The Introduction and Application of PLC

The introduction and application of PLC


Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), a computing device invented by Richard E. Morley in 1968, have been widely used in industry including manufacturing systems, transportation systems, chemical process facilities, and many others. At that time, the PLC replaced the hardwired logic with soft-wired logic or so-called relay ladder logic (RLL), a programming language visually resembling the hardwired logic, and reduced thereby the configuration time from 6 months down to 6 days [Moody and Morley, 1999].

Although PC based control has started to come into place, PLC based control will remain the technique to which the majority of industrial applications will adhere due to its higher performance, lower price, and superior reliability in harsh environments. Moreover, according to a study on the PLC market of Frost and Sullivan [1995], an increase of the annual sales volume to 15 million PLCs per year with the hardware value of more than 8 billion US dollars has been predicted, though the prices of computing hardware is steadily dropping. The inventor of the PLC, Richard E Morley, fairly considers the PLC market as a 5-billion industry at the present time.

Though PLCs are widely used in industrial practice, the programming of PLC based control systems is still very much relying on trial-and-error. Alike software engineering, PLC software design is facing the software dilemma or crisis in a similar way. Morley himself emphasized this aspect most forcefully by indicating [Moody and Morley, 1999, p. 110]:
`If houses were built like software projects, a single woodpecker could destroy civilization.”

Particularly, practical problems in PLC programming are to eliminate software bugs and to reduce the maintenance costs of old ladder logic programs. Though the hardware costs of PLCs are dropping continuously, reducing the scan time of the ladder logic is still an issue in industry so that low-cost PLCs can be used.

In general, the productivity in generating PLC is far behind compared to other domains, for instance, VLSI design, where efficient computer aided design tools are in practice. Existent software engineering methodologies are not necessarily applicable to the PLC based software design because PLC-programming requires a simultaneous consideration of hardware and software. The software design becomes, thereby, more and more the major cost driver. In many industrial design projects, more than SO0/a of the manpower allocated for the control system design and installation is scheduled for testing and debugging PLC programs [Rockwell, 1999].

In addition, current PLC based control systems are not properly designed


to support the growing demand for flexibility and reconfigurability of manufacturing systems. A further problem, impelling the need for a systematic design methodology, is the increasing software complexity in large-scale projects.

2.The Introduction of PLC

A PLC (i.e. Programmable Logic Controller) is a device that was invented to replace the necessary sequential relay circuits for machine control. The PLC works by looking at its inputs and depending upon their state, turning on/off its outputs. The user enters a program, usually via software, that gives the desired results.

PLCs are used in many "real world" applications. If there is industry present, chances are good that there is a plc present. If you are involved in machining, packaging, material handling, automated assembly or countless other industries you are probably already using them. If you are not, you are wasting money and time. Almost any application that needs some type of electrical control has a need for a plc.

For example, let's assume that when a switch turns on we want to turn a solenoid on for 5 seconds and then turn it off regardless of how long the switch is on for. We can do this with a simple external timer. But what if the process included 10 switches and solenoids? We would need 10 external timers. What if the process also needed to count how many times the switches individually turned on? We need a lot of external counters.

As you can see the bigger the process the more of a need we have for a PLC. We can simply program the PLC to count its inputs and turn the solenoids on for the specified time.

This site gives you enough information to be able to write programs far more complicated than the simple one above. We will take a look at what is considered to be the "top 20" plc instructions. It can be safely estimated that with a firm understanding of these instructions one can solve more than 80% of the applications in existence.

In the late 1960's PLCs were first introduced. The primary reason for designing such a device was eliminating the large cost involved in replacing the complicated relay based machine control systems. Bedford Associates (Bedford, MA) proposed something called a Modular Digital Controller (MODICON) to a major US car manufacturer. Other companies at the time proposed computer based schemes, one of which was based upon the PDP-8. The MODICON 084 brought the world's first PLC into commercial production.

When production requirements changed so did the control system. This becomes very expensive when the change is frequent. Since relays are mechanical devices they also have a limited lifetime which required strict adhesion to maintenance schedules. Troubleshooting was also quite tedious when so many relays are involved. Now picture a machine control panel that included many, possibly hundreds or thousands, of individual relays. The size could be mind boggling. How about the complicated initial wiring of so many individual devices! These relays would be individually wired together in a manner that would yield the desired outcome. Were there problems? You bet!

These "new controllers" also had to be easily programmed by maintenance and plant engineers. The lifetime had to be long and programming changes easily performed. They also had to survive the harsh industrial environment. That's a lot to ask! The answers were to use a programming technique most people were already familiar with and replace mechanical parts with solid-state ones.

