Robert Peck is senior vice president of Control Technology Inc. He is a 25-year veteran of the automation industry with extensive experience in systems integration and in design and application of products for PLC systems. In his current role at CTI, he manages new product development and marketing, as well as the company’s worldwide sales and customer service operations.
Control Technology Inc is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. CTI designs and manufactures communications and I/O products for the 505 and other programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Products include Ethernet TCP/IP, Modbus and DeviceNet networking modules, analogue I/O modules and discrete I/O modules. Niatek is CTI’s Australian distributor.
CTI manufactures the 2500 Series PLC system, a replacement for the Simatic TI 505 system. The 2500 Series system includes a complete range of analogue, digital, communications and special function I/O, as well as mounting bases, power supplies and remote base controllers. Each product in the 2500 Series line is a direct, wiring-compatible replacement for one of more of the Siemens products. CTI is currently completing development of a new family of advanced CPUs for the system.
DENES BOLZA: What’s the background to Control Technology Inc?
ROBERT PECK: The company was founded in 1980, with five or six people, and has been a supplier of PLC I/O products since. We’ve been designing and selling products for 500 and 505 PLC systems since 1985 - and private labelled a number of our products to Siemens during the 1990s. We now have close to 100 people worldwide involved in this market.
What’s the purpose of your visit to Australia?
I’m speaking at the week-long CTI 505 seminar series held in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. We’re also visiting Auckland, in New Zealand. The series has been organised by Niatek , our Australian supplier of CTI 505 2500 Series PLC products and communications hardware and FasTrak PLC software.
What’s the reason for holding the seminars?
They underscore CTI’s commitment to continued development of the 505 system. We’re also using the occasion to officially launch in Australia CTI’s 2500 Series CPU. The platform is based on the original Texas Instruments development of the 505 CPU, which was purchased by Siemens.
What’s your message to the Australian market?
The 505 Series PLC is not dead. It lives and it’s getting better.
Why is it so important to keep the 505 alive? Who’s phasing it out and why?
Siemens, the owner of the 505, plans to stop producing the 505 in February next year. It’s committed itself to developing the S7 as its strategic PLC product for the future, and has consistently focused development and marketing efforts on that product line in recent years. The 505 is a highly reliable system that meets user needs for advanced process control. We’ve simply responded to users’ concerns about their substantial investments in process development, training, software and hardware on the 505. By picking up where Siemens leaves off, we can ensure that the 505 will be supported and available for years to come. The best way to be successful is to give customers what they ask for.
What do you see the future capabilities of the 505 CPU as being?
Distributed application development, additional programming languages, new instructions for motion control and built-in support for redundancy.
What’s been required to provide a complete 505 solution?
CTI needed to provide a whole new generation of solutions beyond our conventional niche I/O products. This meant the mainstream analogue and digital I/O modules which form the backbone of every installation, as well as racks, power supplies and remote base controllers. Finally, of course, we needed a CPU.
How far have you come in these developments?
Over the past few years CTI has produced a steady stream of products that are cheaper and more capable than the Siemens products they replace. We’ll be extending the 505 technology to new generation platforms more geared towards unit and machine control, applications where the 505 is not cost-effective today. These systems would remain compatible with existing 505 programs and programming tools. This year is the culmination of our development effort, as we launch our first CPU products.
Can you outline the product roadmap?
Firstly, we’re developing 100 percent compatible products for the 505 digital, analogue specialised and communications modules. We’re almost 98 percent there. Secondly, we’re developing 100 percent compatible power supplies, racks, RBCs and so on. That work is virtually completed too. We’re also developing next generation compatible CPUs, as well as enhancing programming tools, for example, like adding new motion control communication instructions on 505 ladder.
What products are these?
The line-up includes 4-slot racks, RS-485 remote base controllers, a counter-encoder module and a series of four CPUs with exciting new capabilities. These include at least twice the execution speed compared to existing CPUs, up to 60 percent more user memory, built-in Ethernet and USB, and built-in SD flash card for storage of programs and documentation.
What else is on the horizon?
For the 505 to be a good solution for the long term, it has to go beyond being a replacement product. We plan to build a small, modular version of the 505. That should be completed in 2006/07. We also plan to build a line of network I/O compatible with all three control platforms i.e. Profibus, certainly Ethernet and others. That should also be out in 2006/07, when we will also offer a future path for APT users. We also plan to build a next generation platform that is compatible with the CTI 2500 Series System.
What else can we expect?
There’s the 505micro, a PLC with built-in I/O, which executes the 505 instruction set and uses the same programming tools. Then there’s MicroNET networked I/O, which connects seamlessly to 505 systems, including 505micro and 505II. This comes in two versions: Profibus and Ethernet. The 505II is the next generation 505. It will have complete downward compatibility and is smaller, cheaper and faster.
What’s the underlying technology here?
CTI’s I/O and communications technology, real-time operating systems from Integrity, and the Freescale MPC5200 PowerPC 760MIPS.
What developments are in the pipeline with regards to FasTrak?
A joint CTI/FasTrak project is under way to produce a family of 505 CPUs compatible with the 545 and 555. The availability target is late 2005. Four models are planned initially. Each will offer better performance at a lower price. The FasTrak 505 instruction set and programming technology will combine to create one of the fastest CPUs on market. It is compatible with existing 545/555 programs, retains the “process” features of the 505, improves network connectivity and is competitively priced with the S7 and ControlLogix, being up to 40 percent less expensive. The CPU will also provide up to 70 percent more memory.
Will there be a time when the 505 will simply fade away. How is CTI preparing for this?
I don’t ever see the 505 ever ceasing to exist. Like a lot of generations of PLCs, our intention is to replace that with newer technology over time, but our intention also is to take a little bit of a different course to what Siemens did - Siemens really didn’t offer 505 customers an easy upgrade path. Their upgrade was to start using entirely new technology that required a complete reinvestment of all their training and development tools, and there was no compatibility between the Siemens products and the 505 products they were trying to replace. We make it more compatible so that it’s a very easy transition for our customers.
Where are your primary markets?
We target all of the 505 markets including Europe, South Africa and of course Australia. Australia is one of our biggest markets. Our biggest growth area is in the Asia-Pacific. In the US itself, there’s a very wide distribution.
What’s the installed base worldwide?
A little in excess of 100,000.
What about in Australia?
Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 units.
What’s been your revenue growth?
Last year (2003/04) it was in excess of fifty percent. This year we’re seeing numbers that show that trend continuing. The 505 market overall, globally, last year was in the order of US$25 million.
Where do you conduct your R&D?
R&D takes place solely in the US - at our headquarters in Tennessee and at FasTrak’s headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The same goes for production. We produce all our products in the US. This ensures better quality control, and we can react much more quickly to the changing needs of customers.
What are the main aspects that customers should consider when considering CPU upgrades?
Transparency, continuity, the availability of new features and pricing. We offer a transparent path for installed 505s into the CTI product line. There’s no software change and you can replace with having to rewire. This ensures continuity for your process. Our products are not only fully compatible but offer lots of new features. Finally, all our analogue, intelligent I/Os and communications products are 25 to 65 percent cheaper.