In this article I am going to go over what I think are the essential tools every PLC Programmer needs in their backpack. Of course, this is highly subjective and I’m sure there are going to be items you think should be included which aren’t, or items I’ve listed that you’ll say, why does he include that!
That said, I certainly welcome all your comments and feedback and will update the article as needed. What I wanted to do is cover off the items I typically carry with me when on-site servicing a customer’s piece of automation equipment.
These will be items I either directly carry with me into the plant, or have on hand if needed in my vehicle. If your interested in learning more about what the essential tools every PLC programmer needs, be sure to keep reading.
Essential Tools Every PLC Programmer Needs
Let’s start with the basics. It’s a given that you are going to require a laptop and a bag to carry it and your equipment. The equipment you’ll likely have immediately on hand will mostly consist of cabling, digital multi-meters and small handheld tools. Starting from the beginning, let’s list the tools every PLC Programmer should have with them in the plant!
- Laptop with sufficient power to run multiple virtual machines.
This means you should be choosing a laptop that has enough processing power and RAM in order to run at least one virtual machine at a time to support those legacy systems that are still out there. Typically my host machine will run Microsoft Windows 10 Pro so I get the power and speed of the latest and greatest operating system. Then I will have 2 virtual machines configured with the following operating systems:
- Next you are going to need something to carry your laptop and other gear to bring along with you as you travel from one end of the plant to the other. I have had various laptop backpack bags that will do the job, however, I prefer a good roller bag with extension handle. They tend to be able to store more – laptop, cables, multi-meters etc., and they don’t put a strain on your back. If you’re in the market for a new bag, roller or backpack let me recommend two:
- SwissGear Potomac 2-Pc Business Set With Double Zipper Overnighter Rolling Case And Matching 15.4″ Laptop Case
- SwissGear The Sherpa 15.6″ Padded Laptop Backpack/School Travel Bag (Black-Charcoal)
I actually own the first Swiss Army Gear Roller Bag in the list and have been very happy with the space it provides. I have a 17″ laptop and it fits no problem in this bag. I’ve used it in harsh environments for about the last 8 years and its still works well. And like I mentioned, the other nice advantage of these rolling bags is they don’t hurt you back!
- You should also consider a good wireless mouse, I recommend the Logitech MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Mouse with FLOW Cross-Computer Control and File Sharing for PC and Mac.
- Reliable digital multi-meters are an absolute necessity. I certainly suggest you invest in at least one of these meters, with preference to two or all three. I recommend the following Fluke meters:
- An assortment of communication cables are essential. These will include USB, RS232 Serial, Ethernet to name a few. Also be sure to have the following:
- Plugable USB to RS-232 DB9 Serial Adapter (Prolific PL2303HX Rev D Chipset)
- USB 2.0 Cable – A-Male to B-Male – 6 Feet (1.8 Meters)
- USB 2.0 A to A Cable Type A Male to Male Cable Cord for Data Transfer Hard Drive Enclosures, Printers, Modems, Cameras (6FT)
- USB 2.0 – Micro-USB to USB Cable (6 Feet) – High-Speed A Male to Micro B
- Ethernet testing and crimping tools. As most in the industry are aware the shift to Ethernet/IP technologies are largely taking over the automation world. This means that a good Ethernet cable tester and crimping tool is an essential part of any PLC Programmer’s tool bag. I recommend the following:
- Wire strippers/cutters and a small assortment of screwdrivers, Allen-keys (metric and standard) and wrenches. You should also consider the following:
- Electrical Insulated Screwdriver Set
- Safety shoes and glasses (must)
- Lock and tags for proper Lockout/Tagout (must).
- Cell phone charger, laptop charger and USB flash drives. Always have your laptop and cell phone charging cable on hand and a good portable flash storage drive. Here are a couple I recommend for speed and reliability:
Items To Keep In Your Work Vehicle
It’s always a good idea to keep a good supply of pens, service forms and business cards in your work vehicle with a few of each on hand in your portable bag discussed previously. Other things to consider would be the following:
- Folding table and chair.
- Zip ties and Brady BMP61 Portable Handheld Label Printer
- Assortment of connectors (i.e., RJ45, BNC, Gender Benders), resistors, potentiometers.
- Spare safety glasses and a flashlight.
- Various Fluke leads and a Weller Self-igniting Cordless Butane Soldering Iron Kit.
- A good set of calipers such as the Mitutoyo Absolute Scale Digital Caliper.
Well hopefully I’ve given you some good things to think about here. There’s nothing worse than being on a service call and realize, “oh shoot I forgot that at the shop”! This is certainly not an exhaustive list so feel free to leave a comment if I have omitted something you feel should absolutely be here.
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If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out some of these good reads too:
- How To Become A PLC Programmer
- ControlLogix 5580 Processor Line Reviewed
- How Much Does A PLC Programmer Make
- PLC Versus Microcontroller – What’s In Your Plant?
- Essential Tools Every PLC Programmer Needs
- Difference Between DCS And PLC
- How To Implement A ControlLogix PID Controller
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