer systems are used to gather information from a variety of sensors, such as temperature sensors, humidity sensors, and soil wetness sensors. Once the embedded system has the information from the sensors, it can decide how to best irrigate the plants in order to achieve the best possible crop growth that would result in the best yield. For example, if the sensor detects that a certain section of the crop soil is too dry, the system can selectively turn on the sprinklers to achieve the desired soil wetness for the best crop growth.
Smart farming and agriculture are changing the way farming is performed. Many activities that were once controlled by human beings are now being automated via a network of sensors embedded computing systems where parameters, such as light, soil moisture levels, and plants growth, are monitored around the clock via sensors and cameras, and information is shared via blazing fast wired or wireless connectivity. So, embedded systems can be used to monitor plant health both locally and remotely, and the information can be used to fine-tune the growing process to achieve the best possible crop yield.
3. Surface & Underground Mining
Rugged embedded systems are also used for surface and underground mining. Embedded systems are being used to automate the various aspects of mining. For example, they are being used to bring intelligence to robotics and vehicles so that they can be remotely controlled, removing humans from danger’s way in underground mining operations. Instead, an operator is placed in a control room, remotely controlling mining machinery, vehicles, and other unmanned mining equipment. Additionally, vehicle embedded systems are installed in mining vehicles, providing operators with a variety of data from sensors and cameras located on vehicles, allowing for remote control of the vehicle. All of this would not be possible without embedded IoT gateways being installed on vehicles to relay the data gathered from the sensors and cameras located on vehicles and other mining equipment, allowing miners to see the surroundings of the vehicle, as well as being able to control it remotely.
Furthermore, embedded systems are used for mapping, geotagging, data collection, asset management, compliance, and reporting. Regular consumer-grade desktop computers are not suitable for such applications because they are made for use at homes or in offices on desks. They are not meant for underground deployment, where they will be exposed to gases, humidity, dust, dirt, extreme temperatures, shocks, and vibrations. Rugged embedded systems are deployed because they reduce the downtime associated with the malfunctioning of regular PCs, thus improving productivity and reducing detrimental downtime that can cost surface and underground mining operators hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost profits.
4. Oil & Gas Production
Rugged embedded systems are often used in major oil and gas petroleum refineries to manage and control the various machines deployed on the field. Embedded systems deployed in oil and gas fields must be highly reliable and rugged because they are used to control critical operational functions, such as drilling equipment, valves, and other electrical equipment involved in the extraction and refinement of petroleum.
In addition to management and control, embedded systems are used to gather data from the various machinery and equipment deployed on the field; embedded systems then to connect to the internet via onboard Wi-Fi and cellular internet connectivity to offload data to the cloud for remote monitoring and control. This allows oil and gas field operators to access real-time data, which enables real-time decision making to improve the performance of oil and gas productions, as well as to improve operational safety.
Furthermore, the data gathered by embedded PCs enables oil and gas production facilities to perform predictive maintenance. That is, embedded systems can use the information gathered to predict when a component or machine will fail, prompting operators to perform maintenance on or inspect machinery or equipment before it fails during normal production hours. Thus, predictive maintenance reduces detrimental downtime, allowing organizations to perform maintenance on machinery before it breaks down or fails during normal operating hours.
The Bottom Line
Overall, embedded systems for the automation industry are necessary for organizations to keep pace with the ever-increasing competition. Embedded systems allow organizations to achieve greater operational efficiencies, resulting in the production of better products at a faster pace. Premio has been manufacturing embedded system for automation and control for over 30 years, delivering products that allow businesses and organizations to meet the increasing demands of industry 4.0. Premio offer ultra-reliable and durable embedded systems that are engineered for the highest level of performance in challenging environments. If you need assistance choosing an embedded system for industrial automation and control, please contact one of our embedded computing professionals and they will assist you with selecting a solution that meets your specific requirements.