Different PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) Applications

Part A – Narrative and Bridge

Narrative 

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Technological development has brought about a lot of changes in the world today. Doing work that was initially difficult is now easy with the help of computers and computer programs. Today, one person with the help of computers and sophisticated machines now does jobs that could be done by many people. Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is part of the recent technological innovations that are used today in the manufacturing, transport, and planning among other industries.  My interest in technology and more so in computer programming is the motive behind my interest in researching the applications of PLC. PLCs have developed to become an integral part of the industrial environment and has brought about increased productivity by reducing delay times caused by long times of troubleshooting problems. In addition, PLC has made production efficient, effective and accurate.

My visit to several manufacturing companies and have a look at their production processes have inspired me to know and learn more about PLC. The way products move from one point to another in the production line and every process at each given point made me baffled about how technology can do things more accurately and precisely than human beings. For instance, my visit to the Coca-Cola company and observing all the processes involved in the processing and packaging of beverages made me get more interested in studying how PLC work. The way bottles reach their destinations on time, the correct amount of beverage is filled in them, and how they are bottled systematically made me not only to be interested in PLC but to also understand its basic functionalities and capabilities. As a consequence, this paper provides me with a head start towards my quest to know how PLC works and its capabilities by having an understanding of its applications.

The Bridge 

PLC is a digital commuter system that is used to automate electromechanical processes such as control of machinery in companies, lighting fixtures, amusement rides, and assembly lines. PLCs are used in machines and industries and are designed for multiple inputs and outputs arrangement, immunity to electrical noise, extended temperature ranges, and resistance to impact and vibration (Bao et al., 2017). In addition, programs that control machines and operations are stored in non-volatile memories that are battery-backed. Moreover, PLCs is an example of a real-time system because inputs cause immediate output response with which an intended operation takes place (Govil, Agrawal, & Tippenhauer, 2017). PLCs have many advantages, which include ease of troubleshooting, flexibility, low cost, testing, space efficiency, and visual operations. Due to their design capabilities, PLCs are used in different fields for different applications (Korkmaz et al., 2017). The required objects of a process can be achieved if PLC is appropriately designed to take into considerations the safety considerations and effective operations of the processes involved (Nikolakopoulos & Manesis, 2018). Before getting into the applications of PLC, it is first important to know its parts, principles of operation, and their specific roles in PLC. PLCs are used to automate processes in the glass industry, paper industry, and in hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) simulator.

Part B – Research Process and Findings

Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is made of four different parts namely: the central processing unit (CPU), the busses, the memory, and the input/output unit. The internal structure of the CPU is determined by the type of processor used. The CPU is made of three parts (An arithmetic and logic unit (ALU), memory, and the control unit) (Reddy, 2015). ALU manipulates data and carries out arithmetic operations of subtraction, addition, and logic operations like OR, AND, NOT, and EXCLUSIVE-OR. On the other hand, memory is made of registers that are located in the microprocessors and are used to store information required in the execution of programs (Nikolakopoulos & Manesis, 2018). The last part of the CPU is the control unit, which is used in the timing and control of operations. The second part of the PLC is the buses. Buses are the communication paths within PLC and transmit information in binary form. Besides, the memory part of the PLC is used to store data that can be accessed during processing (Alcatraz, 2019). The fourth component of PLCs is the input/output unit. The unit provides the interface between the outside world and the system and permits connections between inputs like sensors and output channels like solenoids and motors. 

Other than the internal components of the PLC, their design is critical in its applications. May industries use PLC to monitor and control operations and production processes (Bao et al., 2017). PLCs are designed to perform single tasks except where superior reliability and performance and real times limitations are required. For PLCs to meet the demand of the rigorous industrial environments, they are designed to be extremely robust to withstand extreme humidity, vibration, temperatures, and electrical noise (Reddy, 2015). They are responsible for controlling and monitoring a large number of actuators and sensors. 

In the glass industry, PLCs have been used for decades to control the ratio of materials and processing of flat glasses. The continuous technological development has caused a rise in demand for PLC control mode in the glass industry (Reddy, 2015). Glass production is an elaborate and sophisticated process and companies involved use bus technology and PLCs in their control mode. In general, the glass industry uses PLCs in analog data recording in glass production and digital control of position and quality (Korkmaz et al., 2017). As a consequence, accuracy and precision are achieved in the production of glass that minimizes waste and hence the cost of production. 

