PLC Programming

The first PLCs were programmed with a technique that was based on relay logic wiring schematics. This eliminated the need to teach the electricians, technicians and engineers how to program a computer - but, this method has stuck and it is the most common technique for programming PLCs today.

An example of ladder logic can be seen in Figure Below. To interpret this diagram imagine that the power is on the vertical line on the left hand side, we call this the hot rail. On the right hand side is the neutral rail. In the figure there are two rungs, and on each rung there are combinations of inputs (two vertical lines) and outputs (circles). If the inputs are opened or closed in the right combination the power can flow from the hot rail, through the inputs, to power the outputs, and finally to the neutral rail. An input can come from a sensor, switch, or any other type of sensor. An output will be some device outside the PLC that is switched on or off, such as lights or motors. In the top rung the contacts are normally open and normally closed. Which means if input A is on and input B is off, then power will flow through the output and activate it. Any other combination of input values will result in the output X being off.
A simple ladder logic diagram
Note: Power needs to flow through some combination of the inputs (A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H) to turn on outputs (X,Y).

The second rung of Figure above is more complex, there are actually multiple combinations of inputs that will result in the output Y turning on. On the left most part of the rung, power could flow through the top if C is off and D is on. Power could also (and simultaneously) flow through the bottom if both E and F are true. This would get power half way across the rung, and then if G or H is true the power will be delivered to output Y. In later chapters we will examine how to interpret and construct these diagrams.

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