Components of PLCs
PLC components are commonly used in industrial automation to control machines, processes, and systems. While this technology has become widely known, there needs to be some clarification about what the basic elements of a PLC are and how they are used in today's modern manufacturing environments. This article will look at the components of a PLC system, including what they control and how they work, to help you learn more about PLCs and the kinds of industrial equipment that use them.
What Is a Programmable Logic Controller?
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are computer hardware used heavily in industrial automation applications and other control systems. Their primary role is to receive inputs from end users and operators and convert them into sequences and commands for automated systems to follow.
PLCs have been used for over half a century to automate everything from CNC machines to robotics. These computer-based systems create efficient working environments that allow companies to reduce waste, increase productivity and minimize health and safety concerns related to materials processing.
Who Uses PLC Components?
Twenty-five or thirty years ago, industries and manufacturers used basic PLC components to automate specific systems and processes. Today, entire shop floors and factories are automated with minimal input from human controllers. PLC software controls and monitors machines, assembly lines, and automated production processes. Here are a few industries that rely on PLCs today:
- Oil and Gas
- Food and Beverage
- Offroad Construction
4 Main Components of a PLC System
Regarding programmable logic controllers, there are four significant components to discuss. Each part works together to operate your automated systems and communicate with other electronics. Here's a rundown of all the components:
1. Power Supply
The power supply accepts and regulates electrical voltage in the PLC system. It converts the electricity into a signal voltage used by the PLC processor and other modules to send and receive commands, monitor automated machines, and communicate with other systems.
The processor module typically holds one or more microprocessors acting as the PLC’s brain. The CPU performs control functions, computes, and tells the other PLC components what to do and when to do it. The processor unit also contains the system memory required to store programs and additional command-line information.
3. Communication Card
Communication modules come in a wide variety of industry standards. They allow PLCs to communicate with each other and the systems they automate. From computer systems to environmental controls, the communication card acts as the voice and ears of the PLC system.
4. Input/Output (I/O Cards)
I/O cards connect your PLC unit to other devices in your facility. These devices include control valves, motor controls, pressure transmitters, and monitoring systems.
There are two kinds of I/O cards — analog and digital. Analog PLC components use continuous electrical signals for operation, while digital I/O cards use non-continuous electrical signals.
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