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Real-time Linux based automation controller supports up to 16 I/O modules

Feb 16, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 1468 views

Opto 22 announced its first Linux-based automation controller: a rugged “Groov EPIC” system that runs real-time Linux on a quad-core ARM SoC, and supports process and machine control, SCADA/RTU, and industrial IoT edge gateway applications.

Increasingly, industrial equipment manufacturers must not only compete on features, but also meet their clients’ need to attract the best developers. That often means shifting from proprietary RTOS or Windows based solutions to Linux. The latest to make the switch is Opto 22, whose announcement suggests the Groov EPIC controller represents a major new product direction compared to its previous Groov products.

Groov EPIC with separated modules (left) and processor unit feature detail
(click images to enlarge)

In addition to shifting to an unnamed quad-core ARM SoC running real-time Linux, the Groov EPIC is notable for combining multiple automation and IoT edge gateway functions in a single platform. The system supports applications including “process control, machine control, OEM, manufacturing, SCADA/RTU, building and facilities, and IIoT,” says Opto 22.

“The groov EPIC system incorporates in one unit everything needed to connect and control field and operational devices and data, through on-premises IT databases, spreadsheets and other software, to cloud storage and services — and back again,” states Benson Hougland, Opto 22 VP of Marketing & Product Strategy. “This ability to easily exchange data and use it where needed opens opportunities automation engineers have not had until now. This is a truly new system that builds on the past but looks fundamentally to the future of our industry.”

Groov EPIC fully assembled

The system consists of a “PR1 Processor” unit with a full color, resistive touchscreen that can fold up and down on a hinge. There’s also a power subsystem available in a choice of AC (100–264 VAC), DC converter (22–50 VDC), and pass-through (11.4–12.6 VDC, up to 9A) options.

Finally, you get a 4-, 8-, or 16-module chassis that you can fill with a variety of hot-swappable, digital and analog I/O modules. The “up to 24-channel” modules include LEDs plus touch-sensitive pads “for configuring, commissioning, and testing,” as well as spring-clamp terminal strips for “accommodating up to 14 AWG wire,” says Opto 22. Most of the modules offer channel-to-channel isolation.

Groov EPIC processor unit dimensions (left) and I/O modules
(click images to enlarge)

The Groov EPIC is equipped with 2GB RAM and 6GB user-available flash, and offers dual independent Gigabit Ethernet ports, each with its own IP address. There are dual USB 2.0 ports, one of which can be used for an optional 802.11b/g/n WiFi dongle.

You also get an HDMI port and a battery packed real-time clock. The device supports -20 to 70°C temperatures, and is “UL Hazardous Locations approved and ATEX compliant.” Power consumption is listed as 7.1 to 9.1W

Groov EPIC display screens
(click image to enlarge)

The system provides optional access to Linux via a secure shell (SSH) interface, and offers toolchains and interpreters for Java, C/C++, Python, and JavaScript/Node.js. The toolsuite “allows OEM developers to execute their own custom developed applications on this edge processing control system,” says the company.

Other Groov EPIC software includes:

  • Groov Manage software for tool-less configuration, commissioning, and debugging on-board and from anywhere on the network
  • PAC Control flowchart-based control development environment with scripting and visual
  • Debugger
  • Groov View visualization server for creating and viewing HMIs, trends, and events for any mobile device or web browser; also viewable locally on integral touchscreen
  • Node-RED flow-based development environment and runtime for edge data processing handling, and communications
  • Ignition Edge from Inductive Automation with drivers to Allen-Bradley, Siemens, and more
  • MQTT/Sparkplug protocol for industrial publish/subscribe communications
  • 100% backward compatible with SNAP PAC systems and SNAP Ethernet I/O
  • Available secure shell access, SDKs, and cross-compiler for custom user-written applications

Further information

The Groov EPIC will be available for pre-order in April, which shipments expected in May. More information may be found in Opto 22’s Groov EPIC announcement (PDF), as well as a blog post that points to datasheet downloads. At publication time, no product page has been posted.

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