Besides application in the glass industry, PLCs are used in the paper industry to control various processes. First, PLCs are used to control the machine that produces paper products at high speeds. In addition, in offset web printing, PLCs are used to monitor how book pages are produced. Production of page numbers requires accuracy and precision, which cannot be achieved when monitoring is done manually (Reddy, 2015). Given the high speeds of the machines, PLCs, when programmed appropriately, can help achieve accurate results. 

In the cement industry, PLCs are used in the mixing of various raw materials in the kiln. The quality of the final product is determined by the quality and proportions of the raw materials mixed to produce the final product. The essence of achieving the desired quality of the final product is the right quantity and quality of raw materials and the accuracy of data regarding the processes (Bao et al., 2017).  The production and management processes in the cement industry used a distributed system that is made of configuration software and PLCs. In this case. PLCs are used to control shaft kiln, coal kiln, and ball milling (Govil, Agrawal, & Tippenhauer, 2017). The use of PLC is, therefore, important in achieving the desired quality of cement by ensuring that the designated processes and set conditions are met. 

In the agriculture industry, PLCs are also used in the spraying robot for toxic chemical substances. The spraying robot is a solution to save human beings from health hazards associated with toxic chemicals in agriculture (Nikolakopoulos & Manesis, 2018). The spraying robot has four wheels that help it withstand rugged terrain in farmland. Apart from the rear wheel that drives the robot, the steering system, and the pumping system that consists of the tank, nozzle, and arm that are used in spraying, the robot has the control system, which consists of PLC (Korkmaz et al., 2017). The PLC takes the program, which the user orders the robot to carry out a designated task. When the button is switched on, the motor starts to drive the robot and it starts to move in a straight line and a forward direction for three seconds and stops then starts spraying for five seconds, then goes back to its position at an angle of 45 degrees (Alcatraz, 2019). With the help of PLC, human beings are free from hazardous chemicals while the firm receives the proportionate amount of chemicals.

Lastly, PLCs are used in skyscraper’s glass washing robots, which are used to wash external glass windows of a building. The movement of the robot from the rooftop of a building begins and is controlled by a PLC unit type GE-Fanuc that has 9 inputs/outputs (Nikolakopoulos & Manesis, 2018). When the PLC switch is turned on, the robot movement starts and the vertical car starts to move from the top of the building. In addition, the motors that control the vertical car movement, water pump, brushes, and drier start working (Alcatraz, 2019). The cycle of cleaning takes 38 seconds whereby 28 seconds are for downward movement, five seconds are for upward movement, and another five seconds for horizontal movement. The cycle repeats until all the windows in a building are finished (Korkmaz et al., 2017). The application of PLC in skyscraper’s glass washing robots is important because it eliminates the need to use human beings to clean windows of a tall building, which can pose risks of falling leading to injuries and deaths in worst scenarios. 

Part C- The Conclusion

 PLC system is vital in the industrial sector and technology today. PLC makes systems and machinery to work automatically. Its basic features are input, process, and output where the input operation should go along with the suitable operation or process to produce the output that is intended or desired (Reddy, 2015). PLC system is complex because of the programming aspects involved and the need to automate all types of machinery. The success and growth achieved in industries, entertainment, and manufacturing processes are attributed to the PLC system, which oversees the accurate and precise mixing of raw materials and control of machines. Without the PLC system, it would be difficult to achieve the quality of products produced today. Besides, the volume of production would be lower because of increased downtime. Besides, human beings would be exposed to more risks that pose health hazards like exposure to chemicals and cleaning of glasses in buildings. The use of PLC has not only increased production and improved quality of products, but it has also saved human beings from health hazards.

References

Bao, W., Chen, W., Fei, J., Gong, W., Han, S., Jin, W., Lv, Y., … Target Recognition 2. (November 15, 2017). Application of industrial robots in automatic disassembly line of waste LCD displays. 10605.

Govil, N., Agrawal, A., & Tippenhauer, N. O. (January 01, 2018). On Ladder Logic Bombs in Industrial Control Systems.

In Alcatraz, C. (2019). Security and privacy trends in the industrial internet of things.

Korkmaz, E., Davis, M., Dolgikh, A., & Skormin, V. (January 01, 2017). Detection and Mitigation of Time Delay Injection Attacks on Industrial Control Systems with PLCs.

Nikolakopoulos, G., & Manesis, S. (2018). Introduction to industrial automation.

Rauter, T., Iber, J., & Kreiner, C. (January 01, 2018). Integrating Integrity Reporting Into Industrial Control Systems.Reddy, Y. J. (2015). Industrial process automation systems: Design and implementation.

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