History of Erie Batching Control Systems 1950-2001
ERIE Strayer Company, having phased out the specialty fabrication and overhead crane business was now focusing on manufacture of concrete batching equipment and excavating buckets. Manual hand levers released material to beam scales for the weighing of material. Manual levers were replaced by push button electric/air cylinder systems and beam scale automatic relay logic systems.
Beam scale, dial scale automatic relay logic, and vacuum tube control systems were integrated in the ERIE controls.
Punched card relay logic prevailed as the control system of choice in the remaining 50's and most of the 60's. In the early 60's, the New York State requirement of recordation (printed record of actual weights and volumes used) provided a challenge for manufacturers, The first ERIE printer was an NCR adding machine modified with an electro-mechanical interface (solenoid) keyboard. These devices lasted until NCR stopped making manual calculators, and another method of recording had to be developed.
It was around this time that the microprocessors began to surface. The implementation of a microprocessor to control the ERIE batch plants became imperative. ERIE began using a computer from Computer Automation Systems of Ohio to control the batching process. A batching program was loaded in memory from paper tape telling the system to extract the appropriate data and print a ticket after the load of concrete was batched. The first ERIE Strayer computer was installed at Erie Sand and Gravel in Erie, Pennsylvania in August of 1973.
ERIE engineers and programmers, with the help of several IBM engineers, began developing the control system software to run on the IBM Series I computer. The control panel had to be modified with I/O devices to communicate with the plant.
With much fanfare, Juniata Concrete in Juniata, Pennsylvania, became the first user of an IBM Series I computer. For several years the IBM Series I computer was a workhorse in the concrete production industry. The IBM Series I batching implementation was pioneered at Erie Strayer. It was also at this time that the personal computer(PC) was making its debut as demands for increased speed and additional data continued.
The first PC version of the ERIE control system was installed in July 1984 at Premier Concrete in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The application software was written in C language using the QNX operating system on an IBM PC. The computer control system remained in operation until the plant was decommissioned in 1996.
The PRISM system, a DOS based version of the ERIE PC family of control systems, was developed to provide a broader based operating system, utilize higher processor speeds, and supply additional interfaces to other systems.
The continuing demand to network computers together, interface to other systems, and communicate through the Internet, made it necessary to re-engineer the ERIE control system. The Linux operating system was chosen and the language was C++. Linux is a multi-user, multi-tasking operating system that runs on many platforms, including Intel processors, 486 and higher. Linux interface operates well with other operating systems and is highly compatible with MS DOS, Windows, and Windows 95. Each distribution includes a full set of utilities as well as Internet connectivity.
Linux is a true commercial-quality real-time implementation of the UNIX operating system and will be the foundation for future ERIE control systems.
Sentry II is the GUI version of Sentry I. The Database interfaces with the Batching program as well as a Web Page. Customers can now maintain their Database files over the (local Area Network/Internet).
Enhancements to Sentry II: Remote batching, Independent weigh up, Real-time graphics
Liberty Series CM/TM replaces Sentry II.