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The Top 3 PC-Based Software Features for Industrial Controls Programming

September 18, 2014
When programming controllers for an industrial automation project, I base my platform (PLC, PAC, or PC) on a variety of project details, one of which is the software that drives the platform. Here is a review of the 3 top features I look for on the software side of a platform decision... Read: Top 3 Software Features

3 Options for Starting and Stopping an AC Motor

March 17, 2014
AC motors can be used for anything from running a conveyor to raising a gantry arm, but your best method for starting and stopping an AC motor depends on your end goal. This article will address the three means to control AC motors from lowest to highest capability and cost. Read: Starting and Stopping an AC Motor

PC-Based Controls vs. PLC-Based Controls for Machine Automation

April 24, 2013
PC-based controls were all the rage a decade or so ago. I saw many systems delivered with PC-based controls touting advantages ranging from less cost to more functionality. From my perspective, it seems as though the tide has turned in recent years back to PLCs, so let's take a minute to review the pros and cons of each... Read More >>

10,000 Light Bulbs and 1 PLC Equals a Controls Engineer's Christmas

December 20, 2012
As a controls engineer, what better way to celebrate Christmas than programming a lights display? I've been doing this for a few years, but my 2012 display is my best yet with 10,000 light bulbs, 1 programmable logic controller (PLC), 80 programmed outputs, and 8 programmed inputs all synchronized to music... Read More >>

Handyman Electrician or Disaster Waiting to Happen: 7 Steps to a Successful Electrical Project

May 16, 2012
Are you contemplating doing a little electrical work at home? Maybe you’re looking at your old, discolored light switches from the ‘70s and are thinking you could change them out, or you would love to have another electrical outlet near the PC in your home office. How big of a deal could it be anyway? Just unscrew a few things, put in a new outlet, and away you go.... Hold on! Before you do any of your own electrical work, there are some really important things to consider... Continue Reading >>

How a Controls Engineer Does Christmas Lights

December 21, 2011
So there I was three Christmases ago opening a present from my mother-in-law, and to my surprise, she bought me a Mr. Christmas's, "The Lights and Sounds of Christmas." I've always put up a lot of lights for Christmas, so the gift made sense, but basically, it's a box that syncs music to Christmas lights. That first year I synced some of my Christmas lights to music but found the Mr. Christmas box to be a bit limited since there were only six outputs. So, as a typical controls engineer, I knew I could do this better! Why not treat it as a machine... Read More >>

Functional Specification Documents – Do We Have To?

September 16, 2010
Writing specification documents and listing requirements is not typically a favorite task for a controls engineer. We’d rather be designing, coding, and debugging. But a well written specification can help a project move along more smoothly and therefore be more enjoyable. The main purposes of the specification should be: 1. An agreement with your customer on exactly how the system will operate 2. A point of synchronization for the project team 3. A basis for building a master plan and schedule 4. Instructions to engineers on what to build 5. A baseline for change control
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