Guide to Industrial Process Automation Technology, Useful Tips and How To Learn Industrial Process Automation Technology

Industrial Machine

Stationary Pump System with Electric Drive Motor and Electric Control Panel By Hammelmann Oelde (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Stationary Pump System with Electric Drive Motor and Electric Control Panel By Hammelmann Oelde (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The significance of learning process automation technology, Developing interest in industrial technology and process automation technologies

The advancement in industrial technology is progressing at a rapid rate since the time of the industrial revolution, and it will keep on progressing as we keep discovering new innovations now and in generations yet to come.  We are currently living in the age of rapid industrialization ever since we started with our industrial revolution inventions. 

But to further achieve future developments in industrial technology, it is imperative for the current generation to get interested in the industrial technology field in order for them to understand the significance of their involvement in future technological advancement in such a way that they will become efficient industrial designers competent enough in the usage and knowledge of the necessary skills required for the far-reaching application of automation technology which can be made or used in some kind of industry.  They must therefore be properly encouraged to participate with a desire to learn about the methods of operation and application of new technology in various manufacturing processes.

The introduction of industrial technologies program to industrial design schools and any education system relating to industrial technology development must be an influential experience by means of effectively establishing a learning system not entirely based on pure academics, since theory alone will not bear fruitful result if not accompanied with actual practice experience in order to achieve the learning outcome.  This can be achieved by increasing the student's engagement in course activities involving actual hands-on experience of the trade. Introducing apprenticeship programs that provides some basic technical training and putting this to actual use lays the foundation in developing their keen interest in industrial technology.

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dmitry Chepusov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Selecting the right career path with technology in schools

However, with lots of potentially interesting industrial technologies program to choose from a wide variety of subjects in the field of applied industrial technologies, a lot of apprentice technicians are having difficulty deciding which particular course of direction for their chosen vocation they must rightfully engage for their learning opportunity, one that would be most effective and beneficial to the development of their learning curve as they learn to acquaint themselves and progress in the mastery of a skill with a particular branch of knowledge in the field of industrial technology.

Selecting the right path for a learning experience is critical as it is the most crucial stage that will transform a chosen interest into a constructive experience to cultivate ones creativity skills and innovative flairs for a future career path.

Using CAD Design Software

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Compressor_asm.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Compressor_asm.jpg
By CDC Catia at en.wikipedia [Public domain, GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
By CDC Catia at en.wikipedia [Public domain, GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
By CDC Catia at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By CDC Catia at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Relevance of acquiring technical skills in the field of industrial process automation technologies

There is an abundant opportunity to learn and to prosper in the field of industrial automation and industrial process technologies, but this will have to depend on your personal choice of skill selection and the steps involved that you will undertake to equip yourself with the specific knowledge best suitable for application of automated systems in modern industry. But the ability to understand the relevance of each specific skill in the automation of industrial processes is basically dependent on having a basic understanding of what the skill is all about and how to start developing these skills.

I would suggest that you will consider the following modules as your starting point to develop your interest in industries technology. Computer Aided Design (CAD) is a perfect choice, this module will give you the opportunity to learn how to use CAD 2D and 3D design software for drafting of technical and engineering drawings which is used extensively for designing real world component objects or an equivalent complete structure of machines for application in modern industries, it's a good start that will introduce you to the wonders of creating things, this is the most fundamental basic foundation that will develop and establish your innovative creativity and interest for a career in the field of industrial technology. With CAD you will learn to create virtual drawings of any parts of machine components in any shapes and sizes, and to put these intricate parts together, part by part, as a one whole complete functioning model by means of computer generated 3D animated drawings.

CNC Lathe with door open showing work area and tool changer, its control panel and program parameter monitor display is shown on the right side

By Glenn McKechnie (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (ww
By Glenn McKechnie (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (ww

And as you learn to make 3D rendering of your design on the computer screen, this in turn will stimulate your imagination further to explore how things are made in the real world. This brings us to Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). While CAD is visualizing your design on the computer screen, CAM is essentially putting the figures from your drawings into real world objects. A CNC machine or Computer Numerical Control machine is one good example of CAM. Most modern fabricators with advanced machine shop equipments such as lathe machines, drilling machines, laser tool machines that fabricates or manufactures all types of components in all shapes and sizes are using CNC machines. The CNC acts as the brain of these machines which contains programmed commands using CNC programming with Fanuc G codes that automatically directs the machine to follow sequence of instruction to automate its function in doing delicate tasks such as etching, engraving, drilling, cutting or shaping component objects accurately with 100% cutting edge precision.

