A few weeks ago, I purchased an DFRobot mega (Arduino mega 1280 clone) and an LCD display from Freeduino.eu, a few days later I also bought an ethernet shield (mega compatible) and a few components. This purchase also resulted in an additional free of charge Arduino Uno. I bought the Arduino to find out if it is usable in industrial automation projects. My current setup (see image) is a learning environment able to measure temperature and light intensity and it controls an RGB LED. The ethernet shield helps me sharing the measurements using a webserver. The mega clone (positioned under the LCD) is just running the LCD4Bit_mod demo application.
The Arduino platform is not expensive, the programming environment is for free and you only need 27,50 euro for an Arduino Uno, a USB A->B cable and an LED. Programming the Arduino is easy, just download the latest programming environment from http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Software and unpack the archive. After starting the programming application, just go to ‘examples‘ under the ‘file‘ menu and you can get started with your first sketch (that’s how they call an Arduino source file.) That’s exactly how I started.
The setup shown above will be split soon, the Uno and the ethernet shield will monitor my energy, gas and water consumption at home and the mega will be used by a few co-workers to see if it is usable for one of their projects. They need to count pulses and set an output accordingly. This should be a simple task for the Arduino and the information at http://www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/AttachInterrupt should provide a good starting point. Bear in mind that when the ISR runs, it blocks all other processing. I will ask my co-workers to share their experiences on atstechlab. Before I can start my energy monitoring project, I need to write a sketch that transforms the Arduino Uno and Ethernet shield into a small TCP/IP IO controller with RFID reading capabilities.
I think it is not a shame to use the Arduino in industrial automation projects. It’s small, cost effective and easy to program, it’s not harder than writing software for a PLC. It’s not all good news, the Arduino works with 5V signal levels and industrial projects mainly require 24V. Another disadvantage is that if you want to communicate on a CAN network, you need to design your own CAN bus interface.
Finally, there are a few URL’s thatI would like to share with you, these offer more information about the Arduino:
- http://freeduino.eu (for people in the Netherlands)
- http://www.arduino.nu/ (dutch)