Wednesday, 3 September 2014

PLC comparison with Control Systems, Control Devices, Relay control and Computer

PLC compared with other control systems:

PLCs are well-adapted to a range of automation tasks. These are typically industrial processes in manufacturing where the cost of developing and maintaining the automation system is high relative to the total cost of the automation, and where changes to the system would be expected during its operational life. PLCs contain input and output devices compatible with industrial pilot devices and controls; little electrical design is required, and the design problem centers on expressing the desired sequence of operations. PLC applications are typically highly customized systems so the cost of a packaged PLC is low compared to the cost of a specific custom-built controller design. On the other hand, in the case of mass-produced goods, customized control systems are economic due to the lower cost of the components, which can be optimally chosen instead of a "generic" solution, and where the non-recurring engineering charges are spread over thousands or millions of units.

For high volume or very simple fixed automation tasks, different techniques are used. For example, a consumer dishwasher would be controlled by an electromechanical cam timer costing only a few dollars in production quantities.

A microcontroller-based design would be appropriate where hundreds or thousands of units will be produced and so the development cost (design of power supplies, input/output hardware and necessary testing and certification) can be spread over many sales, and where the end-user would not need to alter the control. Automotive applications are an example; millions of units are built each year, and very few end-users alter the programming of these controllers. However, some specialty vehicles such as transit buses economically use PLCs instead of custom-designed controls, because the volumes are low and the development cost would be uneconomic.

Very complex process control, such as used in the chemical industry, may require algorithms and performance beyond the capability of even high-performance PLCs. Very high-speed or precision controls may also require customized solutions; for example, aircraft flight controls. Single-board computers using semi-customized or fully proprietary hardware may be chosen for very demanding control applications where the high development and maintenance cost can be supported. "Soft PLCs" running on desktop-type computers can interface with industrial I/O hardware while executing programs within a version of commercial operating systems adapted for process control needs.

Programmable controllers are widely used in motion control, positioning control and torque control. Some manufacturers produce motion control units to be integrated with PLC so that G-code (involving a CNC machine) can be used to instruct machine movements PLCs may include logic for single-variable feedback analog control loop, a "proportional, integral, derivative" or "PID controller". A PID loop could be used to control the temperature of a manufacturing process, for example. Historically PLCs were usually configured with only a few analog control loops; where processes required hundreds or thousands of loops, a distributed control system (DCS) would instead be used. As PLCs have become more powerful, the boundary between DCS and PLC applications has become less distinct.

PLCs have similar functionality as Remote Terminal Units. An RTU, however, usually does not support control algorithms or control loops. As hardware rapidly becomes more powerful and cheaper, RTUs, PLCs and DCSs are increasingly beginning to overlap in responsibilities, and many vendors sell RTUs with PLC-like features and vice versa. The industry has standardized on the IEC 61131-3 functional block language for creating programs to run on RTUs and PLCs, although nearly all vendors also offer proprietary alternatives and associated development environments.


In recent years "Safety" PLCs have started to become popular, either as standalone models (Pilz PNOZ Multi, Sick etc.) or as functionality and safety-rated hardware added to existing controller architectures (Allen Bradley Guard logix, Siemens F-series etc.). These differ from conventional PLC types as being suitable for use in safety-critical applications for which PLCs have traditionally been supplemented with hard-wired safety relays. For example, a Safety PLC might be used to control access to a robot cell with trapped-key access, or perhaps to manage the shutdown response to an emergency stop on a conveyor production line. Such PLCs typically have a restricted regular instruction set augmented with safety-specific instructions designed to interface with emergency stops, light screens and so forth. The flexibility that such systems offer has resulted in rapid growth of demand for these controllers.

Reference:
Above topic is referenced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmable_logic_controller.


PLCS VERSUS RELAY CONTROL:

When deciding whether to use a PLC-based system or a hard-wired relay based system, one must ask several questions. Some of these questions are:

Is there a need for flexibile changes in control logic?  Will there be a need for rapid modification? If yes, a PLC is more suited as it can be re-programmed on the spot. But if changes are not likely to be required, a relay system may be better, subject to other conditions listed below.

Is there a need for high reliability? In general, it is easy to maintain PLCs as they do not have mechanical parts that a electromagnetic relay based system has. So they have longer life. Secondly, PLCs have diagnostics and it is easy to replace the faulty unit as a whole. But a relay system for a complex logic is usually very difficult to troubleshoot. This is because it may not be obvious as to which part is malfunctioning.

Are space requirements important? PLCs save space and this is more true with more complex logic.

Are advanced, intelligent controls required? If so, PLCs are better.




Must similar control logic be used on different machines? If the volume of machines is very large, it may be cheaper to develop dedicated control systems like embedded microcontroller based systems.

Will the additional functionality provided by PLCs like communication, displays, memory be useful?





