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What is a Programmable Logic Controller?
A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is an industrial computer that has been adapted to control manufacturing or production processes that require high reliability, ease of programming, and process fault diagnostics. PLCs are designed to monitor inputs from sources like pressure sensors, temperature sensors, limit switches, auxiliary contacts, and pilot devices.
PLCs were initially developed to support the automotive industry, and have since made their way into manufacturing plants across industries.
How does a Programmable Logic Controller work?
PLCs work by continually scanning a program. This scan cycle essentially consists of the following three steps.
Step 1: Input Status Review
The PLC takes a snapshot of each input to identify whether its current status is On or Off, and writes it into memory.
Step 2: Program Execution
The PLC executes your customized program or system one step at a time, using the input states that have just been written to memory.
Step 3: Output Updates
Finally, the PLC updates the status of the outputs based on which inputs were on during the first step and the results of executing your program during the second step.
What type of Programmable Logic Controller do I need?
PLCs come in all shapes and sizes. When evaluating PLC options, be sure to ask the following questions of your system:
How many inputs and outputs do I need?
What environmental elements will my PLC be exposed to?
What are the networking requirements?
Are there any especially high speed or voltage requirements for the inputs or outputs?