GE aggressive mover

GE Fanuc Automation, Charlottesville, Va.-based affiliate of GE Industrial Systems (www.gefanuc.com), has aggressively entered the embedded computing space and leveraged the technology to upgrade its industrial automation offering.

Following up on its September 2001 acquisition of Huntsville, Ala.-based VMIC, the company announced March 17, 2003 that it has acquired Ventura, Calif.-based RAMiX Inc., a supplier of embedded computing connectivity, storage and memory solutions. RAMiX designs and manufactures embedded switches; 10/100/1,000 Mbps-based Ethernet cards; network processors; server blades; serial input/output (I/O); PMC expansion devices; and a variety of PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association), memory and storage modules.

Doug Albert, vice president of embedded systems for GE Fanuc, says, “RAMiX is a great fit within our embedded computing strategy. There is actually very little overlap between their products and the current VMIC ones. They give us a PowerPC capability that heretofore we lacked, as well as PMC [an embedded industry standard for add-on computer boards] daughter cards and small switches.”

While many industrial automation solutions involve embedded computing systems, the total embedded market is much broader, encompassing military, telecommunications and medical markets.

GE Fanuc leveraged embedded computing expertise while developing its PACSystems controllers. The family, introduced at this year’s National Manufacturing Week in March, contains two features in great demand—a single control engine and a universal programming environment. These two features allow engineers to develop a system, and then scale it up or down as future requirements mandate. The single programming environment means that it is no longer necessary for a programmer or technician to learn multiple programs even though the plant might be standardized on one company’s platform. Further, costs are reduced because only one package must be purchased that covers the entire line of controllers.

“PAC” refers to a term coined by Craig Resnick, director of research for ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com), for a new generation of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) called programmable automation controllers. See more on his views in this month’s Industry View department on page 68.

The PACSystems control engine is built on standard embedded architecture with commercial deterministic operating systems, making the engine portable to multiple platforms and allowing users to choose the hardware and programming language that best suits each particular application. The system supports distributed I/O through such standards-based communications as Ethernet, Profibus, DeviceNet and Genius networks.

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