At a first glance low cost automation could be regarded as cheap hardware (sensors, actuators and controller). That is of course an important point to consider. But today we are looking for a cost effective life cycle of an automation system: design, production, operation, maintenance, refitting or recycling, and human skill is also an important factor. Despite relative expensive components the complete automation system can be cheap with respect to operation and maintenance. As examples are discussed numerical controls of machine tools embedded in a work organization with a flat hierarchy; shop floor control with distributed information processing and decentralized decision making supported by software agents; PLC Systems, shifting from PLC´s to general purpose PC; Virtual PLC/Simulation as a means to optimize the layout of production systems with respect to cost effective operation and maintenance; Retrofitting of automation systems; smart devices, i.e. information processing integrated in sensors and actuators; net technologies supporting distributed manufacturing and maintenance. In conclusion, future perspectives for developments in virtual machining and wireless connected components are considered. Low Cost Automation is a cross sectional area benefiting from methodologies and developments of other fields of automatic control. 1 1
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