A brief Overview of the Chameleon NetPLC system

A brief Overview of the Chameleon NetPLC system

The Chameleon NetPLC system can be a small as one module. or many modules spread over acres or around the world.   The Chameleon NetPLC Comms Controllers can be a standalone communications and basic IO based PLC or the center of a more complex system that uses a range of network media to form a distributed processing system.  The Chameleon NetPLC system is a cost effective way to control anything from greenhouses and machines, to simple or complexrobots and cobots.

The two Comms Controllers currently available utilize the Raspberry Pi RP2040 or the Expressiff  ESP32 and have the same set of peripheral connectors for comms and I/O.  You can panel or DIN mount them.  A ribbon cable connects the controllers and the expander modules, making replacement of a single module easy without removing any other module.

The Comms Controllers are loaded with communications features and a micro SD socket. There are 3 x 0-10V ADC channels, a 0-5V DAC,  5 x 2-amp transistor outputs for relays and solenoids, 10 general  purpose I/O,  plus a very convenient HMI interface for an intelligent touch module.  A NetPLC Touch  Module is coming in Spring of 2024 that has a 7” touch screen with sound, and internal space for 2 modules PCBs.

The system bus connects the Controller to Extenders via RS485, SPI and I2C signals.  The controllers have integrated WiFi with optional dual Laura long range radio channels, Ethernet, 256 bit hardware encryption and a real time calendar clock (RTC).

There are a wide range of Chameleon Extender modules with many in the pipeline.  Some extenders have an integrated processor we we designate these as Smart Extender modules which offload the Controller by doing simple monitoring of many inputs or time critical control of things like synchronized motion control.  Smart Extenders, local or remote, solar/battery powered or mains powered, WiFi, LoRa or RS485 connected, have the ability to send Event Messages.  This is huge, and virtually eliminates polling and runs like a multi-threaded interrupt driven program but with none of the complexities.

ChamNet resides in the 2nd core of the Controller and Smart Extender processors and allows the smart modules to look like C++ software Objects to the user’s code in the controller, even though they are only connected via comms links.  The ‘software objects’ have  properties and methods but differ in that they also have the ability to send Event messages to the controller autonomously, obviating polling.  ChamNet links sections of code to these event messages, emulating an event driven,  multi-threaded environment.

ChamNet is a very powerful concept, bringing the once humble PLC into the 21st century.  It greatly simplifies coding, providing the structure to quickly and easily implement an event driven control strategy, much like Visual Basic and other languages that provide a way to respond to Objectevents.  Most regular Extender modules will eventually have a pre-programmed Smart Extender equivalent, allowing the module and all its resources to look like a software Object to brain code, and send event messages, regardless of their location.

The Controllers can also connect directly with an intelligent Human Machine Interface, HMI for short, which is a programmable touchscreen with sound.  It is easily programmed with buttons and graphic display elements, and communicates by a simple serial port protocol.  A few simple strings can change the pane, set gauges and display values.  Touching a button can send a string to the brain.  Button presses can integrate into ChamNet, generating event messages that greatly simplifying user response coding.

User created wavefiles can be played under brain code control for prompts and warnings.  The Chameleon HMI can accommodate 2 optional Chameleon PCBs, a controller and an extender.  For quick development, a smart-HMI, with or without NetPLC PCBs definitely the way to go for complete machine control in one package.

There are more people familiar with the easy-to-use Arduino IDE than any other and the Chameleon NetPLC system is very friendly with the Arduino environment.   But can also be programmed using other platforms that uses a USB programming port. You just choose the controller with your favorite Arduino processor from the RP 20 40 or the ESP32.

The UK-designed RP2040 is a cost-effective and readily-available 32-bit processor.  It is fast with 2-cores running at 133-megahertz.   It has no supply chain issues so our RP2040 Comms Controllers and Smart Extenders can be designed into a system with confidence

The Arduino environment  provides a variety of libraries for controlling all the peripheral chips on some of the extender  modules via SPI or I2C.  Some of these are used in the simple examples we test the modules with, and are loaded ready to test out of the box.  We provide very affordable test units, which connect very simply the modules to test, to test the controllers and extenders.  They are a very wise purchase to gain confidence programming the controllers and determining if there is a problem with a module or the system it is part of.   All example code and Blue Button Chameleon libraries are available on the BlueButtonTechnologies.com  website

CamNet is slated for release in Q 1 2024.

All of the Chameleon PLC modules are available with 35 millimeter din rail or panel mounting lugs

The Chameleon 7 inch HMI unit, slated for release in Q 1 of 2024, is a very cost effective complete Chameleon HMI NetPLC.

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