What You Should Know About Programmable Logic Controllers

PLCs are the LOGIC in your plantWas there life before programmable logic controllers?  It doesn’t seem like it even though they are relative newcomers to industrial electronics.  Read on to find out more about PLCs whether you already use them or are looking to purchase.

These miniature industrial computers are everywhere in shops and plants of all sizes.  I think of them this way:  if your plant is the Starship Enterprise, that makes you Captain James T. Kirk, and the PLC is Mr. Spock… reliable, unemotional and always logical.

You might have a few PLCs in your shop already, or maybe you are considering selecting one, or more likely, several.  If so, here are a few things you should know about PLCs.

Advantages of the PLC

Two HUGE advantages and main reasons you are likely to use PLCs:

  • Ability to change and duplicate operations or processes while also collecting and communicating important information
  • Because PLCs are modular, you can mix and match the types of input and output devices that best suit your particular application

The Basics – What Exactly IS a PLC and Where Did They Come From?

  • Developed in the 1960s for General Motors, first called a Modular Digital Controller (MODICON)
  • PLCs are electronic, not mechanical, which eliminated the bulky and troublesome traditional relay-based machine control systems
  • PLCs are miniature industrial computer control systems that continuously monitor the state of input devices and makes “decisions” based upon the customized program you have installed to control the state of the output devices
  • The first commercially successful PLC was the 184 launched in 1973

How Does A PLC work?

This could be a very long explanation but here is the nutshell version:

  1. Input Scan – detects the state of all input devices connected to that PLC (such as pushbuttons, sensing devices, photoelectric sensors, proximity sensors, encoders, and switches (pressure, level, temperature, vacuum, and float)
  2. Program Scan – operates the users customized program logic (the most common is Ladder Logic also referred to as LL)
  3. Output Scan – Energizes (or de-energizes) all output devices that are connected to that PLC (such as valves, motor starters, solenoids, actuators, horns, stack lights, control relays, counter/totalizer, pumps, printers, fans)
  4. Housekeeping – one of the best parts about PLCs is they communicate with programming terminals and internal diagnostics, and collect important data.

How to Select the Right PLC for Your Application

There are numerous manufacturers of PLCs these days including ABB, Allen Bradley, GE Fanuc, Mitsubishi, Siemens, Yaskawa and many more.  Here are a few things to consider on your quest:

  • Is your system in just one place or spread out over a larger area?
  • Does the PLC have enough memory to run your user program?
  • Will the system be powered by AC or DC voltage?
  • What type of software will be needed to handle your application?
  • Will the PLC be able to handle the number of inputs and outputs?
  • Is network connectivity needed and can it be added to your PLC?
  • How will your staff communicate with the PLC?
  • What kind of training is available from the OEM or sales rep?
  • What kind of warranty covers the PLC and for how long?

What About PLC Repairs?

Another great advantage about PLCs is that they are relatively simple and hardy pieces of equipment.  Typically, if PLCs break down, they are suffering from power fluctuations or surges, overheating,  blown I/O cards, bad I/O channels, bad or loose cables, or (and this is so preventable) bad back up batteries.  Remember to back up your program often to prevent loss.  Do this BEFORE you change those back-up batteries.

PLCs are usually repairable.  If it is no longer under warranty by the OEM, choose a reputable industrial electronic repair shop with experience repairing PLCs.  Look for good customer service, no-fee evaluations, competitive pricing, and a good warranty that covers both parts and labor.

How to Avoid Voice Mail Jail and Automated Attendant Hell

Tired of getting voice mail? Try ACSTired of getting stuck in voice mail jail?  Frustrated that the automated attendant does not offer menu options that meet your specific situation?   Heck yes!  Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Read on to find out how.

A Very Short Story:  This morning after a severe thunderstorm I was forced to call our local utility company about a large limb hanging on the electrical wires serving my home.  I wasn’t looking forward to this call.  This company has in recent years taken a helluva lashing from customers for having terrible customer service.  The good news?  Yes, they still had the awful automated attendant BUT, this time it was so easy to get a live person who could address my particular situation.  This experience left me smiling and relieved and it only took about two minutes.

That’s how we want you to feel when you call ACS about your industrial electronic repairs.  Smiling and relieved that we have listened, we know the important details of your repair, that it will be taken care of and that you now have the name of a real person to contact if you have questions.

Call ACS Industrial Services and you will get a live person and every one of them, no matter what their job title, can either answer your questions or get you to the right person who can and will answer your questions.

One of the interesting things about industrial electronic repairs is that no two jobs or customers are exactly the same…which is why we believe in live customer service reps that will make sure your situation is handled just the way you need it.

No “one size fits all” mentality here and no endless loop of dead-end automated attendant options.

If you need power supply repairs, circuit board repairs, drive repairs, touch screen repairs or any other type of industrial electronic repairs call our toll free number 800-605-6419.

Call ACS customer service even if you only think you might need repairs – we are here to help you resolve your industrial electronic repair crises.  Rush repairs are available upon request.  And, what’s new about our customer service?  An expanded two-year parts & labor warranty on almost every repair!  Good stuff!

America’s Flag Day is Tomorrow, Read Why You Should Celebrate

Celebrate Flag Day with ACS Industrial ServicesHere in the United States, June 14th is Flag Day.  Although the first recognized Flag Day occurred in Wisconsin in 1885, Americans have been officially celebrating our flag, a symbol of freedom, since President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it Flag Day in 1916.  Flag Day celebrates the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777.

So Americans, hang the Stars and Stripes out there this Friday, June 14th  in front of your homes and businesses!  We are not perfect but we are full of determination and devotion to liberty, justice, and freedom for all.  I guarantee you my flag WILL be flying.

A Great Story About Yaskawa Repairs and How to Get Your Electronic Repairs for Less Money

Yaskawa Servo Pack RepairsWe love all of our international customers!  And we’ve got a special spot in our hearts for our Aussie friends.  We can help get your equipment back up and running, even if you are on the other side of world.  Here’s a note from the ACS Smile File AND (shhhhh!) a cost-saving magic code at the end of this story.

Our Aussie friends who design and manufacture trailer and truck spare parts were having some seriously frustrating problems with their Yaskawa Servo Packs.  The ACS tech team got right on the repairs and shipped them back to Australia in perfect working order.  This is what our customer Steve had to say after they reinstalled their repaired drives:

“Many thanks for the expert repairs on our drive units for the Seiki 25S.  Both drives worked first time without a hitch.”

Well, we’re  happy too Steve!  Many thanks to you too for letting ACS provide your Yaskawa CACR-SR 20SB1AF repair services.

New equipment is expensive!  Repairs are often the best way to go.  Did you know that industrial electronic repairs are considered “repair cost” for customs, which are taxed significantly lower than if you were  purchasing these items new from overseas?  For your convenience here is the “magic” customs  harmonized code our international customers can use for sending repairs into the U.S. that clarify that the unit is being shipped for repair, and is not a new purchase:  #9801.00.1012. Good news for our many world-wide customers!