Read this First...
Considering the gravity of investing your most valuable resource, your time, the following information needs to be absorbed before you start; otherwise, you may waste a lot of your time and money...
If you already know exactly what you want, go back to the home page and find the manuals needed to learn the platform of your choice. You will also find links to the free videos that support that learning path. Otherwise...continue...
Where to start...
1.) You need a practical understanding of magnetism and electricity to be a competent electrician/technician/engineer/programmer in the industrial automation arena. We have several lectures free on our YouTube channel to that end. Click on the link below, watch lectures and return here to continue.
Basic Electricity & Magnetism Lectures - Click HERE
2.) If you were/are familiar with these concepts in a practical way, then begin watching the next series of free lectures on the YouTube channel. This series will give you an overview of all PLCs, regardless of the brand. Watch and return here for the next step in learning programmable logic controllers.
What is a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller)?
3.) Now that you have a general idea of how PLCs are integrated in the processes in industry, the next step is a deeper dive into how they function and the basics of programming PLCs.
It is at this point that you should acquire the resources needed to complete your learning path: hardware, software and lab project manual/s.
I recommend that you start with MicroStarter (stripped down version of RSLogix500 that supports all of the Micrologix Controllers). It is not free, and you will have to purchase the license from Rockwell Automation, approx. price $170.00.
OR...you can acquire the free version, MicroStarter Lite, which only supports the MicroLogix1000 or 1100. You can learn with the free software but I recommend purchasing the paid version and acquiring a MicroLogix1400 for your learning hardware.
Once you have your resources decided upon, purchased and waiting for them to arrive, Click on the link below to continue.
Fundamentals of Programmable Logic Controllers - Click HERE
4.) Once your purchased resources have arrived and you have loaded the software on your computer, you are ready to begin the exercises, the lab projects in the manual/s that you have purchased. Click on the links below specific the hardware/software platform that you are working with.
MicroLogix Controllers with MicroStarter
Micro800 Controllers with Connected Components Workbench
Compact/ControlLogix with RSLogix/Studio5000 or LogixDesigner
Compact/ControlLogix5000 Advanced Subjects
The following is miscellaneous information that is worthy of consideration.
Using Programmable Logic/Automation Controllers, whether the programming of or troubleshooting with, sits at the top of the skill set needed to support manufacturing processes. It is about using what you know about processes to automate them or to find failed devices/wiring using the PLC/PACs online monitoring system. The needed skill set begins with a solid understanding electricity and leveraging this knowledge to learn industrial motor control systems. Automation is, basically, the control of actuators to cause a change in the process, whether making something move, increasing energy levels or decreasing them. Without an understanding of these actuators at the electrical level, you will struggle to do anything with PLC/PACs.
The least expensive entry into this arena no longer requires that you purchase hardware or software. Beginning with Version 12 of Connected Components Workbench, the standard (free) version of this software that supports all of the Micro800 controllers has a built in simulator. The simulator is a fully functional software version of a 2080-LC50-48QWB controller and it simulates an actual hardware controller in every aspect and appears as a real controller connected to you laptop. The course that supports learning with this free platform is available for purchase on this site. Click on the following link for the manual. Fundamentals of PLCs using Connected Components Workbench with Micro800 Part #1 is the manual that you need. You can learn with just the manual and the free software that you download from Rockwell Automation.
The second least expensive route is with the Micrologix family of controllers and Micro Starter software, both of which you have to purchase.
MicroLogix1400 and Micro Starter
This is just the lab project manual and you will have to build your own Micrologix1400 learning station, buy the software from an Allen Bradley distributor, buy the cable and away you go. the lectures are currently free on this website under the "Classrooms" tab, but there is no guarantee that they will remain on this site free. These lectures will eventually be a paid subscription.
This manual is 99% compatible with all Micrologix controllers; 1000/1100/1200/1400/1500. The I/O addressing is identical and the only noticeable exception is that the one shot instruction for the Micrologix1000 is different than the other four.
One Programming Software package does not program any and all programmable logic controllers.
- Each manufacturer of PLCs uses their own unique program development software packages.
- Within each "brand" of PLCs, there is more than one hardware platform and each of those requires a software package unique to that family of processors.
- Some companies will claim that one package programs all controllers of their brand, but in reality, it is more than one package bundled into one opening screen and you still have to open each application separately; it is a marketing gimmick.
- This seeming convolution is unavoidable because PLCs are not replaced everytime something new is introduced, like some do with their cell phones. There are tens of thousands of PLCs that are still running out of our sight that were commissioned over twenty years ago. As chipsets from Intel, etc...are obsoleted, products have to be redesigned with new chip sets. This is a never ending evolution of the installed base.
The Programming Software is NOT the Programmable Logic Controller.
- The PLC executes a downloaded program in machine level language. If you were able to see it, you would see an ocean of bits, 1s and 0s. It is unviewable to all but a select group in the manufacturer's engineering group.
- The software development package allows you to write your program in a symbolic language that is palatable to your brain...that is, logical in its viewability. It is NOT the program that is downloaded into the processor's memory and executed by the controller.
- The program that you write with graphic symbols, such as ladder logic diagrams (LLD), exists only on the screen of your computer. When you save it, it is saved as logical text statements. When you download it...it is compiled/translated into machine language and transferred to the memory in the controller's processor.
If you are going to learn PLC programming, writing programs, reading programs to troubleshoot a process or to make process improvements, you must first learn the primary language, ladder logic diagrams! Other languages such as Structured Text, Function Block Diagrams and Sequential Function Charts must come after you have become proficient with LLDs. There are no shortcuts!
- We have chosen Allen Bradley (Rockwell Automation) hardware/software as our learning platform.
- All PLCs are very similar in their pure hardware form, and ladder logic diagrams between different manufacturers are identical, save graphic differences, and the editor that allows you to configure logical statements into rungs of symbols.
- You can learn LLDs with almost any controller and supporting software combo. Once learned with one brand of PLC, the rest come easily if you invested enough time and effort to learn effectively with the first one.
There are four primary families of hardware/software (in order of historical occurrence) with Allen Bradley: PLC5 with RSLogix 5, SLC500 and Micrologix 1000/1100/1200/1400/1500 with RSLogix 500 (or Micro Starter), ControlLogix/CompactLogix with RSLogix/Studio 5000 and the newest member, Micro800 with Connected Components Workbench.
At a minimum...you need:
1. Connected Components Workbench Version 12 or higher...downloadable here... Connected Components Workbench
If this link does not work, search for CCW 12 online. You may have to create a free account with Rockwell Automation to download the free software. Once you are into this site, you can download RSLinx Classic Lite as well. The lecture series available as a subscription includes all of the step by step instructions to find and download the software.
2. The simulator is included with Version 12 or higher so you do not need a controller.
3. No cables are needed but your laptop (computer) must meet the hardware requirements found on the above download site.
4. Access to the internet and a paid subscription if you want to use the lecture series.