Today’s modern machines rely heavily on complex distributed control systems. A distributed control system (DCS) is a control system for a process or plant, where control elements are distributed throughout the system. This is in contrast to non-distributed systems, which use a single node at a central location. The nodes then communicate with each other using some form of communications protocol, such as CAN-bus. Each node is responsible for it’s relevant functions with possibly a central control unit with overall responsibility.
Benefits of a Distributed Control System
- Reduced Wiring – by using a communications medium such as CAN, the wiring between nodes can be reduced to a minimum of 2 wires (if DC power available locally to the node). The wiring to the various I/O (solenoids, actuators, sensors, etc.) can be done locally to the node, thus reducing the cost and complexity of the wiring harness.
- Modular Design – on CAN-bus, all nodes will be able to communicate with each other in real-time. Should a node fail for any reason, it can be replaced with another without any real down-time.
- Fault tolerance – CAN-bus is built to be fault tolerant. If it detects any problems (EMC, wiring, etc.) it can manage the fault until it becomes to significant and will shut down.
- Design – a distributed system is much easier to design as you can guarantee locating the relevant control node by it’s required I/O.
- Reduced Cost – not only is there a saving in the wiring, but additional cost savings can be gained because CAN allows the use of so many different types of node. Rather than being forced down a particular route, an OEM is able to choose the most appropriate hardware based on budget and technical requirements and Control Technologies UK is able to support this.
Control Technologies UK has over 10 years experience delivering complete distributed control systems on CAN-bus. We have built a strong reputation for delivering the most relevant and technically appropriate solutions and supporting the machines from concept all the way through production and into service. We work closely with partner companies and manufacturers of leading hardware, to provide the best solution.
Working with Control Technologies UK
The following is an overview of the typical services we provide around distributed control systems:
- Concept Consultation – we can work with your engineers to understand your requirements and help with, or carry out, the initial system concept. We would do this in the form of a no-obligation workshop with the various stakeholders, ensuring that we collect all the requirements from the various business sections.
- Hardware Sourcing – we have many years experience working with some of the leading manufactures in the sector. Once we understand your concept, we will go out and identify the best hardware for your budget and your technical requirements
- Project Management – we can manage the entire project for you, from start to finish, using the industry recognised PRINCE2 framework. Our engineers are PRINCE2 Practitioners and are able to apply the framework to any project of any size. This methodology allows flexibility, but also ensures that budgets are met and any issues dealt with swiftly. Key stakeholders will receive regular progress reports as well as working as part of the decision making team.
- System Design – we can then take the information from the concept and the hardware selection and design the complete control system including:
- Overall network architecture
- Functional specification
- Wiring harness design
- Software development plan
- System Delivery – once the design is complete and signed-off, we can deliver all aspects of the system including:
- Control Software – we have experience writing real-time embedded code in C, CODESYS, Java, Linux and many other languages using dedicated software IDEs and manufacturer APIs.
- Wiring Harness – we work closely with 3rd parties to build a prototype harness according to the wiring design.
- Installation and Commissioning – we will install and commission the control system to your requirements and provide a complete handover to your engineers.
- Ongoing support – we know that support shouldn’t stop at commissioning, that’s why we can support machines once they are in the field for the life of the machine. We do this through a number of ways, either with an ongoing Engineering Support Agreement (ESA), an ad-hoc basis or by providing training and support to your own engineers.
- Training – we can put together bespoke technical training sessions for your engineers, covering everything from CAN-bus theory through to real-time electro-hydraulic control. We will tailor each training session to the needs of the participants and the company.
In essence, Control Technologies UK is a reliable and cost-effective extension of your own engineering capabilities and we’d be more than happy to discuss how we can help you move your machines forward.
If you want to find out more about how we can realise your control requirements, please get in touch.