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Old 08-30-2012, 04:58 PM   #1
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Default PLC-Automation Interest.

Hey guys, I'm a (fairly senior) Building Controls Technician by trade. Currently 7 years with Siemens. I've been curious about the PLC side of controls for a while. Building Controls is the Red-headed stepchild of the PLC world. I'ld like to talk to someone who is on the other side, and I figured someone here could help. I'm curious to learn Siemens initially, but not opposed to talking to any AB techs out there. There is some capacity in my area to work with AB+Siemens controls and I have even thought it might be a good field to advance into int he future. I would just like to have a conversation with someone and maybe get some beginner pointers to books/websites/tutorials etc.

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Old 08-30-2012, 09:53 PM   #2
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http://thelearningpit.com/

Is one of the best way to start learning ladder logix.

I'm in the midst of setting up my AB SLC 5/03 for my brewery. I also work with AB Control Logix systems on my day to day basis at work. So what direction do you want to go? Honestly unless you have access to AB or Siemens products its not a good financial route. Automation direct has the most financial savvy products.

You can use ebay and find SLC500 stuff pretty cheap due to recontrol projects. Its the legal software that will kill you. They are very serious about their licenses.
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Old 08-30-2012, 10:27 PM   #3
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I salute the efforts at PLC control but also am aware of the limitations of the software packages, great for process control, not sure if they can be expanded to include all the other things you would want to do. Having built a automated system around Opto 22 G1 hardware, and written the control applications to make it do what I wanted, know that it was not quick or easy. Basic process loop and timing should be easy, it can be done on something as simple as an Arduino platform, it is the rest of the things that would take time.

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Old 08-30-2012, 10:56 PM   #4
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I have been mostly working with Omron PLCs but do have some experience with the Siemens PLCs. I would concentrate learning latter logic first as well as master simple circuit design.
With your background you should be able to pick up the basics pretty easy. You should also learn a little C or Basic so you you can get used to function blocks written in code. Unfortunately each manufacture will use its own proprietary language but at least you can get a feel for the flow. Automation Direct has some products that can help you self-teach for <$1000 for software + plc. The more advanced PLCs like my Omron test unit requires a much heftier investment. I have little over than $10K invested in my little test stand if you include the software; thankfully this didn't come out of my pocket.
Gook luck.

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Old 08-30-2012, 11:06 PM   #5
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I also work with PLC controls and must agree that the hardware will more than cover any I/O that might be desired for a brewery build, the software costs are a bit on the steep side. I have the luxury of having a copy of the programming software provided by the company I work for in all the AB platforms as well as some Modicon and Siemens platforms, but if I had to provide all of this myself, I would be very strapped to pay for it all. Programming and loading the platform is all the software is needed for, or for programming changes, but if you build your HMI to handle the bulk of your changes ie provide links to your PID settings, timers, etc, then you would not need to have the programming software of your own. They can be extremely flexible platforms if you have the right gear.

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Old 08-31-2012, 09:29 PM   #6
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I guess it would depend on what you are trying to achieve and how much time and money you want to spend reaching that goal. I had to write an application to do everything because the hardware was limited to just IO functions. If you dig into the PLC hardware information you should be able to find the communication protocols and then you can develop an application to format commands and decode responses like I have for the Opto 22 hardware. This is not an overnight build if you build in run time access to the control variables and then roll in the recipe generation and control setpoint calculation integration.

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Old 08-31-2012, 10:12 PM   #7
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Allen Bradley does have a wide range of offerings. The SLC and Micrologix work can be compact and fairly easy to use. ControlLogix is their industrial automation product right now, it's extremely powerful, many options to write the logic for it, but it is of course very pricey.

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Old 08-31-2012, 10:46 PM   #8
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Your best bet is to avoid some of the big name PLC manufacturers (Allen-Bradley, Siemens, GE, etc.) They are going to be expensive and are not intended (or priced) for the consumer market. I would look for something that is targeted more toward OEM machine builders.

I've seen some solutions that include PLC, I/O, and HMI in an all-in-one type package.

Here's one I can across in an industry magazine.
http://www.unitronics.com/Content.aspx?page=All_In_One
I haven't had a chance to look into what they offer in much detail, but I believe the software is free and the units are expandable for additional I/O (like analog, RTD, thermocouple, etc.)

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Old 09-01-2012, 12:28 AM   #9
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I appreciate all the input! To clarify, I may have a lead on some Siemens equipment (as an employee of the Corporation) that I can play with. And part of my desire is to see if this could be an avenue to a 2nd career. But it sounds like it's pretty Expensive just to play with. I don't think I'll actually build a homebrew rig with the equipment, but at the same time... it's hard to learn something w/o a task to achieve. Alot like when I was learning AutoCad. If there wasn't a defined task, ie. Draw *this*, then it wasn't fun just going thru the menus. The same was true with Excel. When I was an intern in college I had a job that required me to get pretty in depth with Excel, and I learned alot. I even looked at VB for a while to automate some Reports. I know some C++ (well I used to) and I can code Basic Style programming pretty well. I can pick up program languages pretty easy too. I've been really busy and I hope to continue down this line of conversation some more. Happy Brewing!

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Old 09-01-2012, 01:35 AM   #10
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Well maybe you have an opportunity, being that you work for a manufacturer of PLC equipment, I am thinking Siemens must offer training classes for customers and end users, maybe you can get in on some of those for free and maybe even get paid for your time in class?

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