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When a PLC Just Doesn't Cut It


In a modern factory environment, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are integral to day-to-day operations. During the course of operations, PLCs allow factory systems to operate reliably, while also maintaining a level of flexibility necessary to add additional models. Furthermore, PLCs can work to facilitate the troubleshooting of faulty components and also provide in-depth insight into machine health and performance. However, with the increasing complexity of industrial machinery and machine tasks, some companies are finding that PLCs cannot always satisfy their needs for high-speed data acquisition and database interaction. Because of this, modern alternatives to PLCs are being offered by a handful of companies. Below, we’ll discuss a Michigan tech company’s alternative to PLCs and how they are already utilizing their product to help various businesses around the country.

The Benefits of STAX

Within the past two years, Signal.X Technologies, a Northville, Michigan software and systems integration company, has developed an upgraded alternative to the traditional PLC. Colloquially known as STAX, this manufacturing test platform combines a bevy of systems and functions in order to streamline data collection and communication to devices. Simply put, “STAX contains a ladder-logic emulator that is used to program the behavior of the control system, with editing and monitoring tools similar to a PLC.” Combining these functions into STAX has already proved invaluable to troubleshooting problems a traditional PLC could not solve, specifically in destructive interference and advanced control.

Advanced Control

An alternative to a PLC, like STAX, can offer more nuanced data acquisition and control than a traditional PLC can provide. By implementing a user-configurable, logic-based execution system that leverages the readily-available, multithreaded embedded software development in LabVIEW,  STAX allows engineers much more control and visibility of their systems’ processes. Furthermore, the simple-to-use software permits for advanced control while being extremely intuitive, allowing an engineer with limited-to-no LabVIEW knowledge to configure the test system for future needs. All the while, the STAX controller constantly acquires and analyzes test signatures, helping engineers to process, visualize, and improve their results. This allows companies to more clearly understand their manufacturing process, and in turn, adapt to changing requirements and improve the test system.

Destructive Interference

An early example of success with the STAX platform comes from its ability to test destructive interference in modern automobiles. Utilizing advanced testing, the STAX system was used to oversee the production of active mass dampers, which are used to reduce noise and counteract vibrations from truck engines. Because of extensive regulations, active mass dampers are required to be 100% tested and optimally sound to handle the strenuous conditions inside a truck or car. By harnessing high-speed measurement of current, voltage, and load to the coil, STAX could quickly and accurately identify defective parts before shipment, which saved both the businesses and customers money and time.

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