As usually, here comes another review, this time about a German language book about automation. As the book was quite lengthy, it deserved a review of equal proportion. Please enjoy.
I picked this book up, because I wanted to read a comprehensive German language book on automation, which could also serve as a quick reference in case something needed to be looked up. Let’s see how well it did.
What immediately stands about this book out after opening it up, is the shear amount of topics it includes. The table of contents in itself is almost ten pages long, and after reading the book, I can say that it could’ve been even longer. The other thing one notices is the large amount of figures, tables, lists and highlights. Barely any page goes by without at least one of those, which I really like, because they make it easier to understand the current topic, and they can serve as anchor points for the reader as well. But what are those topics exactly? Let’s examine them a bit closer.
As any book, it starts out with a short introduction, but then immediately dives into the real discussion, beginning with the discussion of the basic terms, notation methods, diagrams, types of automated systems, plant structures and components, etc, so basically with everything the reader needs to be on the level before moving on to the next chapters. After the reader has been familiarized with these essentials, the rest of the book discusses in detail what components and techniques can be used to achieve automation.
The first and most important component is probably the computational device that drives the system, so a complete chapter is dedicated to the basics of computing, like data representation, processor structure, multitasking, memory management, types of controllers, IO, etc. Of course this is not a book on computers, so it never goes into great depths, but the amount of information is still quite enough to have a firm understanding of how industrial controllers really work.
The book then moves on to discuss the most common automation components (divided up into subsections for sensors, actuators and controllers), where the reader will find information on anything from the physical effects used for signal generation in sensors to the basic types of sensor technologies for a great many physical properties. The part about actuators is pretty similar in this regard (discussing driving force, characteristics, types, etc.), so the read will have a good grasp on those as well. A quick overview of the different types of available control devices comes next, where PLCs, soft PLCs and PACs are introduced. It’s still not everything, as open-loop, and especially closed-loop controls deserved a lengthy discussion as well, where topics include switching, adaptive, PID control, control stability and parameters, some mathematical background about these and so on.
After having learned what devices can be used to automate processes, the authors drive the reader’s attention to modeling, which is especially important during the design and implementation phase of a project. The readers get acquainted with the basics of model building and usage, process analysis, program models and paradigms (state machines, UML, IEC language blocks etc.), and the different types of diagrams (finite state machine diagram, grafcet diagram, automaton table, etc.) that help communicate and test the aforementioned concepts. The authors then continue with general software concepts, including what programs, operating systems, programming languages are available and, but programming paradigms (OOP, component based) relevant to automation are not left out either.
As communication is an important part of automation, a full chapter is dedicated to it as well. The selection and order of topics pretty much follows any other piece on networking: it starts with the OSI and TCP/IP models, followed by the physical layer and network topologies, Ethernet, standard protocols, interfaces, etc., then it finishes with an introduction to industrial communication standards. There really isn’t much to say about this chapter, it is pretty standard.
Of course it would be hard to control and set automate systems up without human-machine interfaces, so this is what the reader gets next. Here, one can read about the various forms of inputs, basics of windowing systems, process visualization, virtual reality etc. The chapter is not long enough to dive deep into any of these topics, so it is more of a quick overview.
The next and probably longest part of the book is about software applications in automation. It basically expands on the topics mentioned in of the previous chapters, so now the reader gets some really good insight how various industrial control applications are built up. This chapter in itself is divided up into major parts as well, where process control, motion control, NC, robots, etc. are presented. Each major part introduces the basics and moves on to showing how these various control problems can be solved by introducing different approaches, technologies and paradigms. Of course, if each of these subsections are examined, these different parts follow the same proportions as all previous chapters in the book, so despite this chapter being quite large, it is not overwhelming.
The book finally ends with project management, including the various design phases, quality control, availability, security, protection, etc.
It is quite evident from everything mentioned above, that this book touches an incredibly large amount of topics, which turns it into a really good reference book. There is hardly any topic related to automation that the reader cannot find in it, which also means that there simply was no way to have deep discussions. Because of it, all chapters are basically very highly detailed overviews, which isn’t a problem, as this is exactly what the authors set out to achieve with this piece. And they did an excellent work at that. If I would need to mention some downside, then it would be the somewhat dated content here and there (even though this edition is from 2017), but it is by far not blatant. I also really like the collection of the most essential standards and guidelines attached as an appendix, as it makes really easy to quickly take a deeper dive in any of the topics.
All in all, this book achieves everything it sets out to achieve, and is highly recommended to anyone working in the field of automation or just learning about it.