On the 28th of January 2022, the world was introduced to arguably the best software innovation of the 21st century, ChatGPT. Artificial Language and natural language processing has been around for much longer, but ChatGPT fundamentally changes the way we interact with and use data.
Unlike traditional programming languages, ChatGPT can understand natural language, making it a powerful tool for PLC programming. Engineers and automation experts can now interact with ChatGPT in human-like conversations, instructing it to generate PLC code, optimize algorithms, or troubleshoot control systems. Thus, can this truly be a hands-off approach?
The integration of ChatGPT in PLC programming offers a myriad of advantages including efficiency and time-saving as ChatGPT accelerates the programming process, reducing overall development time. It also aids in rapid prototyping as engineers can swiftly provide prototypes of complex systems through a series of several detailed prompts to better visualize the workflow and generate PLC code by simply conversing with ChatGPT.
Although, ChatGPT is packed full of advantages, it also has pitfalls that engineers should be aware while using it
One major drawback of ChatGPT is that it tends to make a lot assumptions especially when given limited information given in order to form its responses. One very important workaround is to make prompts as specific as possible and split them into bite sized components.
While ChatGPT can generate control programs, it may not consider all the necessary safety interlocks or failure modes, as well as error-handling mechanisms or fault-tolerance strategies, leaving potential vulnerabilities in the automation process.
It also does not provide an easily readable code format when asked to code in graphical languages like ladder logic and sequential function chart (SFC).
The ChatGPT-Assisted PLC Programming Requirements
While ChatGPT holds immense promise, it also presents challenges that must be addressed by engineers with the right domain expertise and expertise to address the shortcoming of ChatGPT. Utilizing ChatGPT for PLC programming is not a hands-off process but rather a tool to reduce downtime and improve efficiency and speed of automation engineers, which is ironically the aim of automation engineers (to reduce downtime and improve efficiency in industries).
Thus, engineers need to ensure that ChatGPT accurately interprets their queries by crafting prompts in a way ChatGPT understands, thereby mitigating ambiguity in responses. Also providing contextual information further enhances ChatGPT’s contextual comprehension and ensures coherent and relevant output. This is done by making prompts as detailed as possible.
At the end of the day, ChatGPT or prompt engineering in general is still a developing field and does notprovide a seamless experience for its use yet and thus engineers must validate and verify ChatGPT’s responses to avoid potential errors and provide rigorous cybersecurity measures for ChatGPT generated code to safeguard sensitive PLC data.
It is ultimately a tool which we can harness to its full advantage.