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Hardwired vs Software Interlocks | Ver Pangonilo - Filipino Engineer

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Hardwired vs Software Interlocks


TOPICS: DCS Engineering Design PLC Safety
POSTED BY: VER PANGONILO SEPTEMBER 24, 2009

Emergency Stop

As an Electrical Engineer, I am biased to hardwired interlocks. I don't have any doubts software can be

https://pangonilo.com/2009/09/hardwired-vs-software-interlocks.html[09-Jun-15 6:28:07 PM]


Hardwired vs Software Interlocks | Ver Pangonilo - Filipino Engineer

very efficient particularly during normal operating conditions, not to mention the speed of response.

In case of an emergency however, a hardwired interlock can prevent loss of property, limb or life
better than software. This is the very particular reason why I always include a hardwired interlock to
every software interlock for safety reasons unless there is a very good reason for me not to do so.
Notwithstanding the non-dependency on software during testing, commissioning or maintenance.

Before we go any further into the discussion, I would like to give a very simple definition of a
hardwired or software interlock. A hardwired interlock is a physical switch installed where an operator
or a personel can activate in case of emergency or conditions other than normal operations. A very
good example is the "Emergency Stop" button. A software interlock , on the other hand, is a non-
physical switch used for the same purpose as a physical switch. This is commonly implemented using
PLC or DCS. In case of hardware or power supply failure, the effectiveness of the software interlock is
greatly affected.

To use hardwired or software interlocks is always a point of bitter arguments between Electrical and
Instrument Engineers. If cost is an issue, software will surely gaining advantage as it will be cheaper to
program a switch than install it physically. The prevailing method however will depends on the
functional specification of the plant.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ver Pangonilo
A Filipino Engineer, Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) - Australia and
Professional Electrical Engineer (PEE) - Philippines with extensive experience in concept
select, front-end engineering, HV & LV detail design, construction and commissioning of
Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Area electrical installations in water and waste water
pipeline and pumping facilities, offshore platforms, hydrocarbon process plants and
pipelines including related facilities. Hazardous area classification and design certification
(UEENEEM015B, UEENEEM016B, UEENEEM017B).

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