Demonstration of CAD/CAM operating a CNC machine shaping a concept car model directly from the drawing on computer screen

Useful Further Reading and Learning Resources

Robotics and Programmable Logic Controllers

Robotics By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Robotics By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
GE Fanuc Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) By Own picture (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
GE Fanuc Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) By Own picture (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Allen Bradley (AB) Programmable Logic Controller By Cmarcante (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Allen Bradley (AB) Programmable Logic Controller By Cmarcante (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Robotics, SCADA – PLC and HMI

Robotics is also one good example of a computer operated machine. Robots are widely used in assembly plants such as those found in car manufacturing plant and in many other automated manufacturing processes. Using computer to operate machines also requires computer programming skills. There are a lot of Application Programming Interface (API) to choose from in industry automation. Majority of modern manufacturing systems may also incorporate the use of the PLC or Programmable Logic Controllers which is supplied with an industrial automation software or a process automation software, PLC programming software is used for encoding logic instructions for programmed sequential control of industrial machines.

What is PLC

The PLC is just one of the sub-components comprising a broader integrated whole system known as the SCADA which stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. In conjunction with the PLC, other interdependent system comprising the SCADA consists of the Human Machine Interface (HMI) which provides the user interface for controlling and monitoring industrial automation control processes, and the Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) which is connected wirelessly to the main PLC by Profinet or wired with a single Profibus cable to serve the purpose of auxiliary branching terminal unit capable of receiving feedback information coming from various signals connected to several field sensors and to also transmit command signals to actuate various connected field devices from a remote distance usually installed in isolated locations that are mostly difficult to reach areas on the factory floor.

These along with the Profinet, Profibus and Ethernet Communication system provides the network automation connection between the user and the remote devices which altogether makes up the complete system embodying the SCADA.

The PLC and the HMI both have their own set of process automation software for programming, editing and for monitoring. But learning programming skills will have to depend on your future preference as you develop yourself into a brilliant technologist in industry automation system.

Simple Demonstration of PLC Application using Ladder Program

Cutaway view revealing interior of Electric Motor By S.J. de Waard (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Cutaway view revealing interior of Electric Motor By S.J. de Waard (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
ABB Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) By ABB (ABB Drives, Helsinki, Finland) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
ABB Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) By ABB (ABB Drives, Helsinki, Finland) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
POWTRAN Variable Frequency Inverter By Huangsunshan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
POWTRAN Variable Frequency Inverter By Huangsunshan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Internal Electric Motor of Modern Electric Car Nissan Leaf By Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Internal Electric Motor of Modern Electric Car Nissan Leaf By Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Skeletal Structure of Electric Car Nissan Leaf shown with its internal Lithium-ion Battery Pack, Electric Motor on the far right By Tennen-Gas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Skeletal Structure of Electric Car Nissan Leaf shown with its internal Lithium-ion Battery Pack, Electric Motor on the far right By Tennen-Gas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Electric Motors and other machine movement mediums

Furthermore, the movements of these machines depends on a lot of other mediums, one most common medium is the electric motor. There are a lot of different types of electric motors too, there's the DC Motor (Direct Current Motor), AC Motor (Alternating Current Motor), Servo Motor, Stepper Motor, and with a wide range of different usage and horsepower ratings and capacities to choose depending on the nature of application.

Another medium is electro pneumatics or the control of air flow dynamics using electrically operated hi-pressure air cylinders and valves, and electro hydraulics or the control of oil flow dynamics using electrically operated hi-pressure oil cylinders and valves. Taking into consideration that hydraulics and pneumatics also relies on motors as the prime movers of their pump units in order to build up the high pressure required for their purpose.

These are some examples of movement mediums that acts with an applied force that imparts motion to influence the magnitude and direction of the movement of machines. It is also worth learning the many control methods used for the operation of motors using control mediums such as DC converters or DC drives and AC inverters or variable frequency drives (VFD).

But have you ever wondered what supply source supports the operation of motors, pneumatics and hydraulics? The answer is electricity, this field involves energy, power and mechanics. There is currently a huge investment devoted into research and development for green energy to harness alternative electricity to power vehicles using battery operated electric motors instead of the traditional combustion engines that pollutes the air we breathe. This technology is anticipated to flourish in the foreseeable future, which is a known fact in our current generation.

Wrap Up

So if you are beginning to understand and develop a keen interest in the field of industrial automation control technology then you are surely on the right track to embark upon a fantastic and prosperous journey towards a lucrative career ahead of you. It's never too early or too late to start learning by enrolling in industrial design schools or in industrial electrical control technology courses right now. Who knows, you may just start out from a humble hobby which can develop further to open new doors for better opportunities, considering also that the prospective earning salary associated with industrial technology careers is potentially projected to earn a very profitable income as a result of the ever-growing high demand in industrial technology jobs.

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