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PLC (Programmable Logic Controller)
A programmable logic controller (PLC) or programmable controller is an industrial digital computer which has been ruggedized and adapted for the control of manufacturing processes, such as assembly lines, or robotic devices, or any activity that requires high reliability control and ease of programming and process fault diagnosis.
PLCs were first developed in the automobile manufacturing industry to provide flexible, ruggedized and easily programmable controllers to replace hard-wired relays, timers and sequencers. Since then, they have been widely adopted as high-reliability automation controllers suitable for harsh environments. A PLC is an example of a “hard” real-time system since output results must be produced in response to input conditions within a limited time, otherwise unintended operation will result.
The main difference from most other computing devices is that PLCs are intended-for and therefore tolerant-of more severe conditions (such as dust, moisture, heat, cold), while offering extensive input/output (I/O) to connect the PLC to sensors and actuators. PLC input can include simple digital elements such as limit switches, analog variables from process sensors (such as temperature and pressure), and more complex data such as that from positioning or machine vision systems.
PLC output can include elements such as indicator lamps, sirens, electric motors, pneumatic or hydraulic cylinders, magnetic relays, 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 fieldbus or computer network that plugs into the PLC.
PLCs have a variety of applications and uses, including:
Process Automation Plants (e.g. mining, oil &gas)
In boilers – Thermal Power Plants
A typical block diagram of PLC consists of five parts namely:
Rack or chassis
Power Supply Module
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Input & Output Module
Communication Interface Module
Analog Input: Variable current or voltage input such as 0-10V, 4-20mA, etc.
Analog Output: Variable voltage or current level, e.g., 0-10V, 4-20 mA current loop, etc.
DC/AC input: Discrete DC voltage or current level.
DC/AC Output: Discrete AC voltage or current level.