I am always fascinated by acronyms. So many of them have different meanings depending on the context. If somebody tells you they are an AARP member, do they mean the Association of American Retired Persons or Animal Accident Recovery Patrol? If a person tells you they have a BBP, do they mean Basic Benefits Package or Blood Borne Pathogen? When I first started working for Real Time Automation, I was taken aback by all the acronyms used in industrial automation. When you’re first starting off like I am, it can be a little intimidating. You may feel silly not having even a clue what your peers are talking about. Fret not, dear reader. Here is a simplified, entry-level look into some of the most important industrial automation lingo.
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
Let’s start with one of the basics, a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). A PLC is a digital computer used to control manufacturing processes. A PLC can automate specific processes, machine functions, and production lines. The PLC received data from connected sensors and other input devices, processes the data and gives output commands based around pre-programmed rules and parameters. For example, a machine may begin to increase temperature. When that happens, a temperature sensor will communicate that to the PLC, which will send a command to turn on fans to cool the machine and prevent overheating.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
You’ve probably heard of this one, but how much do you actually know about Amazon Web Services (AWS)? AWS is an online marketplace of different cloud computing software products and services. The AWS Marketplace allows software vendors to sell software services that run on AWS. This also allows customers to buy and immediately begin using these programs. AWS is the largest, most popular cloud provider due to its wide range of products and data analytics features.
Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT)
MQTT is a standard messaging protocol for Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices. It’s ideal for machine communication in low-bandwidth environments and is a lightweight, publisher/subscriber protocol that can move data from one machine to many. In fact, it’s often the preferred method of one-to-many communication in industrial settings.
Common Industrial Protocol (CIP)
CIP is an ODVA supported industrial protocol for industrial automation applications. It includes a comprehensive suite for manufacturing automation applications and provides a unified communication architecture throughout the manufacturing industry. It’s the core technology that backs Ethernet/IP, DeviceNet, CompoNet, and ControlNet.
Open Platform Communications (OPC)
The OPC standard is a series of specifications created by industry vendors and developers. OPC is an interoperability standard that enables reliable, secure exchange of data between industrial automation devices. It’s independent of any one platform and ensures a reliable flow of information between devices—even if they’re from different vendors.
Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA)
OPC UA is a machine-to-machine industrial automation communications architecture (now THAT’S a mouthful). It allows for the exchange of data between many devices and applications. One OPC server is able to communicate continuously with multiple PLCs at the same time. OPC UA uses multiple transport layers and an advanced information model to freely interact with higher-end server applications. One of the key features of this protocol is the range of information that can be communicated—anything from the status of downtime to complex, plant-wide information.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this small glimpse into industrial automation terminology and are now confident enough to approach your coworkers and strike up a casual conversation about PLCs or OPC UA. I found it helpful to print out and bring it with me when I must talk to the engineers. They rarely notice the sheet of paper I am clearly reading from since they’re all very busy typing code or tinkering with their little boxes—you know, the ones with all the little lights and all the wires.
For more information, be sure to check out our Enginerd Terminology Guide.