Since 1968, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) have been an essential tool in manufacturing. PLCs are industrial solid-state computers that monitor inputs and outputs and make logic-based decisions for automated processes or machines. As old as this technology is, it remains a significant part of today’s industries.
Essentially, a PLC is a computer with a microprocessor without a keyboard, mouse, or monitor. Its design allows it to withstand very harsh environments. It’s not just any device used for industrial control systems. Its construction and unique functional features make it stand out as a prime choice for its applications.
Features and Design
Sequential control, timers and counters, easy-to-use hardware, ease of programming, and reliable controlling capabilities are some of PLCs’ features.
The design ensures it can withstand harsh conditions, including severe vibrations, extreme temperatures, electrical noise, and humidity. The logic controllers control and monitor many of the sensors and actuators. This fact makes them stand out from regular computer systems with their extensive input/output setup.
PLCs are often called Industrial PCs because of their use in other control system areas and industries. PLCs are also often used in civil applications like washing machines, traffic signals, and elevators.
Once programmed, the PLC will act out a sequence of events triggered by stimuli called inputs. It receives these stimuli from delayed actions, such as counted occurrences or time delays.
PLCs vs. Regular Computers
PLCs differ from regular computers because:
- A PLC only performs a single set or sequence of tasks, with more reliability and performance, except for real-time constraints. This fact contrasts with regular PCs and smartphones that execute any roles simultaneously within the Windows framework.
- The PLC has several features that aren’t in standard computers, such as protection from open area conditions like heat, dust, and cold.
- It is low-cost compared to other microcontroller systems. When you’re using a PLC in many applications, you only need to change the software component for each individual application–unlike other methods.
How PLCs Work
Each PLC system has three modules: a CPU module, a power supply module, and one or more input/output (I/O) module.
- The CPU Module consists of a central processor and its attached memory component. It performs all the needed data computations and processing by gathering inputs and producing corresponding outputs.
- The Power supply module supplies the PLC’s computer circuitry with a 5V DC output. This module is the module responsible for giving power to the system. It receives AC power and turns it into DC power the two other modules use.
- The input/output modules connect the sensors and actuators to the PLC system so they can sense the different aspects such as pressure, temperature, and flow. The I/O modules can be digital or analog.
PLCs are used to monitor safety control systems and operate elevators.
PLCs are used to help wind turbines be more efficient and decrease downtime. Accurate information on the safety of wind conditions is crucial for wind turbines. Wind data needs recording to record turbulence and protect the turbine.
PLCs gather signals from the wind speed and direction sensors to better control the wind turbines. The data transmitted is used for statistical analysis to predict failures before they occur.
The manufacturing process is more efficient now because of technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent automation, advanced robotics, and other Smart Factory initiatives.
Even with the speedy changes to technology, PLCs are still essential and impact all real-time decisions.
PLCs have a critical role in cement manufacturing. The process involves combing various raw materials and compounds in a kiln. A PLC program guarantees using the excellent quality and quantities of raw materials while the mixing process takes place within the kiln. It then determines which output can result in the best possible rate.
Oil and Gas
Engineering services and exploration companies are increasingly adopting sophisticated hardware and software for automation of drilling and extraction. PLC programming and HMI configuration have become a primary focus for these industries, as well as the adoption of robotics in recent years.
PLC systems are being deployed for multiple applications in the mining industry, including blasting, drilling, and excavation. Whether for tele-monitoring, drilling calculations and operations, precise detonation programming, remote explosive handling and monitoring, or even material transport systems, PLCs handle several tasks that make a previously labor intensive and dangerous industry far safer and more cost effective.
Glass production has been an elaborate process that involves the use of PLCs since the 1980s. PLCs take part in every process and workshop for controlling the material ratio, processing of flat glasses, and other parts of the production process.
The process needs bus technology–a distributed control network used in industrial automation–in tandem with PLC. This fact makes it possible to construct the PLC control mode and additional information gathering that could not happen with PLC technology alone.
PLCs take part in various processes of the paper industry. They are used to control paper-producing machines at high speeds. One example is how they manage the production of newspapers and book pages in offset printing.
Plant managers need virtual modeling systems so they can create a floor plan accurately. In doing so, manufacturers can increase the quality of their operations across their entire value chain.
Areas include design, engineering, sales, production, and service. PLCs are used in virtual modeling to simulate how a new piece of equipment will act when installed. This action allows manufacturers to make the right adjustments for a successful implementation without costly changes.
Browning Electric Company understands how critical it is for your industrial operations to run smoothly. We provide a full range of PLC services designed to fit your needs.
Our expert programmers and in-house panel fabrication shop is a winning combination for any project. We can handle projects of all sizes and can ship all over the United States. While we specialize in Oil & Gas, Mining, and the IT/IS industries our staff has a huge range of experience and can create solutions for almost any industry.
Have an existing system that needs maintenance, troubleshooting, upgrades, or auditing? We offer services for both new and existing installations and systems.
Call today and let’s discuss your project.