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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I never saw this coming!

Oh, say about *cough, cough* 20 some years ago, my first project with my employer was this:

A Reliance PLC to run 4 manufacturing tanks and 3 storage tanks. Back then It looked a lot cleaner, but as the years progressed 7 more tanks were added and Ethernet was not yet on the plant floor then. We added all of that and now as I am buying parts off of Ebay to keep it running, I channel Mr. Scott now: "She's bypassed like a Christmas tree Cap'n don't give me too many bumps". 

The best in operator workstations as well, circa 1990:

These Nematron's have served well, but text based and running a modified version of.....wait for it.... BASIC!

So telling people that you are going to shut them down for oh three weeks or so seems to make them have kittens or some such. We are doing everything we can to minimize the down time:

New operator workstation already installed. 

New PLC being tested and programming started:

The other problem is that some critical functions must be maintained during the down time. I do not have this option:

The essential stuff can be handled with one of these though:

Even with all the steps we can take now I know that this thing better be working during the changeover:

It's not going to be pretty. I honestly thought that this project would be someones else's problem. I did not think I would still be here. But I am so let the games begin! 

+1 to the previous commenter on AB stuff that said: "You can buy better but you can't pay more"! Stuff works though. Most of the time. We have come a long way for better or worse. Used to be the latest software was on a Floppy. If you don't have an Internet connection now, you are toast. Sigh.....  


  1. I have a fondness for BASIC...

  2. LOL, your nightmare is here Sir! But I'm betting without you they would be in a world of hurt!!!

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence NFO! It's gonna hurt anyway you slice it.

  3. I used to design that stuff back in Illinois when I worked for McGraw-Edison. I've used A-B, Westinghouse, Siemens, Sylvania, Texas Instruments (a 5Ti, no less!), Reliance, and of course, RACKS full of relays, timers, contactors, pressure switches, flow meters, and more stuff that I've forgotten, all driven by various PID boxes, and connected to just about every type of speed control under the sun.
    I do NOT miss it!
    Well, the work wasn't too bad, but GAWD...the places we installed that stuff!
    Now THOSE were scary!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. drjim- I have worked on just about everything you listed working for Western Electric or the evil big tobacco company.

    Here? Now? I get Hazmat training. It qualifies for OMG rating. At least it is not an animal rendering plant. We have those around here.

    A 5TI? Made in Johnson City TN I bet!

  5. I don't remember where the 5Ti was made, but you "programmed" it straight from a the ladder diagram of the system you wanted to "automate". It had a little simulator with LED's and toggle switches to do various functions. Strictly switch-closure analog inputs. That came along with the Sylvania stuff we started using in the late 70's. I can't remember the name of the system, but it was programmed using "SYLBIL", for SYLvania Basic Inductrial Language, a version of MS Basic. The host system was a NorthStar "computer", with an 8080 or 8086, again, I can't remember which.
    As far as bad places to go fix things in, I've been in meat packing plants (I will NEVER eat bologna again!), sewage treatment plants (Smelly!), roof tile factories (DUST everywhere), chrome-plating facilities (rot your lungs out), and a solid rubber tire (for forklifts) factory, with highly conductive dust from the carbon black everywhere.
    And I had the opportunity to travel the world installing and repairing various control systems built by us, and other companies. It's NO fun to be waiting for your flight home, only to get paged by The Boss, and told to turn in your ticket to destination "A", and pick up a new one for destination "B".

    1. You have had it worse than me my friend! An animal rendering plant is something I don't want to go back into. It was a side gig. We have our waste treatment plant on site. It sucks.

      Getting rerouted trying to go home must be the worst of the worst.

    2. I got all nostalgic and looked up the NorthStar Horizon.
      It used a Zilog Z80A processor. last Packet radio TNC used a Z80! Guess we've come quite a ways in embedded processing.

      And I worked for Western Electric, too.
      I worked at the Montgomery, Illinois plant on the 5ESS (I's been quite a while!) system.

    3. drjim- North Carolina Works for WE. 5ESS too. WP-10 and WP-20 cards for it. Troubleshooter.

    4. I remember debugging in hex for the Z80. Writing a ton of assembler, because the C compiler couldn't make code efficient enough.

      Ah, the Z80.

  6. There was a rendering plant near my home town.
    You DID NOT drive by it in the summer!
    I worked for WISCO (Westinghouse Instrument Service Company) for about a month one time. I was stationed at a place made ingredients for soaps, fabric softeners, and the like. It was basically a Fat Refinery that used vegetable and animal products as feedstocks.
    When they were running coconut oil, ahhhhh...wonderful!
    When they were running girlfriend made me strip out on the porch, and go right to the shower when I got home!
    I quit because the place was poorly run, with safety hazards all over the place.
    One of the things they made was Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil. The used 1000psi, 800*C HYDROGEN, and forced the Hydrogen and oil through a catalyst bed.
    1000psi, 800*C HYDROGEN is really nasty stuff. If it gets out of the pipes, it doesn't just burn, it explodes, and you can't see it burning!
    They also used "Dow Therm" oil all over the plant as a heat-transfer medium.
    Same thing as the Hydrogen, but at a lower pressure and temperature. It would immediately burst into flame if there was a leak.
    The last straw came the day I was walking by the Hydrogen compressor. It was a huge thing, a horizontally-opposed, six cylinder pump driven by a gigantic motor. Several of the 1" diameter mounting bolts were sheared off, and the whole thing was rocking back-and-forth several inches.
    All of the inlet and outlet piping was flexing several inches, too, and it was a genuine DISASTER waiting to happen.
    I immediately told supervisor about it, and he said "That's not our responsibility. Keep your nose out of it. If you call OSHA or anybody we'll fire you on-the-spot".
    I was stunned, and quit the next day. When they asked me why I was leaving after only 3-1/2 weeks, I just started laughing......

    1. Holy Crap! You win the war stories! I feel better now. Hell Blogging IS cheaper than therapy, who knew.

  7. That's all Greek to me, but the vid makes me want to break out Space Odyssey!

  8. I only go back as far as the A-B PLC2, but I do recognize the Reliance hardware - just never had to work on any of it.

    During the switchover, just post this cartoon somewhere visible:

    You'll get a kick out of it.

    1. Kevin, that one is printed and in the shop right now! Thanks!!

  9. Seeing the Nematron made me miss the T-50.


    I made them keep one around for a while, even after we switched the A-B to LAN. I heard they chucked it as soon as I moved on. Just as well.

  10. Yikes!

    Hope no important signals get lost in the changeover.