In the mid70's the dominant PLC technologies were sequencer state-machines and the bit-slice based CPU. The AMD 2901 and 2903 were quite popular in Modicon and A-B PLCs. Conventional microprocessors lacked the power to quickly solve PLC logic in all but the smallest PLCs. As conventional microprocessors evolved, larger and larger PLCs were being based upon them. However, even today some are still based upon the 2903(ref A-B's PLC-3) Modicon has yet to build a faster PLC than their 984A/B/X which was based upon the 2901.

Communications abilities began to appear in approximately 1973. The first such system was Modicon's Modbus. The PLC could now talk to other PLCs and they could be far away from the actual machine they were controlling. They could also now be used to send and receive varying voltages to allow them to enter the analog world. Unfortunately, the lack of standardization coupled with continually changing technology has made PLC communications a nightmare of incompatible protocols and physical networks. Still, it was a great decade for the PLC!

The 80's saw an attempt to standardize communications with General Motor's manufacturing automation protocol(MAP). It was also a time for reducing the size of the PLC and making them software programmable through symbolic programming on personal computers instead of dedicated programming terminals or handheld programmers. Today the world's smallest PLC is about the size of a single control relay!

The 90's have seen a gradual reduction in the introduction of new protocols, and the modernization of the physical layers of some of the more popular protocols that survived the 1980's. The latest standard (IEC 1131-3) has tried to merge plc programming languages under one international standard. We now have PLCs that are programmable in function block diagrams, instruction lists, C and structured text all at the same time! PC's are also being used to replace PLCs in some applications. The original company who commissioned the MODICON 084 has actually switched to a PC based control system.

3.PLC characteristic

The PLC characteristic reliability is high and the anti-interference ability is strong

High reliability is an electricity control system key function.Adopt strict productive technology fabrication since PLC adopt the modern large-scale integrated circuit technology,the inside circuit has adopted the anti-interference advanced technology , so it has very high reliability.For example,The F series PLC average nothing malfunction time that the Mitsubishi company produces is up to 300,000 hours.And hat some use average fault-free redundancy CPU PLC on-time is longer.The machine from PLC to inspect with outside circuit , use PLC to compose navar, electricity contactor system is compared with equal scale succeeding , electricity connection and switch contact already have fallen off to counting hundred counting a thousandth even , the malfunction reduces also right away greatly.Besides, PLC checks a function, when the malfunction appears but issues alarm information in time with hardware malfunction ego.Also,Applying person to application software can be compiled into outer-ring component malfunction from diagnose procedure , makes to gain certainly diagnose protection of malfunction also in system except circuit and equipment outside PLC.Such , entire system have had extremely high reliability being unable to accommodate oneself to queer.

1)       The function is perfect , serviceability is strong

PLC develops the product having already formed big , small and medium, various scale seriation to today.Can be used for various scale industrial control occasion.Except logic treatment function, modern PLC has the perfect data arithmetic ability mostly , may be used for various digital control field.The PLC function element springs up in recent years in large amount , has made PLC penetration arrive at various industrial control  such as location under the control of , the temperature under the control of , CNC.

2)       Engineers and technicians easy to learn easy to use

PLC is the industrial control computer being applied or used universally , the labor being to be geared to the needs of factories , mines and enterprises charges equipment.Its interface is easy , the programming language accepts easily for engineers and technicians.

3)  Systematic design and formation amount of work are small ,easy to reform and upkeep

PLC uses memory logic to replace the logic working a telephone switchboard , having decreased by external connection of control system greatly, makes control system design and the period being constuct with shorten extremely , the upkeep also becomes easy to get up at the same time.More important being makes with a equipment to become possibility process altering the procedure changing procedure of production.This very much be suitable to many breeds , minor the batches childbirth occasion.

4)      Small Volume 、light weight、 low energy consumption

Take subminiature PLC as example, the breed bottom dimension producing is smaller than 100 mms , weight is smaller than 150 gs , the power dissipation counts a tile only.

4.Objective and Significance of the Thesis

The objective of this thesis is to develop a systematic software design methodology for PLC operated automation systems. The design methodology involves high-level description based on state transition models that treat automation control systems as discrete event systems, a stepwise design process, and set of design rules providing guidance and measurements to achieve a successful design. The tangible outcome of this research is to find a way to reduce the uncertainty in managing the control software development process, that is, reducing programming and debugging time and their variation, increasing flexibility of the automation systems, and enabling software reusability through modularity. The goal is to overcome shortcomings of current programming strategies that are based on the experience of the individual software developer.

A systematic approach to designing PLC software can overcome deficiencies in the traditional way of programming manufacturing control systems, and can have wide ramifications in several industrial applications. Automation control systems are modeled by formal languages or, equivalently, by state machines. Formal representations provide a high-level description of the behavior of the system to be controlled. State machines can be analytically evaluated as to whether or not they meet the desired goals. Secondly, a state machine description provides a structured representation to convey the logical requirements and constraints such as detailed safety rules. Thirdly, well-defined control systems design outcomes are conducive to automatic code generation- An ability to produce control software executable on commercial distinct logic controllers can reduce programming lead-time and labor cost. In particular, the thesis is relevant with respect to the following aspects.

