Originally Posted by BitSlinger84
I agree with Bob to a point. Going with one of the major players PLCs isn't practical from a cost perspective unless you work in controls or for one of these companies. Going with a PLC in general is, to me, a better idea than a microcontroller if you can do it in a cost effective way. Almost all PLC vendors, big and small, use IEC 61131 languages. This includes languages as basic as ladder all the way to advanced programming with structured text (similar to pascal). You're not forced to learn a language like C but still have the power of a programming language if you want it. I've programmed everything from complex communication systems that spanned large geographic locations to an algorithm to track the sun (NREL solar radiation algorithm) w/ ST. Once you know any of these IEC languages you can use whatever PLC you want and it will be about the same for any vendor using IEC languages. It's almost all standard. The only learning curve is the programming interface and addressing. As far as capabilities go, you can't beat it. You can have, for example, one controller controlling 100 PIDs and display/control it all from your iPad via an integrated web server on the PLC. Most vendors standard libraries contain a drag and drop auto tuning PID so this would take you like 10 minutes to do. If you're a controls guy you will quickly understand that using a PLC to control a simple process like brewing is complete overkill. But also complete awesome.
I agree with everything you said which is why I chased it for so long. The kind of process control, automation, reporting, etc. of PLCs is unmatched. The problem is cost. I even tried to pull together Micro 84 parts. It is cost prohibitive for all but the most ... dedicated to the idea.
But yea. I have visions of an S7-1200 controlling the whole thing and emailing me reports.