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A role for IEC 61131-3

The June issue of Packaging World will feature a Q&A feature that takes a look at whether the IEC 61131-3 programming standard will have an impact on how packaging machinery is designed and built. Here's a sneak preview of that story, as Ken Ryan, director of the Center for Automation and Motion Control at Alexandria Technical College, talks about the potential benefits of greater reliance on IEC 61131-3.

"I see a number of benefits for the maintenance technician. Number one is that the adoption of sequential function chart as a language for top-level sequencing of a machine makes it easier for a maintenance technician to be able to go in and look specifically at what was being processed at that particular point in time and begin to hone their troubleshooting down from a monolithic block of code to a specific subset of code that is pertinent at that particular point. I think we expose maintenance technicians to an awful lot of code unnecessarily. Instead, we should concentrate on building bulletproof modular functionality that we know works well in a specific way. And then we only expose maintenance technicians to the interface necessary to use that functionality. So now all of a sudden we've got a technician that sees a function block that says, 'If you provide me with these four pieces of specific information, I will give you these two pieces of output information only. You have no reason to go inside this code to see how I accomplish this. You know that if I don't give you this output it's because you didn't get one of these four inputs correctly or in the right time.'

"If implemented correctly, IEC 61131-3 has the potential to greatly decrease the maintenance technician's time-to-solution. And that's one aspect where I think it is going to make a difference."

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