The merits of PLC systems make them especially suitable for applications in which the above requirements are particularly important. If the system was implemented using electromechanical relays (standard and timing), it would have made the control panel a maze of large bundles of wires and interconnections! If the system requirements need flexibility or future growth, a programmable controller's advantages outweighs any initial cost advantage of a relay control system. Even in a case where no flexibility or future expansion is required, a large system can benefit tremendously from the troubleshooting and maintenance aids provided by a PLC. The extremely short cycle (scan) time of a PLC allows the productivity of machines that were previously under electromechanical control to increase considerably. Also, although relay control may cost less initially, this advantage is lost if production downtime due to failures is high.

PLCs VERSUS COMPUTERS:

The architecture of a PLC’s CPU is basically the same as that of a general purpose computer; however, some important characteristics set them apart. First, unlike computers, PLCs are specifically designed to survive the harsh conditions of the industrial environment. A well-designed PLC can be placed in an area with substantial amounts of electrical noise, electromagnetic interference, mechanical vibration, higher temperatures and noncondensing humidity.

A second distinction of PLCs is that their hardware and software are designed for easy use by plant electricians and technicians. The hardware interfaces for connecting field devices are actually part of the PLC itself and are easily connected. The modular and self-diagnosing interface circuits are able to pinpoint malfunctions and, moreover, are easily removed and replaced. Also, the software programming uses conventional relay ladder symbols, or other easily learned languages, which are familiar to plant personnel.

A PLC does not have a boot time, like a PC. It turns on and is ready for action in a few seconds after applying power. But a PC will take a lot more seconds to turn on. Also, a simple PC has to be shutdown properly, which is not requried for a PLC.

Whereas computers are complex computing machines capable of executing several programs or tasks simultaneously and in any order, the standard PLC executes a single program in an orderly, sequential fashion from first to last instruction. PLCs as a system continue to become more intelligent. Complex PLC systems now provide multiprocessor and multitasking capabilities, where one PLC may control  several programs in a single CPU enclosure with several processors. Latest PLCs now are becomming smaller, faster, offer more features, support USB, Ethernet etc.

Comparison with other control devices:


The main difference from other computers is that PLCs are armored for severe condition (dust, moisture, heat, cold, etc) and have the facility for extensive input/output (I/O) arrangements. These connect the PLC to sensors and actuators. PLCs read limit switches, analog process variables (such as temperature and pressure), and the positions of complex positioning systems. Some even use machine vision. On the actuator side, PLCs operate electric motors, pneumatic or hydraulic cylinders, magnetic relays or solenoids, or analog outputs. The input/output arrangements may be built into a simple PLC, or the PLC may have external I/O modules attached to a computer network that plugs into the PLC.

The functionality of the PLC has evolved over the years to include sequential relay control, motion control, process control, distributed control systems and networking. The data handling, storage, processing power and communication capabilities of some modern PLCs are approximately equivalent to desktop computers. PLC-like programming combined with remote I/O hardware, allow a general-purpose desktop computer to overlap some PLCs in certain applications.

Under the IEC 61131-3 standard, PLCs can be programmed using standards-based programming languages. A graphical programming notation called Sequential Function Charts is available on certain programmable controllers.

PLCs are well-adapted to a range of automation tasks. These are typically industrial processes in manufacturing where the cost of developing and maintaining the automation system is high relative to the total cost of the automation, and where changes to the system would be expected during its operational life. PLCs contain input and output devices compatible with industrial pilot devices and controls; little electrical design is required, and the design problem centers on expressing the desired sequence of operations in ladder logic (or function chart) notation. PLC applications are typically highly customized systems so the cost of a packaged PLC is low compared to the cost of a specific custom-built controller design. On the other hand, in the case of mass-produced goods, customized control systems are economic due to the lower cost of the components, which can be optimally chosen instead of a “generic” solution, and where the non-recurring engineering charges are spread over thousands of sales.

For high volume or very simple fixed automation tasks, different techniques are used. For example, a consumer dishwasher would be controlled by an electromechanical cam timer costing only a few dollars in production quantities.

A microcontroller-based design would be appropriate where hundreds or thousands of units will be produced and so the development cost (design of power supplies and input/output hardware) can be spread over many sales, and where the end-user would not need to alter the control. Automotive applications are an example; millions of units are built each year, and very few end-users alter the programming of these controllers. However, some specialty vehicles such as transit busses economically use PLCs instead of custom-designed controls, because the volumes are low and the development cost would be uneconomic.


Very complex process control, such as used in the chemical industry, may require algorithms and performance beyond the capability of even high-performance PLCs. Very high-speed or precision controls may also require customized solutions; for example, aircraft flight controls.
PLCs may include logic for single-variable feedback analog control loop, a “proportional, integral, derivative” or “PID controller.” A PID loop could be used to control the temperature of a manufacturing process, for example. Historically PLCs were usually configured with only a few analog control loops; where processes required hundreds or thousands of loops, a distributed control system (DCS) would instead be used. However, as PLCs have become more powerful, the boundary between DCS and PLC applications has become less clear-cut.


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