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Non-industrial controls engineering

  1. Sep 20, 2014 #1
    Hello PF,

    I am currently an undergrad student who is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis on controls. I have 2 years worth of experience within industrial controls while working for a machinery OEM but I would like to see what else it out there.

    I am curious about embedded control systems and the necessary skills required. Working with industrial controls, a lot of the programming was done within PLCs which is not the case for embedded systems. What are the common programming languages that I should become familiar with if I were to be working on embedded system (C, C++, Assembly, etc.)?

    Furthermore, is there anyone in PF who could shine some light on potential markets looking for embedded systems control engineers (automotive, aeronautic, defense contractors, etc.)?

    I would appreciate any help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 20, 2014 #2
    Controls are one of those things that can be applied to almost everything from Rocketry to waste-water treatment. Some things have to be very fast, but most of them are relatively slow and ponderous. For example, even aircraft autopilots have reaction times measured in major fractions of a second.

    Some processes have reaction times measured in fractions of an hour. However, with all the money and the critical nature of the process, they need to give precise controls.

    As for languages, C is common. However, there are variants and recommendations against certain practices in the language. Look up MISRA C for an example from the automotive side of things.

    Very little is done in assembly language unless speed is really critical.

    Another common platform is know as IEC 61131. It is an IDE and development environment commonly used by many Programmable Logic Controllers.

    Last, please take the time to study the fundamentals of cryptography so that you can set up a decent embedded security system. This is something I've been working on for a long time and it is only just starting to get some traction.

    Naturally, because this is my profession, I could rant and rave about this at length. If you have specific questions, message me privately.
  4. Sep 22, 2014 #3


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    In addition to what jake said, I would recommend learning vhdl or verilog as well. The embedded control world is slowly moving to FPGAs, at least in the aerospace and defense industries.

    As for potential markets for embedded systems, any device that has a computing system, that isnt a x86 machine (aka a PC) requires those embedded systems skills. They are in everything from missiles to toasters.
  5. Sep 23, 2014 #4
    The control class i took in undergrad vs control systems i deal with on a day to day basis are nothing a like. Controls Engineering can mean different things depending on the industry. From my perspective it's SCADA,SCADA,SCADA. So PLCs,RTUS,relays etc.... devices integrated and communicating to an operator through a SCADA. The programing aspect is relevant only to hardware you want to integrate so questions that may arise are. Is it analog data? is it digital data? is it a counter or a control? So being a great programer serves no purpose if you don't know the theory of the data your wanting to push. It's also great to know industry standard equipment and protocols.
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