At last! Powerful micro PLCs are easier than ever to program and deliver huge benefits

April 7, 2009
These small controllers deliver cost savings and many advantages over traditional methods of control.

Seems like everything is getting smaller-cheaper-faster these days. So why not go smaller while making your job easier along the way? Siemens line of Micro PLCs and Micro Panels can help. Here’s how.

Besides controlling the machine, these small controllers provide operator feedback on machine performance and efficiency, critical reporting for production metrics, and important alarm diagnostic information. This increase in Micro PLC capabilities is most noticeable in the areas of analog I/O, auto-tune PID, floating point math, multiple serial ports, and Ethernet and Internet connectivity. They can monitor and control multiple automation functions such as levels, speeds, temperatures, flow rates and pressure control. What’s really great news is that they have become easier to program using built-in “Wizards” that can self-generate logic for the more complex requirements (configuring PID loops, establishing Ethernet communications, data logging, motion control, recipe functions and more…). With all these advancements in PLC computing technology and improved software functionality, Micro PLCs are becoming a control-and-information-center device and should quickly shed the stigma of being a "silent black box".

Not a Programmer? Not a Problem!

In fact, it’s the intuitive programming software that provides flexibility and power that set these micro controllers apart. They can be used in a wide range of applications to control simple or complex processes that previously required higher-end controllers. Not any more! Micro PLCs have many of the features of their larger cousins and without the learning curve required to program them.  And because they are very inexpensive, it now makes more sense to use them in many applications where a PLC may have been cost prohibitive in the past. This new breed of Micro PLCs enables OEMs and System Integrators to spend less time engineering the controller program, allowing them more time to focus on machine or system designs —the core intellectual property that keeps them competitive.For those who need a quick primer, here’s how the system works. A Siemens Micro PLC simply connects to the Micro Panel to provide an HMI (Human Machine Interface) to control and monitor the equipment. The Micro Panel displays text and/or graphics and can be used in place of conventional hard-wired control components such as individual, timers, counters, meters, pilot lights, pushbuttons, etc. The PLC is the computer that is programmed to control a piece of equipment.  PLCs have I/O (inputs and outputs), some discrete, some analog as well as communication options.  They typically have expansion modules to increase I/O or add communication options to match a specific application. The PLC and the panel both require programming software to design the PLC/HMI system for that particular application. Easily create software programs and re-useThe Micro PLC and Panels are extremely easy to use, so leave your programmer in the IT office! While there is a short curve in learning to program the Micro PLC and Micro Panel, it’s straightforward and intuitive. Once programs are created they can be reused with slight modifications for future similar applications, which can significantly reduce engineering time—typically the most expensive element of a project.  Simply store the code written for one project in the unit’s library for future projects. Programs can be easily repurposed, modified, copied, forwarded, archived or deleted.Dial up from the road to make a change And, don’t worry that your lead production person is accompanying a sales rep on a customer visit. Communication options allow operators to access the PLC and monitor the machine from any part of the world via phone, cellular phone or the Internet.  Remote users can re-program the PLC’s machine operation and provide operating data back to the plant, to another employee, or to any other connected computer or laptop.Don’t forget to calculate your Total Cost of Ownership and OperationCompared to traditional hardwired control, the Siemens Micro Panel replaces the pilot devices typically found on the front of an enclosure (pushbuttons, pilot lights, switches, and meters) and the Micro PLC replaces individual components such as relays, timers, and counters found inside the enclosure.Many OEMs and their manufacturing plant End User customers still use individual control components for a variety uses. Often several individual components are manually wired together to accomplish specific tasks, and for some simple applications these individual components are well suited.  However, often more complex control schemes could be greatly simplified using a Micro PLC along with a Micro Panel in lieu of these individual components.At first glance, it may appear true that the equipment cost for a Micro PLC system is more expensive than the cost of the individual components needed.  However, don’t be fooled by the many “hidden” costs that come along with these “less expensive” alternatives. A Siemens Micro PLC and Panel deliver these benefits: 
  • Far fewer connections to wire, saving time and cost for wiring
  • Real estate savings as, typically a smaller (and less expensive) enclosure can be used
  • Increased performance provides improved production metrics
  • Easier troubleshooting saves time and reduces downtime
  • Communications allow troubleshooting from around the world. This can eliminate expensive service calls and improve uptime.
  • Data logging allows the operator to see trends and improve their process
  • Simple expansion options give you the flexibility to change or add processes
  • Networking features allow management to easily monitor plant floor operations
  • And don’t forget, you’ll have Siemens service or technical support. Our customers today sell to a global market and it is becoming increasingly beneficial for their products to be supported no matter where they ship.  Siemens global support is unmatched as we are in over 80 countries worldwide and offer worldwide support 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.   

    For more information on Micro PLCs, please click here.

    Would you like a Siemens Technical Specialist to contact you for a Free Automation Assessment and discuss cost savings for your application? Click here.

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