Customer-Driven Manufacturing

In modern manufacturing, systems are characterized by product and process innovation, become customer-driven and thus have to respond quickly to changing system requirements. A major challenge is therefore to provide enabling technologies that can economically reconfigure automation control systems in response to changing needs and new opportunities. Design and operational knowledge can be reused in real-time, therefore, giving a significant competitive edge in industrial practice.

Higher Degree of Design Automation and Software Quality

Studies have shown that programming methodologies in automation systems have not been able to match rapid increase in use of computing resources. For instance, the programming of PLCs still relies on a conventional programming style with ladder logic diagrams. As a result, the delays and resources in programming are a major stumbling stone for the progress of manufacturing industry. Testing and debugging may consume over 50% of the manpower allocated for the PLC program design. Standards [IEC 60848, 1999; IEC-61131-3, 1993; IEC 61499, 1998; ISO 15745-1, 1999] have been formed to fix and disseminate state-of-the-art design methods, but they normally cannot participate in advancing the knowledge of efficient program and system design.

A systematic approach will increase the level of design automation through reusing existing software components, and will provide methods to make large-scale system design manageable. Likewise, it will improve software quality and reliability and will be relevant to systems high security standards, especially those having hazardous impact on the environment such as airport control, and public railroads.

System Complexity

The software industry is regarded as a performance destructor and complexity generator. Steadily shrinking hardware prices spoils the need for software performance in terms of code optimization and efficiency. The result is that massive and less efficient software code on one hand outpaces the gains in hardware performance on the other hand. Secondly, software proliferates into complexity of unmanageable dimensions; software redesign and maintenance-essential in modern automation systems-becomes nearly impossible. Particularly, PLC programs have evolved from a couple lines of code 25 years ago to thousands of lines of code with a similar number of 1/O points. Increased safety, for instance new policies on fire protection, and the flexibility of modern automation systems add complexity to the program design process. Consequently, the life-cycle cost of software is a permanently growing fraction of the total cost. 80-90% of these costs are going into software maintenance, debugging, adaptation and expansion to meet changing needs [Simmons et al., 1998].
Design Theory Development

Today, the primary focus of most design research is based on mechanical or electrical products. One of the by-products of this proposed research is to enhance our fundamental understanding of design theory and methodology by extending it to the field of engineering systems design. A system design theory for large-scale and complex system is not yet fully developed. Particularly, the question of how to simplify a complicated or complex design task has not been tackled in a scientific way. Furthermore, building a bridge between design theory and the latest epistemological outcomes of formal representations in computer sciences and operations research, such as discrete event system modeling, can advance future development in engineering design.

Application in Logical Hardware Design

From a logical perspective, PLC software design is similar to the hardware design of integrated circuits. Modern VLSI designs are extremely complex with several million parts and a product development time of 3 years [Whitney, 1996]. The design process is normally separated into a component design and a system design stage. At component design stage, single functions are designed and verified. At system design stage, components are aggregated and the whole system behavior and functionality is tested through simulation. In general, a complete verification is impossible. Hence, a systematic approach as exemplified for the PLC program design may impact the logical hardware design.

Chapter 4 represents the main body of the thesis and captures the essential features of the design methodology. Though design theory is regarded as being in a pre- scientific stage it has advanced in mechanical, software and system engineering with respect to a number of proposed design models and their evaluation throughout real-world examples. Based on a literature review in Chapter 2 and 3 potential applicable design concepts and approaches are selected and applied to context of PLC software design. Axiomatic design is chosen as underlying design concept since it provides guidance for the designer without restriction to a particular design context. To advance the design concept to PLC software design, a formal notation based on statechart formalism is introduced. Furthermore, a design process is developed that arranges the activities needed in a sequential order and shows the related design outcomes.

In Chapter 5, a number of case studies are given to demonstrate the applicability of the developed design methodology. The examples are derived from a complex reference system, a flexible assembly system. The achieved insights are evaluated in a concluding paragraph.

Chapter 6 presents the developed computerized design tool for PLC software design on a conceptual level. The software is written in Visual Basic by using ActiveX controls to provide modularity and reuse in a web-based collaborative programming environment. Main components of the PLC software are modeling editors for the structural (modular) and the behavioral design, a layout specification interface and a simulation engine that can validate the developed model.

Chapter 7 is concluding this thesis. It addresses the achievements with respect to the research objectives and questions. A critical evaluation is given alongside with an outlook for future research issues.