Real-time exchange of process and safety data between multiple PLCs

28 January 2018

New safety CPU modules that can now function as both a safety controller and a safety device have been launched by ABB.

When used with ABB’s AC500/AC500-S PLC, the modules offer the ability to exchange process and safety data, not only from one controller to multiple devices but also from one device to multiple controllers, using PROFINET/PROFIsafe  shared device functionality.

Hybrid interconnected PLC control systems can extend traditional centralised or distributed control. As such, each controlled machine can deliver high volumes of process and safety data in real-time, simultaneously, to several central control systems.  

This solution replaces gateways. This offers cost-savings and control cabinet space savings as, with the new solution, a maximum of 1440 bytes of process data – including up to 384 bytes of functional safety data – can be allocated for up to four PLC controller systems, providing faster reaction to optimise the production and improve predictive maintenance.

ABB’s flexible and modular approach allows a complex system to be split into different tasks, such as central controls for production and for storage handling or automatic control and manual operator control desks. The data can be shared in real-time from machines to different central PLC controllers.  

The solution also uses communication modules as add-ons for process and safety data exchange, thereby being able to flexibly modify existing systems via an extension for controller and/or device. With distributed control, where data flows from one system to another, the control logic is spread across the facility, which enhances the overall system performance.  

These new PLC modules target system integrators that are building complex installations, yet demand flexible control systems in all kinds of industrial applications. Typical applications include remote control of machines and equipment in harbors, airports, distribution centers and production facilities. Often in such industries, the control system is altered or updated to allow for production changes or extensions to the facilities. During such upgrades or maintenance, it is important that the central control systems are available. These could be manual locations with remote control access for unexpected occurences.  

Now each machine can deliver the process and safety data in real-time, simultaneously, not only to several central control stations but also to special control systems. Condition monitoring installations, for example, can now feature safety on-board that analyses the status of an automatic guided vehicle’s brakes.  

The modular architecture enables existing control systems to be extended with communication controller and device functionality. Furthermore, standard controller communication interfaces can be re-used by the safety controller. This reduces design complexity of the safety controller by separating the safety and standard control logic processing in the control system. With this approach, users can easily extend and modify existing controller/device topologies by using communication modules to realise safety and/or process data exchange between different control systems.  

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