The amount of work it takes for a large industrial/mechanical facility to complete tasks rests on the efficiency of all of its systems. Things have to operate simultaneously, and all of this highly tuned automation is vital to success (as it is defined by the ‘user’). In order for multiple systems to be working in lockstep with each other, PLC programming of the highest caliber is required.
A PLC (programmable logic controller) is a key feature in facility automation. It is, in essence, a computer at heart. Big differences between PLCs and the computers most novices might be familiar start with the PLC not having hardware to speak of. It’s a CPU (central processing unit), in charge of the split-second movement of programmed information being sent to I/O (input/output) modules. These modules either share the same space as the PLC or can be at a distance and connected by data cables. The latter proves to be beneficial when an industry is relying on PLCs but their footprint is larger than one building.
It should be understood that automation in industrial and mechanical settings is not a new thing. The ability to make certain tasks automatic & lacking a human component (less the programming) is a fiscally-sound way to run certain operations. Early automation technology relied on relays that gave basic on/off instructions. Unfortunately, for all the promise this put forth, execution was mixed at best. Large amounts of power were being used, as was actual space in facilities. Furthermore, excessive heat was being produced, something that can prove detrimental to sensitive components & cost money to keep in check.
PLCs are the evolution of the relay, with much more programmability & successful execution. On the surface, PLCs can be quite daunting due to their digital nature. However, modern PLC technology allows for both analog & digital capabilities to maximize functionality no matter the industry.
Some examples of PLC programming include:
- sensors linked to actuators
- various application of motors
- parameters linked to sirens
- start/stop failsafes for safety
- recording of data that allows ‘smart’ tech to adapt
It was also necessary to move on from relay technology simply because the programming involved was complex and led to more downtime. PLC programming changed the game with its very familiar interface, requiring nothing more than a standard desktop or laptop computer to operate.
While PLCs have revolutionized how automation works, getting the language used in programming to be uniform across industries hasn’t as simple. The IEC 61131 (International Electrotechnical Commission) standard is a major step to getting an agreed-to collection of standards in place so that communication, efficiency, and speed of automation solutions can be available.
It should be noted that while this is a basic overview of PLC programming, the breadth of the topic & its functionality is quite exhaustive in scope. Automation upgrades, the streamlining of PLC & DCS systems, along with PLC & HMI integration can all make for an overwhelming amount of information to try & process, let alone put into action. That is why it is paramount to the success of any company looking to invest in automation to work with a firm specializing in this technology. The right team can lead the way with expertise in the installation, maintenance, and calibration of devices specific to all industrial processes.
PLC programming shouldn’t have to be demystified. Our experts here at CCI Culberson Engineering & Construction are a go-to partner in automation across multiple industries. Come see why today.