Back in 2009, Paul M. Furley was working at JF Machines, producing user operator software for a digital printing machine dubbed the “PicoColour.”
After experimenting with a combination of in-house electronics and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), Furley became dissatisfied with issues such as vendor lock-in and quick software obsolescence.
“Simple servicing operations turn into a major hardware and software development exercise, leaving machines in the field vulnerable to failure,” Furley wrote in a recent blog post. “Add to this the fact that PLCs can cost thousands of [dollars] in the first place, and you can see why companies often develop a love-hate relationship with them.”
“They had just developed their new ink circulation system: a serious affair with 5 separate ink bottles rising and falling to alter pressure along with precise temperature control,” he continued. “They needed a way to drive the bottle lifting motors, read in alarm signals and switch inputs as well as output various flashing sequences for the benefit of the operator. Although a PLC would have been suitable, Arduino seemed like a great option.”
According to Furley, Arduino boards offer JF a number of benefits, including supply security, flexibility, a PC connection interface, in-field modifications and cheaper components.
“For JF Machines, Arduino was a great fit. Although it has required them to gain new software development and organization skills, it has brought enormous benefits,” he concluded. “In their application – high tech, low volume – the Arduino is a fantastically cheap and flexible solution. It has enabled them to create tangible new features as well as reducing their support cost and effort.”