Programmable Logic Controllers

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Programmable logic controller - Wikipedia

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Digital computers, being general-purpose programmable devices, were soon applied to control industrial processes. Early computers required specialist programmers, and stringent operating environmental control for temperature, cleanliness, and power quality. Using a general-purpose computer for process control required protecting the computer from the plant floor conditions. An industrial control computer would have several attributes: it would tolerate the shop-floor environment, it would support discrete bit-form input and output in an easily extensible manner, it would not require years of training to use, and it would permit its operation to be monitored.

What is a PLC System?

The response time of any computer system must be fast enough to be useful for control; the required speed varying according to the nature of the process. In GM Hydra-Matic the automatic transmission division of General Motors issued a request for proposals for an electronic replacement for hard-wired relay systems based on a white paper written by engineer Edward R. The winning proposal came from Bedford Associates of Bedford, Massachusetts. The first PLC, designated the because it was Bedford Associates' eighty-fourth project, was the result.

PLC Basics - Programmable Logic Controller

One of the people who worked on that project was Dick Morley, who is considered to be the "father" of the PLC. One of the very first models built is now on display at Modicon's headquarters in North Andover, Massachusetts. It was presented to Modicon by GM, when the unit was retired after nearly twenty years of uninterrupted service. Modicon used the 84 moniker at the end of its product range until the made its appearance. Early PLCs were designed to replace relay logic systems.

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These PLCs were programmed in "ladder logic", which strongly resembles a schematic diagram of relay logic. This program notation was chosen to reduce training demands for the existing technicians. Other early PLCs used a form of instruction list programming, based on a stack-based logic solver. Another method is state logic, a very high-level programming language designed to program PLCs based on state transition diagrams. Many early PLCs did not have accompanying programming terminals that were capable of graphical representation of the logic, and so the logic was instead represented as a series of logic expressions in some version of Boolean format, similar to Boolean algebra.

As programming terminals evolved, it became more common for ladder logic to be used, for the aforementioned reasons and because it was a familiar format used for electromechanical control panels. Newer formats such as state logic and Function Block which is similar to the way logic is depicted when using digital integrated logic circuits exist, but they are still not as popular as ladder logic. PLCs also cannot display data well, so external monitors are often required. It is a or bit microprocessor consisting of a memory chip and integrated circuits for control logic, monitoring, and communicating.

The CPU directs the PLC to execute control instructions, communicate with other devices, carry out logic and arithmetic operations, and perform internal diagnostics. Memory provides permanent storage to the operating system for data used by the CPU. PLCs read signals from different sensors and input devices.

These input devices can be keyboards, switches, or sensors. Inputs can be either in digital or analog form. Robots and visual systems are intelligent devices that can send signals to PLC input modules.


What is a PLC System – Different Types of PLCs with Applications

Output devices such as motors and solenoid valves complete the automated system. Sinking and sourcing are two important terms when discussing input and output connections of PLCs. VCC stands for the positive supply voltage connection point. Sinking and sourcing inputs only conduct electricity in one direction. Each input has its own return line, and several inputs connect to one return line instead of several separate return lines. Direct current dc input modules connect to sourcing or sinking transistor type devices.

Alternating current ac input modules are less common than dc inputs because most sensors have transistor outputs, so if the system uses a sensor input, it will most likely be dc; ac inputs take longer for PLCs to see compared to dc inputs. A typical ac input is a mechanical switch used for slow mechanical drives. Relays are one of the most common output connections. A relay can switch ac or dc modules because they are non-polarized. A relay is slow, switching and settling at speeds of 5 to 50 milliseconds ms , but can switch a large current.

For example, a relay can be used for a low-voltage battery to switch a volt AC main circuit. Transistor connections are faster than a relay and have a long lifespan. Transistors switch a small current, but only work with dc. An example of a high-power transistor has a current of 15 amps with a max voltage of 60V. Triac output triode for alternating current connections only control ac loads. Like a transistor, a triac is faster and handles large ac loads. A triac output, for example, can handle voltages of to with a current of 12 amps. Five programming languages are used in PLCs.