In the last one or two years there have been new developments in the functions available from control relays. Switchgear and PLC manufacturers have been offering all manner of shapes and sizes and the demand for a more simplified and cost-effective programmable controller became very apparent. Essentially these devices function on the same principle, with slight variations in I/O layout and features between the different brands. Digital or analog inputs, transistor or relay outputs (digital only) and programmable through function blocks with basic logic gate functionality.
The last couple of months saw the launch of the Fab Giant smart relay in South Africa. Its makers believe that it is a smart relay with a difference. This logic controller has the ability to phone any given number at the switch of an input, timer or counter and to play a pre-recorded message repeatedly until it has been reset, either over the telephone or by an input, according to what the program has specified.
The alarm message will play over the Fab Giants voice module repeatedly, which can record up to 98 messages for playing on command, either by phone, physical input or programmed step. It could for instance phone the police and repeatedly play an intruder alert message with its owner's name and address. It is also possible for the user to phone into the Fab Giant via a landline connection and remotely control it via DTMF tones - which it can recognise as an input into a set/reset gate. One handy example would be that a user could phone home and switch on the lights, TV or any other appliances making it appear as if they were there - or use the same function to start or stop a process in their production line.
On the DC model all the inputs can be used as analog or digital and read a voltage signal from 0 to 10 V with a 0,1 V resolution. Programming it is as easy as selecting a function block, entering any parameters required (analog values, timer or counter values) and connecting the block to either inputs, outputs or another function block by literally drawing a line between them. An optional modular LCD screen can be plugged into the Fab Giant to give instant access to the program without the need of a computer, for the purpose of making changes or faultfinding. Afterwards the LCD screen can be unplugged from the Fab Giant and used on the next one.
All Fab Giants come with a realtime clock and can perform hourly, daily, weekly or monthly scheduled tasks. They can also be networked for monitoring, via a scada package - which comes free with the controller, as does the programming software.
"The best feature of this newcomer to the South African market, is that it comes in at an average of 50% cheaper than its competitors - with all these added features," says its local supplier, Flexible Electronic Systems.
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