PLC programming has been around for a long time and has advanced significantly since its inception. It’s an excellent way to automate processes and control equipment in many industries. This includes food production, chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and more.
The benefits of PLC programming include reducing downtime due to human error or loss of personnel. Oddly enough, because of this, PLC programming is most needed in manufacturing. Almost a third of PLC programmers are hired in this sector.
In this guide, we will discuss what PLC is and tips on how you can get started with learning about PLC programming yourself!
Keep reading if you feel like learning more about PLC.
PLC Programming: A Brief History
Did you know that the first PLC was initially created in 1968? It wasn’t until 1984 that it started to become more widely used.
Today, there are over a million different PLCs out in use, and it is one of the most common types of programmable logic controller (other types include: PAC, FPGA).
One thing many people don’t realize about this technology is how much it has changed since its inception.
For example, did you know that today’s modern PLC can hold thousands or even millions of lines of code, whereas early versions could only store 100-200 lines at best! This shows just how far we have come with this type of programming and allows us to do so much more than before.
Another huge advancement is the expanded set of instructions available to us. We were limited in what we could do with only a few basic instructions, such as add and subtract in early models.
These days, you can find PLCs with much more advanced capabilities, including PID loops, event counters, math functions (trigonometry), and other features depending on your purchase brand or model.
PLC Programming: Why is it Useful?
Did you know there are several industries where PLC programming has been used for decades? You’d be surprised to learn just how popular PLC programming really is and how many industries it’s used in. Let’s take a look at some examples.
One industry where this technology is widely used in food production is in breweries because they need an automated way to control their processes without human input/error. They also require something that can be reliable so that downtime is minimized.
Another industry where PLC programming reigns supreme would be chemical manufacturing plants. In these types of factories, it’s essential to have an automated system in place to control the flow of chemicals and other materials and prevent any dangerous events from happening.
Finally, pharmaceutical manufacturers also rely on PLC programming for their production processes. Similar to the previous two examples, they need to automate tasks while ensuring safety and reducing errors.
So now that we know a bit of PLC programming and why it is valid, let’s move on to some tips on how you can get started learning this technology.
How to Get Started with PLC Programming
Like any other skill, learning PLC programming takes time and practice. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Start With the Basics
When starting, it’s best to focus on the basics of PLC programming. This means learning how the different parts of a PLC work and understanding the various instructions available to you.
Understanding the foundation upon which the entire industry is built is the first and most important step in PLC programming.
Find a Tutorial or Course
Once you have a basic understanding of the concepts, finding a tutorial or course is your next step.
Many great resources can walk you through everything from setting up your first program to advanced topics such as PID loops. If you’re having trouble finding something that fits your needs, consider reaching out to others in the community who might be able to help.
Get Your Hand Dirty
The best way to learn is by doing! Try creating small programs that solve simple tasks. As you progress, you can start working on more complex projects. Not only will this help you learn the technology, but it will also give you experience in using PLCs for specific applications.
Common Mistakes in PLC Programming Made by Beginners
Like any other skill, beginners in PLC programming are prone to making mistakes. This list is not exhaustive by any means, it’s only here to serve as a reference to the potential mistakes made by beginners.
Here are a few of the most common ones.
Not Following Best Practices
One of the most important things to keep in mind is always following proper programming guidelines. This includes setting up your program correctly, using good documentation for future reference, and more.
Missing or Improper Terminations
When connecting PLC outputs (digital signals), it’s essential to ensure all wires are appropriately terminated at both ends (inputs and outputs). Otherwise, you risk damaging the hardware, which can lead to downtime as well as unexpected malfunctions.
Another common mistake made by beginners is not having their programs execute tasks correctly or timing out certain events incorrectly.
Every step must take place when needed, so nothing gets missed! Luckily there are many ways you can learn about to ensure this happens correctly.
Failing to Take Precautions
In certain situations, you’ll need your PLC program to be able to handle unexpected events or conditions that arise from time to time. This means using the proper logic and programming techniques to respond appropriately when a problem occurs (such as a motor starting up unexpectedly).
Not Understanding Syntax
Another mistake that beginners often make is not understanding the syntax of PLC programming languages. This includes knowing how to format your code correctly and which valid commands to use.
Not Verifying Code
It’s important to always verify your code before running it. This means checking for errors and ensuring that everything is correct. Failing to do so can lead to faulty programs and unexpected results.
Not Testing Programs
Finally, another common mistake is not testing your programs. This can lead to problems down the road when the program is used in production. Always make sure to test your code thoroughly before putting it into use.
Best Advice and Tips for Beginner PLC Programmers
Once you’ve gotten started with PLC programming, there are many great tips and advice that can help you improve your skills. Of course, the advice is subjective, but we tried to generalize as much as possible to be useful to as many people as possible.
Some of the best include.
One common mistake for beginner programmers is not staying organized. Staying organized includes using good documentation to keep track of changes, and keeping everything in a single place (such as an online folder). Using this strategy will make it much easier to find what you’re looking for when needed!
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Everyone at one point or another has had trouble learning something new, which means having someone show them the ropes isn’t always easy.
Fortunately, if you need any help understanding specific concepts or want suggestions on solving problems, don’t hesitate to reach out! Asking questions early on will help you avoid making mistakes down the road.
Take Your Time
While it may be tempting to try and rush through things, this isn’t always the best approach when learning something new such as PLC programming. This is because rushing can lead to errors, which slows down future progress. Learning how to work steadily ensures that everything gets done correctly.
Use Online Resources
If you’re struggling with specific concepts or want more clarification, an excellent source of information can come from various sites and tutorials available online (such as this one).
These venues offer much more detailed information than books which means they are often better for beginners who need extra guidance along the way.
Stay positive, and don’t give up! It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting something new, but don’t let that discourage you. With enough practice and a positive attitude, anyone can become a successful PLC programmer.
PLC Done Right
In conclusion, PLC programming can be a challenging but rewarding experience. With a little hard work and dedication, anyone can succeed.
By following the tips and advice mentioned in this article, beginners can quickly improve their skills and become more confident in their abilities.
If you want to dive deeper into the world of PLC, please get in touch with us and join the fastest-growing community of automation professionals.