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More and more colleges and universities across the country are adding new courses to keep up with the improving economy and increasing demand for high tech jobs.
Many facilities deal in high-volume work with automated equipment, but they also need employees highly proficient in computer training in order to ensure their complex systems are safe from cyber attacks.
As a result, more classes are being offered in high growth areas, specifically Introduction to Automation Using Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s) and Cyber Security/Risk Management.
PLC courses focus on helping automation technicians, electricians, industrial maintenance mechanics, and energy management system operators learn the implementation of automated systems in manufacturing and service company settings designed to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Cyber Security courses are aimed at all those looking to protect computer systems from viruses, hackers, worms, and other threats to confidential information.
All in all, now might be the time to jump into some of these new PLC courses and improve your proficiency in a number of areas involving automated equipment.
Windor’s Legoland has a brand new attraction in the form of a small model version of the Santa Pod Raceway that took 84,780 Lego bricks to create.
The quarter-mile racing venue took a lot of Lego bricks to recreate because 19,800 of them went into creating the grandstand and the raceway’s spectators alone.
A tedious 744 hours of hard work from 7 LEGO model-makers eventually resulted in the incredible model you see below.
By comparing it to an actual image of the real thing, you can see just how much attention to detail went into recreating the raceway.
The coolest part about the whole project, however, is the fact that the model version isn’t merely for looks.
A spokesperson for Legoland said; “Guests can actually race the Santa Pod dragsters down the track.
“The Dragster animation is controlled in its entirety by a central Programmable Logic Controller housed within the animation plant room.
“At the press of a button, a car in each lane edges forward into stage on the start line.
“The starting system – and the audio – is triggered and, as the green light flashes, the guests flick levers to send their cars rocketing side-by-side down the strip to the finish.
“A further sensor brings the cars to a halt and returns them to their positions at the head of the pairing lanes, ready to explode into action once again,” the spokesperson added.
Thanks to a PLC bringing everything to life, visitors of Windor’s Legoland can get a full racing experience in a much smaller package.
It has recently been reported that software technology used to operate the United States’ nuclear arsenal is still kept on 5.25″ floppy disk drives. The common refrain heard is why change a system if we know it works well? Fiddling with the software that launches nuclear missiles could end up creating problems far worse than running software that is decades old.
Notably, manufacturers are using similarly outmoded technology, equivalent to the rotary phone or manual typewriter when there are obviously better technologies available. In tightly controlled industries like aerospace or pharma, companies tend to stick with what has been working rather than going through a fresh round of testing.
Computer Numerical Contorl (CNC) Machines
Some companies buy new parts but run them using old legacy systems, in the process losing the opportunity to take advantage of advanced features of new software that would save money without being expensive to implement.
As we might imagine companies with deeper pockets and a longer term vision often are the first to implement new technologies. For example, Apple computers now produces higher-quality computer components using cutting-edge Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining as it has sought to ramp up production for its popular smart phones and to improve manufacturing turnaround times.
CNC’s do the work of manufacturing complex parts through the use of software programs and machine tools. CNC is used in lathing, milling, grinding, drilling and other processes.
These processes are automated using computer aided design (CAD) data or other programming software so that parts can be manufactured quickly and accurately. CNC machines use three different types of controllers: desktop, pendant and pedestal.
Versatility Of GE PLCs & CNC Technology
PLC and CNC operated “robots” are now used in a variety of industries and applications.
Hospitals, for example, are using these robots to perform surgery, distribute medicine, manage inventory and stocks, handle hospital linens, assist in delivering food to patients and performing x-rays. These robots navigate using PLC programs and radar to help them navigate the layout of hospital hallways and patient rooms. Automated “RX-Robots” can store over 20,000 different doses of medication and keep track hundreds of millions of prescriptions. And of course, robots operate around the clock and seldom need “breaks.”
Having the experience to implement this new paradigm of operation using these new technologies is not always available in house, but putting off upgrades means less efficient cycle times and part accuracy.
There is certainly money to be saved when talking about implementing building automation, regardless of whether or not you have new equipment or Variable Frequency Drives on every motor.
Many times you can reduce energy consumption by recognizing unneeded usage and implementing a solid automation plan, which can be big or small.
For example, if you own a small office cooled by fans, installing an automation control that tightly monitors the schedule of the fans can save you up to 15% on your energy bill a year.
Furthermore, decreasing heating setpoints and increasing cooling during peak usage hours can save another 5-10%, setting you up for a solid 20-25% combined reduction on your utility bill without having to upgrade any of your mechanical equipment.