Tradition and innovation go hand in hand at ABB PLC Automation: 50 years ago, ABB launched its first hard-wired controller “Sigmatronic”. This paved the way for a product line whose technology would continue to evolve over the next five decades and still forms the core of ABB's automation solutions today: The AC500 programmable logic controller (PLC).
With the 1971 innovation, ABB enabled customers to leave the era of error-prone relay-based control behind and increase their productivity. The latest example of technology that makes customers more successful is the AC500-eCo V3 compact PLC range. The new product line launched as part of the AC500 PLC platform in September 2021, offers a modular extension concept for scalable use. From stand-alone machines to more complex, interconnected applications, the new generation enables efficient and modern engineering.
ABB PLC Automation celebrates 50th anniversary
In the decades between 1971 and 2021, ABB continued to make its mark on the industry with cutting-edge technology. The Procontic T200-S control series – a patented safety technology that pioneered machine safety in the 1980s with a decentralized safety bus – is just one example. It is still part of the AC500-S safety control system today. The first AC500 system was launched in 2006 and has long since established itself in the market. Today, more than 300 000 AC500 systems are in use. "We have continuously expanded our position in PLC development. Anchored in the world of automation, the key to future success is closer cooperation with ABB's Drives business. Our goal is to intensify the partnership with customers by continuing to deliver excellent quality and continuous improvements in short response times", underlines Ronny Happ, Head of Global Product Management PLC.
Thanks to ABB’s customer focus, a close partnership has developed with Liebherr Components. Bruno Ernle, Group Manager Development in the area of control electronics for tower cranes and winch systems, has been working with ABB for 27 years. "Our partnership is excellent: cooperation has always been harmonious, even in the face of major challenges. ABB has always listened to us and responded to our specific requirements. In workshops we have discussed lessons learned together and translated them into concrete technical improvements."
Milestones realized together with customers
Both companies have been innovative together, driving further developments, such as in the safety controls, over three product generations. "Liebherr was the first construction crane manufacturer with safety controllers. Since 1994, we have equipped 7100 cranes globally with ABB’s safety PLCs", Ernle looks back on joint successes.
What is special about ABB technology is the longevity of the AC500-S safety PLC, the modular design and the safety floating-point arithmetic which guarantees a high degree of accuracy and therefore offers even more safety. In a specialized Liebherr crane conveyor system used in a tunnel construction project in Vancouver (Canada) in 2006, it was even possible to adhere to the proven ABB technology at very short notice and supplement it with special features for this application.
Currently, the focus is on projects that contribute to climate protection: more and more container ships are using wind power or hybrid drives on the high seas. On transatlantic routes, CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 35 percent. Liebherr and ABB have also partnered up to implement innovative sail control.