Bedrock Automation: Initial Review
Bedrock Automation is something you may have heard of by now, and we’re intrigued by their PLCs that are slowly but surely entering the market. I recently attended a Bedrock training week outside of Dallas, Texas. The training included hardware and software reviews, hands-on tutorials and training, and examples and use cases provided by the instructors, followed by plenty of questions from me.
In the robust category, Bedrock PLCs seem virtually indestructible (at least in a production environment. If you have other ideas to test this theory, please email the videos to us with the results of your experiments). They have a large operating temperature range, which is great for locations that may be exposed to extreme heat or cold. The OSA Remote model (fixed I/O) is a completely sealed metal enclosure, greatly reducing issues caused from dust or other airborne particles that may be present in harsher environments.
The Bedrock OSA PLC (modular I/O) features a backplane and modules that are also completely sealed metal enclosures, and connect to the backplane without the use of any connecting pins, just screw terminals to hold the modules in place. The communication and power are handled through the OSA’s backplane, which is all done through electromagnetic coupling once the various modules are secured in place. The OSA Remote comes with 10 or 20 fixed I/O points depending on model, and the OSA comes in 5, 10, or 20 I/O slot backplane sizes (which can be expanded with extra racks if need arises).
Bedrock also uses an inventive approach to wiring for the I/O on all models. Instead of multiple control wires all being landed on the PLC channels, Bedrock has created a universal I/O cable that plugs directly into the PLC, which is then wired into the control wires on the opposite end for field devices. This allows for a single cable to protrude from Panduit to PLC channels in panels or other applications, keeping all control wires hidden and reducing need to spend extra time making the panel presentable. There is one cable for all I/O signal types, and they can be custom-ordered for different lengths if the pre-built ones do not suit specific site needs. The modules on the OSA device are also hot-swappable, with no effects on the controller or other modules in use.
The software capabilities of the Bedrock OSA and OSA Remote devices really stand out to me. The programming software is built on a Codesys IDE platform that is free to download and use with the Bedrock PLCs. Without getting too deep into the software features, there are some very useful tools built into the IDE. The Codesys store provides many different add-ons and downloads to include in your program (almost like modules) that can suit many different needs. The IDE features tools such as an “Offline Edit” side-by-side live window and editing window view that allows you to see what effect your program changes will have on the project before committing any updates.
You can store multiple controllers (even in separate locations, all with their own programs and applications) all in one single project file, and simply change which controller is “Active” in the IDE device tree to work on specific devices. There is also a “Trace Data” feature that allows for live monitoring of tags and data points, which can be monitored down to millisecond and even sub-millisecond intervals, and then be displayed in a very useful UI that includes graphs and charts for live comparisons and monitoring. The IDE supports programming languages such as ladder logic, structured text, sequential function chart, instruction list, and function block diagrams.
One of the key features that bridges the hardware and software gap is Bedrock’s software-configurable I/O points. Every point I/O on the OSA Remote devices can be configured universally between input and output, analog and digital, mA and VDC, and frequency or counter input pulses up to 100kHz. The OSA modules come in many different types. There are standard analog and discrete input/output cards of various channel sizes, communication protocol cards, temperature sensor cards, as well as universal cards that are configurable just as the OSA Remote points are above. Every single I/O point on these cards is software-configurable, dramatically reducing the number of different cards needed for a system, and greatly increasing the capabilities of each point on every card. This is a major upsell for these devices in my opinion.
One final software note…the “Help” section in the IDE is actually helpful, which is great when building your program and troubleshooting errors.
What is best for your application depends on a large number of variants. As with any industrial hardware and software choices, there are going to be benefits and drawbacks to each. There are many more features and capabilities not covered here such as communication protocols, security features, power supplies and communication modules and capabilities, data transfer modules and capabilities, etc. Many of the benefits of Bedrock hardware and software are listed above. On the other side of the coin, the PLCs come with a higher price tag than a lot of other controllers on the market (worth it if your system needs the capabilities in my opinion), but back that price with device longevity and support from Bedrock.
On the software side, the Codesys IDE platform could use some updates to work out some of the bugs. It is fully functional, and has many great features, but there are a few hang-ups you may encounter along the way that may require a Kentucky reboot of the IDE (if you know of an industrial automation software that doesn’t have bugs, please let us know, because Corso has yet to find it). Bedrock is committed to updating this and working hard to fix any issues that arise, and I believe will continue to progress and improve the IDE as they move forward in the automation world. Overall, I think Bedrock is here to stay and will only become more recognized and reputable as time goes on. I am excited to see what they have in store for the future of industrial automation.
All features and benefits of Bedrock Automation can be found here: Bedrock Automation PDF
We did an unboxing video of the OSA Remote and you can see it here.
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