Automation Projects


We spent a few decades automating a wide variety of systems. Much of this is obviously historical, so it involves acts of archeology to unearth the artifacts. Much like brain surgery—it takes time.

The Allen-Bradley and Siemens PLCs were pretty rock solid. We never programmed any Schneider-Electric PLCs, as we were employed for their Ampla and Citect products.

Areas of interest include intelligent I/O, moving alarms to the controller, plus an “automation logic analyzer” using intelligent terminal blocks that are transparent to the PLC. Tablets will also change the HMI landscape — particularly the iPad. The flock of Android tablets will push prices below $400.

We were interested in developing a small controller, however, will not be entering any market where Consumer Laws specifically allow for consequential damages. We are prepared to develop prototypes for customers who will assume responsibility. We now understand why hardware is much, much more expensive in such markets.

Automation Products

One of our first automation products was an annunciation panel in 1988, but we would move this to digital signage if done more recently.

Cycle times of a few milliseconds make PLCs challenging for high-speed packaging, however, dedicated cards cater for motion control applications.

We have several ideas of what we would like in a PLC, SCADA or motion control system. In 2009, while employed at an automation company, an email requested input for a PLC design that would ship in 2013. We apologise in advance for the large file size (21,6 Meg), but high resolution photographs were used. We have since removed references to the automation company in the PDF, as these are our views, not necessarily those of the company (who are pretty successful in automation). It is already way past 2013, so how close were we to what the PLC world is now shipping since the 2009 proposal (21,6 Mbytes) was written?

There are few photographs of automation projects, as factories typically ban cameras on-site, or need to protect intellectual property. We were given permission to photograph work done for an automotive paint shop and tool rooms, but have not asked for permission to post them. Some of our automation projects are in the hardware section under the 68000 processor.

Related Publications

There was one IFAC conference paper, an IEEE conference paper, and a conference paper on the robotic welder. The imaging paper was basically about Basil’s thesis and its uses for industrial imaging (presented by Basil — Professor Theo van Niekerk and I were co-promoters for Basil).

Custom Software

While working at Schneider, a few programs were written to examine the contents of dBase III tag databases, and attempted to automate the interface between Ampla to Citect by delving into XML code for Ampla’s internals.