Industrial Automation: An introduction to the Pltouch

Pltouch processors schemaHome and industrial automation projects employ a big set of products, such as sensors, touch screens, external modules, PLCs and HMIs in order to solve specific problems and dealing with special requirements. The current scenario shows that the logic and the user interface are frequently managed by different components, using a common bus in order to communicate and modify statuses. 

Based on this state of the art, our research and development lab, designed and created a brand new product with the aim of merging some of the products presented above, in order to reduce complexity, enhance user interface experience and especially reduce the costs.

The previous three ingredients are the key elements that form the Pltouch. The Pltouch is an extremely powerful Android-based HMI with a multi touch display, two microprocessors (an Arm A8 that handles the User Interface and an Arm M3 for the I/O logic) and it is by far the first in the world that incorporates a soft PLC in such type of HMIs.

It has a set of I/O pins addressable directly from the Java source code. In particular:

  • 12 Digital Inputs,
  • 8 Digital Relays,
  • 4 Analog inputs (0-20mA) with 12 bits resolution,
  • 2 Analog outputs (0-20mA, 0-10V) with 12 bits resolution.

Every I/O pin can be read/written with a single line of code, like for instance:

  • digitalRead(1); to read the first digital input.
  • digitalWrite(1, DigitalValues.HIGH); to set to HIGH the value of the first relay.
  • analogRead(1); to read the first analog input value.
  • analogWrite(1, 1024); to write the integer value 1024 to the first analog output pin.

Our dedicated library allows you to place the previous code statements in every Android project. By using Android coupled with this library, you can benefit from using a single programming language (Java) both for interacting with the user interface and for the I/O logic. The library has been entirely developed by our research lab to be fast, reliable and open source. Take a look at the Pltouch wiki page for more details on this topic.

Pltouch for industrial automationThe second big enhancement this product offers is that the library has been created with special emphasis to the developers accustomed to PLCs logic. PLC logic is based on a single big infinite loop that is executed sequentially from top to bottom: not exactly the same of a Java program/app. That’s why the library allows the user to place its logic in a special function that will be executed sequentially, infinite times, from top to bottom, exactly as the PLCs do.

The last but not least main feature of the Pltouch is the graphical user interface: it inherits all the graphical widgets and design features of the most widespread mobile operating system: Android. All the Android API level 15 animations are supported thanks of a powerfull graphical processor unit and an A8 arm processor running at 1Ghz coupled with 512MB of Ram.

In the following blog posts, we will present a tutorial on how to create an Android project and how to import the I/O library. Subsequently we will present the I/O API through examples.

What do you think?