Control engineering has evolved over time. In the past humans were the main methods for controlling a system. More recently electricity has been used for control and early electrical control was based on relays. These relays allow power to be switched on and off without a mechanical switch. It is common to use relays to make simple logical control decisions. The development of low cost computer has brought the most recent revolution, the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). The advent of the PLC began in the 1970s, and has become the most common choice for manufacturing controls.
PLCs have been gaining popularity on the factory floor and will probably remain predominant for some time to come. Most of this is because of the advantages they offer.
· Cost effective for controlling complex systems.
· Flexible and can be reapplied to control other systems quickly and easily.
· Computational abilities allow more sophisticated control.
· Trouble shooting aids make programming easier and reduce downtime.
· Reliable components make these likely to operate for years before failure.
Ladder logic is the main programming method used for PLCs. As mentioned before, ladder logic has been developed to mimic relay logic. The decision to use the relay logic diagrams was a strategic one. By selecting ladder logic as the main programming method, the amount of retraining needed for engineers and tradespeople was greatly reduced.
Modern control systems still include relays, but these are rarely used for logic. A relay is a simple device that uses a magnetic field to control a switch, as pictured in See Simple Relay Layouts and Schematics. When a voltage is applied to the input coil, the resulting current creates a magnetic field. The magnetic field pulls a metal switch (or reed) towards it and the contacts touch, closing the switch. The contact that closes when the coil is energized is called normally open. The normally closed contacts touch when the input coil is not energized. Relays are normally drawn in schematic form using a circle to represent the input coil. The output contacts are shown with two parallel lines. Normally open contacts are shown as two lines, and will be open (non-conducting) when the input is not energized. Normally closed contacts are shown with two lines with a diagonal line through them. When the input coil is not energized the normally closed contacts will be closed (conducting). Read more...
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