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Old 07-24-2009, 03:16 PM   #1
JKoravos
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Default Where to start with a PLC controlled brewery?

I'm mainly thinking of the control unit here. I have some experience using and programming PLCs, but I don't have a good handle on what's available out there (for cheap ), especially when analog control is involved.

The brewery I'm designing in my head would probably have 15-20 temperature/pressure sensors, which would control about as many valves, pumps, motors, etc.

Data logging is also a plus.


Anyone have an idea where to begin looking?

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Old 07-26-2009, 04:34 AM   #2
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I've seen several on eBay. I have almost no experience programming them but I have several Inst. Eng. and Elect. Eng. friends. My understanding is that you need one point for input and one point for output for each device, so I think that means you would need 30 - 40 points. I really don't know if that's accurate but when I was looking, I told my friends what I was doing: pump, 2 control valves, 2 temp. controllers. They told me to get one with 12 - 16 points in case you want to add on. I haven't done it but I have seen PLCs on eBay that would handle that (12 - 16 points) for $125 - $250. Hope this helps - Dwain

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Old 07-26-2009, 05:00 AM   #3
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Yeah, I did a quick troll through the ebay listings. The problems is that there are so damn many up there. I have a reasonably good idea what I need and I could spec it myself, but I'm always looking for advice from people who know more than me.

I guess I'm looking for recommendations on hardware people have used and know will work will for this application.

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Old 07-26-2009, 05:14 AM   #4
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I use PLC's for my home brewery.
My PLC supplier The best way to buy industrial controls--low prices, fast shipping and superior service.

Take a look at the two alternatives below before you spend the money on PLC's

BrewTroller | BrewTroller
Embedded Control Concepts: BCS-460 Temperature Controller


Cheers
ClaudiusB

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Old 07-26-2009, 05:15 AM   #5
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A question is how cheap and how much software one has to write to make it function. The Opto 22 hardware is fairly common on Ebay and with careful research and incremental purchase you could add points as you go. Belimo proportional control ball valves are another item that shows up regularly on ebay these days. For flow meters the Malema line are also found on ebay for a reasonable price in the 1 gpm flow range.
I have put together a PLC controlled system based on the old opto 22 G1 series hardware and monitor temperatures, flows, pressures, to control liquid levels, liquid flows, gas flows to burners, pumps, conveyors, malt mill, exhaust system. With the current configuration there are about 30 analog points and 32 digital points in use. The easy part was the construction of the hardware, for me the difficult part has been learing Java and writing the control software and functioning sequence control program. The software is an ongoing effort with learning how to incorporate SQL database functions beyond point configuration tables to develop and implement recipe formulation like other recipe formulation programs. The current goal is to be able to formulate recipe, pour ingredients into hopper, attach fermenter to CFC connection, press auto run button on touch screen and walk away to do other brewing activities while system takes care of brewing process.
After 15 years of brewing there is not many brewing challenges left to try any more so the automation was the last challenge to try.

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Old 07-26-2009, 05:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ClaudiusB View Post
I use PLC's for my home brewery.
My PLC supplier The best way to buy industrial controls--low prices, fast shipping and superior service.

Take a look at the two alternatives below before you spend the money on PLC's

BrewTroller | BrewTroller
Embedded Control Concepts: BCS-460 Temperature Controller


Cheers
ClaudiusB
Thanks for the link, Claudius.

I have checked ECS and BrewTroller. I don't think either suits my needs.
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Old 07-26-2009, 05:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kladue View Post
A question is how cheap and how much software one has to write to make it function. The Opto 22 hardware is fairly common on Ebay and with careful research and incremental purchase you could add points as you go. Belimo proportional control ball valves are another item that shows up regularly on ebay these days. For flow meters the Malema line are also found on ebay for a reasonable price in the 1 gpm flow range.
I have put together a PLC controlled system based on the old opto 22 G1 series hardware and monitor temperatures, flows, pressures, to control liquid levels, liquid flows, gas flows to burners, pumps, conveyors, malt mill, exhaust system. With the current configuration there are about 30 analog points and 32 digital points in use. The easy part was the construction of the hardware, for me the difficult part has been learing Java and writing the control software and functioning sequence control program. The software is an ongoing effort with learning how to incorporate SQL database functions beyond point configuration tables to develop and implement recipe formulation like other recipe formulation programs. The current goal is to be able to formulate recipe, pour ingredients into hopper, attach fermenter to CFC connection, press auto run button on touch screen and walk away to do other brewing activities while system takes care of brewing process.
After 15 years of brewing there is not many brewing challenges left to try any more so the automation was the last challenge to try.

Someone on another forum linked me to your setup. It's impressive, to say the least. It's certainly in the realm of what I aspire to create for my brewery. I love process design, control, automation, etc. I've been dreaming about doing this for almost as long as I've been brewing. It's a side effect of having a degree in chemical engineering, I'm sure. I finally have the resources to start the project...so here I go...
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Old 07-26-2009, 05:43 AM   #8
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If all goes well and the tech gets the touch screen pc ready for me next week, I hope to tune PID loops and do a test run next weekend when I am home on a R&R run from Arizona. Everthing works correctly during simulations so I hope all that is needed is final tuning and malt for a test run. If this works as planned then I will be looking for another challenge to design and build to keep busy during spare time in Arizona.

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Old 07-26-2009, 05:59 AM   #9
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I am a system integrator and the company I work for manufacturers their own IO modules and PLCs. The problem is market price is something like 2k retail for the PLC and IO module. comes with 40 digital inputs, 40 digital outputs, 40 analog inputs and 8 analog outputs.
You have to add your own isolation and relays though. The good thing is the programming software is free, which is where every one else wants to drill you.

The big thing is digital is cheap, you pay out the nose for analog, specially outputs. Programming software is also the other industry 'got yah'. I would look on ebay for any kind of IO brick that supports MODBUS and then try to find a cheap PLC with software that supports modbus as well. This way you can build your system on an industrial standard.

Allen Bradly has a good portion of the market though and uses their own proprietary com protocol, their software is mega bucks too. but old equipment is plentiful. If you buy a copy of RsLogix off of ebay, AB WILL come after you so be careful.

good luck man and let us know how it works out. Kladue has a VAST knowledge of process controls equipment and instrumentation. Mine is limited to the water industry, hoping to change that soon... However, if you have any questions I might be able to help.

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Old 07-26-2009, 01:23 PM   #10
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I guess the next question is what do want the brewing system to do?, do you have an existing system to r&d the control approaches. I put together a prototype SRIMS system 6 years ago and refined the operation and design before begining the current system hardware and automation design and build. Do you have an existing system or one to use for a design example that you would automate all the manual functions?.
You could look for the current generation of Opto hardware and use their software packages to build the control program, or try and build your own from scratch in one of the various programming languages available. Even with purchasing the control hardware and pumps on Ebay this system cost has gone well past 2K and is still going as next project design is underway, automated measuring of malts from user recipe input on touch screen.

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