So we can now ask the question: will all the functionality of a modern process automation System some day be reduced to a single piece of Silicon? The pos-sibility might not be far away, as can be seen from the example set by German PLC manufacturer VIPA. Company President Wolfgang Seel says he will launch, in early 2005, an ASIC that performs all of the functions and networking of a high end Siemens S7-400 programmable Controller, and not only that, it will perform at perhaps twice the speed ofthe current generation.
VIPA, located in Herzogenaurach, is a specialist in Siemens compatible modules. In 1996 it introduced its first successful Siemens clone and today the company has a complete line of PLC systems that to a large extent match the functionality of Siemens' PLCs, much like Dell Computer has 'cloned' the IBM PC.
With the development of its PLC 7000 chip in 2002, VIPA was able to clone a complete Siemens S7 on a single PCI card.
It can function as a Profibus master, and can execute 100,000 instructions in 2 msec. VIPA's next step is to merge all the functions of its PCI card into one piece of silicon. The new chip will be cast in 0.18 micron technology and will consume less than one watt of power. It will have two Profibus masters ports, a Profibus slave port, serial ports, CAN controllers, two Ethernet ports and a USB port.