What is the difference between factory automation and process control?
Factory automation, or industrial automation, focuses on complete modular discrete control comprising sequential, speed control, packaging, and batch control. In other words, industrial automation refers to the larger picture that involves automating the entire manufacturing process. It demands a comparatively quick response. Industrial automation uses typical actuators, limit/ proximity switches, micro-controllers, magnetic valves, etc.
On the other hand, process control is associated with the ability to monitor and adjust a process to give the expected output. It is closely associated with engineering systems and machine algorithms. Like industrial automation, process control also aims to enhance process quality and performance. It involves,
Computational and calculative controls, coupled with intricate control algorithms
Continuous equipment monitoring and control
Handling of hazardous and non-hazardous areas and choice of instruments/ equipment
Classified into control for slower response time, and high-class faster response
Process control involves the use of open and closed control loops that includes PID/ Feedforward/ Cascade, etc., with essential hardware including control valves, sensors, process controllers such as PLCs, DCS, etc.
So, in a way, process control also forms a part of industrial automation. Each of the elements mentioned above and controls, directly and indirectly, are related to the precision, efficiency, and safety aspect of manufacturing. But the most significant difference between industrial automation and process control is the scope of automation that both can handle. Process control enables automation in a small range, while industrial automation handles a larger array.
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