History of PLC Controllers

Industry has begun to recognize the need for quality improvement and increase in productivity in the sixties and seventies. Flexibility also became a major concern (ability to change a process quickly became very important in order to satisfy consumer needs).

Try to imagine automated industrial production line in the sixties and seventies. There was always a huge electrical board for system controls, and not infrequently it covered an entire wall! Within this board there was a great number of interconnected electromechanical relays to make the whole system work.

By word “connected” it was understood that electrician had to connect all relays manually using wires! An engineer would design logic for a system, and electricians would receive a schematic outline of logic that they had to implement with relays.

These relay schemas often contained hundreds of relays. The plan that electrician was given was called “ladder schematic”. Ladder displayed all switches, sensors, motors, valves, relays, etc. found in the system.

Electrician’s job was to connect them all together. One of the problems with this type of control was that it was based on mechanical relays. Mechanical instruments were usually the weakest connection in the system due to their moveable parts that could wear out.

If one relay stopped working, electrician would have to examine an entire system (system would be out until a cause of the problem was found and corrected).

The other problem with this type of control was in the system’s break period when a system had to be turned off, so connections could be made on the electrical board. If a firm decided to change the order of operations (make even a small change), it would turn out to be a major expense and a loss of production time until a system was functional again.

It’s not hard to imagine an engineer who makes a few small errors during his project. It is also conceivable that electrician has made a few mistakes in connecting the system.

Finally, you can also imagine having a few bad components. The only way to see if everything is all right is to run the system. As systems are usually not perfect with a first try, finding errors was an arduous process. You should also keep in mind that a product could not be made during these corrections and changes in connections.

System had to be literally disabled before changes were to be performed. That meant that the entire production staff in that line of production was out of work until the system was fixed up again.

Only when electrician was done finding errors and repairing, the system was ready for production. Expenditures for this kind of work were too great even for well-to-do companies.

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