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Tech Thread
Productivity®Open - Maker In, Industrial Out
By Bill Dehner, Technical Marketer, AutomationDirect
One of the most talked about new trends in industrial automation is the use of single-board microcontrollers. These controllers, along with
their open-sourced programs, have begun to show up in industrial applications. Many up-and-comers, introduced to this type of control early on, are fuel- ing this trend but if you come from the established PLC world, you may be wondering what the buzz is all about.
The term “open source” is used to describe a program or software created by one developer that is available to be used and/or modified in any way by other developers and users without licensing fees, royalties due, or restrictions on the use of the source code. This is sometimes referred to as “copyleft” as opposed to “copyright”. Open source has evolved to also include hardware, shared schematics and PCB production files that are often readily avail- able to anyone. This type of shared development has spawned an enormous “Maker” community. Numerous Maker sites can be found online with
a vast collection of simple, helpful and most of all reusable, DIY projects.
The microcontrollers used to run these DIY pro- grams are inexpensive, small and typically consist
of a single integrated circuit containing a processor, memory and I/O. A brand of single-board microcon- trollers that has become one of the most well-known is the Arduino.
What is Arduino?
Arduino products were originally created for stu- dents without backgrounds in electronics or computer programming. Arduino consists of a family of sin-
gle programmable circuit boards (Figure 1) and the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that uses a streamlined version of C++ to write and upload code to the boards.
Many pre-configured circuit boards, called “shields”, are available to expand the functionality
Figure 1: Consumer-grade Arduino Uno microcontroller
of the Arduino controller (Figure 2). These shields can provide Ethernet, WiFi, GPS, LCD displays, and motor controls, among others, by simply “stacking” or connecting the shields to the Arduino
controller board.
Go to Article
Editor's Note
New Product Focus
- Headless C-more Remote HMI without attached display
- Continuous Flexing Profinet Cable
- ProductivityOpen Arduino-compatible Controller
- Hammond Industrial Enclosures
Tech Thread
Productivity®Open - Maker In, Industrial Out
Business Notes
Cover Story
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What's New
User Solutions
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Student Spotlight
Industrial Automation with a Mission
Break Room
Figure 2: Ethernet shield – provides Ethernet communication for Arduino microcontrollers
Open-source communities
Sharing of ideas and finding innovative ways to solve complex problems is facilitated by open-source communities and the websites dedicated to them. Sites like MakerPro and GitHub allow hobbyists
and professionals to work together to create inter- esting solutions for difficult or everyday problems. Thousands of programs can be found on these sites to be used freely in new applications however the user chooses. This open-source concept is favored heavily by hobbyists and students, but recently the
Tech Thread | Issue 43
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