When it comes to automation, the essential component that controls various processes is a programmable logic controller.
We are talking about a computer that features a CPU or microprocessor, but it does not come with a monitor, mouse, or keyboard, similar to personal computers.
Its design can withstand severe industrial environments, which is why it is an essential part of manufacturing plants and factories.
Generally, it is a form of a computer made explicitly for industrial control. It comes with unique functional features as well as robust construction to withstand any condition.
The features include the ability to program it with ease, sequential control, simple-to-use hardware, timers and counters as well as stable controlling features that will stand the test of time.
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In most cases, they can easily monitor and control a wide array of actuators and sensors, which means that they are different than other computer systems, especially when it comes to input and output arrangements.
Apart from being popular as a specific, industrial computer, it is common in numerous industries and control-system areas, which is why people refer to it as an industrial PC.
It is common in general appliances such as controlling elevators, traffic signals, roller coasters, and washing machines. At the same time, numerous industries are using it to control and monitor building systems and production processes.
As soon as you implement a particular program, it can efficiently perform various events based on the inputs. Inputs will cause stimuli, which will pass through logic programming and trigger particular outputs.
Differences between PLCs and Regular Computers
The first thing that you should have in mind is that a programmable logic controller can perform a single set of tasks and sequences. Still, you will be able to ensure its performance and reliability without downtime.
On the other hand, personal computers can handle numerous roles at the same time but by using a particular framework such as Windows or Linux.
At the same time, PLC comes with a wide array of features that you will not find in regular PCs, including protection against harsh environments such as cold, dust, and heat, among other things.
Finally, PLC is an affordable solution compared with other microcontrollers you can find on the market. Therefore, when you are using it for different applications, you do not need to change it for each step along the way.
However, if you use other microcontroller systems, you will need to change hardware so that you can deal with other applications.
You will get the ability to program it properly and implement instructions within the memory that will feature logic, timing, counting, arithmetic, and sequencing.
How Do PLCs Work?
- CPU – Every single PLC requires a central processor as well as memory implemented inside. The processor is the vital component that performs all processing and computations that you programmed beforehand. It receives particular inputs, and as a result, it activates relevant outputs.
- Power Supply – Generally, it requires circuitry that runs on the power supply module, which is commonly 5V DC. You will not be able to power up the system without it. Keep in mind that from the beginning, it receives AC power and converts it into a DC power by using input/output modules and CPU simultaneously.
- Input/output – Remember that both input and output modules are essential because they are connecting actuators and sensors with the PLC system with an idea to detect various parameters such as flow, temperature, and pressure, among other things. They can be either analog or digital, depending on the application.
Common Application of PLCs
You should keep in mind that PLCs are typical in a wide array of applications as well as industries, including automobile, steel, chemical industries.
In the past, it was used mostly for the automotive industry, but nowadays, due to technological advancements, its applications became more prominent.
- Glass Industry – Decades ago, glass manufacturers started using controllers for handling various tasks. In most cases, they are here to control the processing of flat glasses and to control the material ratio in real-time. Of course, since the technology advancements, the demand for its use increased because it is a reliable solution that reduces downtime. Remember that the production of glass is both a sophisticated and elaborate process, which is why companies have to use a proper controller to handle each aspect of the production. It is used in both digital data to determine position control as well as an analog for data recording in real-time.
- Paper Industry – When it comes to the paper industry, PLCs are essential because they can easily control machines that are producing paper without severe downtime as before. The most common application in this particular industry includes the production of newspapers and book pages.
- Cement Manufacturing – Remember that for creating the quality cement, you have to combine various raw materials and ingredients, the proportions and quality will always affect the quality of cement. If you wish to ensure the proper quantities and quality of raw materials as well as the accuracy of data, you have to use a programmable logic controller.
Benefits of Programmable Logic Controllers
- Reduced Space – We have mentioned above that PLCs are rugged computers that do not feature the same components as computers that we use on a daily basis. Therefore, they are highly compact compared with other solutions for automation control processes. Back in the day, people used numerous relays and cables to handle a simple task, which created expensive downtime in case of troubleshooting. When PLC entered the market, it became the more efficient and more straightforward alternative to problematic relays.
- Reliability – Since they can withstand harsh conditions, you will be able to use them in any settings you want. Generally, they are highly rugged, and the chances of damage and defect are small because there are not so many moving mechanisms inside.
- Economical – Since the chances that something will damage during the process are low, you will invest in a device that will stand the test of time. When we compare it with industrial PCs that are unreliable in particular industrial settings, you can rest assured, because you will be able to get a return on investment when you calculate the increase in production before and after.
- Energy Efficient – When compared with relay-based controls, that are highly problematic to control and handle, this particular hardware and software use only a portion of power. That way, you will be able to reduce energy expenses.
- Simple to Maintain – Compared with relays that were used half a century ago, most PLC programmers use software that can simulate the industrial conditions. It means that the troubleshooting starts before the application, which is why the chances for error are insignificant. Of course, even if something happens, you will be able to handle the problem in a matter of minutes, which is not something that you can do with other controllers. If you wish to learn more about ladder logic, which is the most popular PLC programming language, you should visit the link we shared with you.
- Flexibility – You do not have to rewire it in case you wish to change its operations and applications. Since the high-end models can handle numerous sophisticated functions, including counting, arithmetic operations, and time delay, due to its significant processing speed and ability to handle both digital and analog processes, it is a highly flexible solution compared with other devices used for control and automation. You can also connect it with other devices to create complex systems that will handle additional automated processes.