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Who's Number Two?

As part of its effort to become the recognized number two automation supplier worldwide, Schneider Electric rolled out a spate of new products at its recent Belgium event.

Schneider Electric showed off many new products as it welcomed about 2,000 customers to its Initiative 2003 conference and trade show held in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 1–5. The company has been busy integrating the products garnered from acquisitions of Telemecanique, Square D and Modicon several years ago. At the event, the fruits of the labor were unveiled to customers, editors and analysts from around the world.

Alain Marbach, senior vice president, Industrial Automation, explained that the company believes it is in a hotly contested race for number two in worldwide automation market share with Rockwell Automation and Mitsubishi. Siemens is acknowledged to be the global market share leader. Acquisition of Japan’s Digital, a manufacturer of industrial computers and displays, and partnership with Toshiba for variable frequency drives has advanced Schneider’s position in Asia.

The anticipated new program development studio and collaboration tool, Unity, was demonstrated for the first time. In addition to supporting programming in the IEC 61131-3 languages, Unity’s developer module also supports Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications, Visual Basic and Visual C++ languages for those more familiar with computers than programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Studio allows engineers to manage and collaborate on multiple application projects. The Application Generator module generates code from a model developed by the designer based upon the ISA 88 batch code state model.

New PLC models with more memory and faster processors than their predecessors supplement the new programming software. The Advantys product line of “slice I/O” products--that is, input/output modules in a small form factor—contains a feature called “reflex,” by which a module is capable of local control through an input and output, bypassing the PLC scan time to yield very fast response of field devices.

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