Friday, 2 January 2015

Replacing Relays PLC

Next, lets use a plc in place of the relay. (Note that this might not be very cost effective for this application but it does demonstrate the basics we need.) The first thing that's necessary is to create what's called a ladder diagram. After seeing a few of these it will become obvious why its called a ladder diagram. We have to create one of these because, unfortunately, a plc doesn't understand a schematic diagram. It only recognizes code. Fortunately most PLCs have software which convert ladder diagrams into code. This shields us from actually learning the plc's code.

First step- We have to translate all of the items we're using into symbols the plc understands. The plc doesn't understand terms like switch, relay, bell, etc. It prefers input, output, coil, contact, etc. It doesn't care what the actual input or output device actually is. It only cares that its an input or an output.

First we replace the battery with a symbol. This symbol is common to all ladder diagrams. We draw what are called bus bars. These simply look like two vertical bars. One on each side of the diagram. Think of the left one as being + voltage and the right one as being ground. Further think of the current (logic) flow as being from left to right.

Next we give the inputs a symbol. In this basic example we have one real world input. (i.e. the switch) We give the input that the switch will be connected to, to the symbol shown below. This symbol can also be used as the contact of a relay.

Next we give the outputs a symbol. In this example we use one output (i.e. the bell). We give the output that the bell will be physically connected to the symbol shown below. This symbol is used as the coil of a relay.

The AC supply is an external supply so we don't put it in our ladder. The plc only cares about which output it turns on and not what's physically connected to it.

Second step- We must tell the plc where everything is located. In other words we have to give all the devices an address. Where is the switch going to be physically connected to the plc? How about the bell? We start with a blank road map in the PLCs town and give each item an address. Could you find your friends if you didn't know their address? You know they live in the same town but which house? The plc town has a lot of houses (inputs and outputs) but we have to figure out who lives where (what device is connected where). We'll get further into the addressing scheme later. The plc manufacturers each do it a different way! For now let's say that our input will be called "0000". The output will be called "500".

Final step- We have to convert the schematic into a logical sequence of events. This is much easier than it sounds. The program we're going to write tells the plc what to do when certain events take place. In our example we have to tell the plc what to do when the operator turns on the switch. Obviously we want the bell to sound but the plc doesn't know that. It's a pretty stupid device, isn't it!

The picture above is the final converted diagram. Notice that we eliminated the real world relay from needing a symbol. It's actually "inferred" from the diagram. Huh? Don't worry, you'll see what we mean as we do more examples.

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