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Device Profile: Kontron ThinkIO industrial PLC

Sep 22, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 224 views

Kontron is shipping a DIN-rail-mounted PLC (programmable logic controller) that runs embedded. The ThinkIO PLC supports up to 64 modular Fieldbus I/O clamps from Wago, and runs CoDeSys (controller development system) “soft PLC” software from 3S Software.

PLCs are used mainly in industrial and building automation and process control. They were originally based on microcontrollers with proprietary architectures, but in the last few decades have shifted toward “embedded PC” architectures running “soft PLC” software, such as CoDeSys.

Kontron's ThinkIO is an embedded PC in industrial PLC clothing

Thanks to its embedded PC architecture, the ThinkIO boasts PC software compatibility and interfaces — such as graphics and TCP/IP networking — in addition to its modular industrial I/O expansion.

Kontron says its ThinkIO can run “any existing CoDeSys application” without requiring development work. Additionally, the device can interface with central control and monitoring systems using standard computer networking protocols. It also supports a local user display and interface hardware.

The ThinkIO PLC boasts embedded PC technology, PC-style interfaces, and flexible industrial I/O module expansion

The ThinkIO PLC is based on a Geode 1200SC, an SoC (system-on-chip) introduced by AMD in 2000 as a “set-top-box on-a-chip.” Along with an x86-compatible core clocked at 266MHz, the Geode SoC includes a flexible display controller, video mixer, and DACs.

The ThinkIO boots from 32-128MB of Flash, and runs in 32-128MB of SDRAM. It additionally includes 128KB of battery-buffered SRAM, and has an onboard CompactFlash Type I/II port.

Standard PC system I/O includes two channels each of digital in and out, two USB 1.1 ports, an RS232 serial port, two 10/100 Ethernet ports, an external watchdog, and one DVI panel-link interface supporting flat-panel displays or, with an adapter, VGA displays.

Fieldbus I/O is handled by an EC1 (embedded communications) ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) supporting PROFIBUS-DP, CANopen, Sercos, and DeviceNet. Fieldbus I/O is handled through a “K-bus” I/O extension based on a 16-bit SAF-C165 micro-controller, which has its own SRAM, Flash, and DPRAM (128KB, 512KB, and 1KB, respectively). Up to 64 Wago fieldbus I/O clamps can be attached to the ThinkIO's K-bus connector using a K-bus adapter from Wago. The picture at right shows Wago's 2.75-inch high I/O clamp modules being added to the ThinkIO PC.

Kontron offers an API and library that can be used to allow user- and kernel-mode access to the K-bus, without using CoDeSys SoftPLC software. However, this method requires querying the procfs filesystem to calculate I/O clamp addresses, the company says.

The ThinkIO PLC measures 6.3 x 2.75 x 3.74 inches (160 x 70 x 95mm) and weighs 1 lbs. 3 oz. (530 grams). Its claimed MTBF is 224,800 hours.

In addition to the ThinkIO, Kontron offers CoDeSys support for industrial PCs based on a variety of industry standard form-factors, including box PCs, panel PCs, and 3U and 6U CompactPCI blades. In addition to Linux, Kontron's CoDeSys-based industrial PCs support Windows CE and/or Windows XP Embedded, according to the company.

“The main target platform [for the ThinkIO] is Linux,” a Kontron spokesperson told


The ThinkIO-C (“classic” model) PLC, described above, is available now.

A new “premium” model dubbed ThinkIO-P (shown below) will ship in December, Kontron says. The premium version provides the same basic features as the ThinkIO-C but be come with processors ranging from a 600MHz Mobile Celeron up to a 1.4GHz Pentium M. It will offer up to 1GB SDRAM and 1GB internal Flash memory, and will include an externally accessible CompactFlash expansion socket.

Coming soon: ThinkIO-P

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