Category Archives: canada

Five Steps to PLC Program Development

Programming a PLC can sometimes be a daunting task. The best method is to break the task into some smaller steps. These are the steps that I have used for years. We will apply them to a die stamping application.

1 – Define the task:

What has to happen?

A master switch is used to start the process and to shut it down. Two sensors: an upper limit switch that indicates when the piston is fully retracted and a lower limit switch that indicates when the piston is fully extended. When the master switch is turned on the piston reciprocates between the extended and retracted positions. This is achieved with an up and down solenoid. When the master switch is turned off, the piston returns to the retracted position and all solenoids are off.

2 – Define the Inputs and Outputs:

Inputs:
Master Switch – On/Off
Upper Limit Switch – On/Off
Lower Limit Switch – On/Off

Outputs:
Down Solenoid – On/Off
Up Solenoid – On/Off

3 – Develop a logical sequence of operation:

This can be done with the use of a flow chart or sequence table. You can use anything to fully understand the logic of the operation before programming. Many people do not use this step and jump straight to programming.

Fully understanding the logic before starting to program can save you time and frustration.

Sequence Table: The following is a sequence table for our die stamping application. I usually review this sequence with the person with the most knowledge of the machine. This can be the designer and / or the machine operator.

How to read the Sequence Table: Follow the steps from left to right, top to bottom. Inputs and outputs are labelled as 1 (ON), 0 (OFF) or X (Does not Matter). Step 1 indicates that it does not matter the upper and lower limit switch positions. The master switch is off, so the up and down solenoids are off. Steps 3 and 4 repeat themselves as long as the master switch is on.

Note: You will notice that at step 2, after the master switch turns on the up solenoid will be activated. So the piston always retracts when the master switch is first turned on.  This operation was picked up in development of our logical sequence.

4 – Develop the PLC program:

Look at the sequence table in respect to the following logic. I have used Set and Reset conditions so it is easily followed by the sequence table. When the master switch turns on the up solenoid is activated. Notice the first rung is a direct correlation. Follow the rest of the sequence table with this ladder logic.


Document, Document, Document This is a vital part of every program, which will save you time and money when you have to return to the program years later.

5 – Test the program:


Test the program with a simulator or actual machine. Make modifications as necessary. Check with the people most knowledgeable on the machine, to see if it is doing what they expect. Do they need something else? Follow up after a time frame to see if any problems arise that need to be addressed.

These five steps will help you in your PLC programming.

  1. Define the task
  2. Define the inputs and outputs
  3. Develop a logical sequence of operation
  4. Develop the PLC program
  5. Test the program

The five steps form the basis of all PLC development. You will notice that the actual programming does not occur until the second last step. Usually more time is spent on understanding the task and sequence of operation.

Watch on YouTube : Five Steps to PLC Program Development
If you have any questions or need further information please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

Now You Can Have Data Logging Free

A data logger is also known as a data recorder or  data acquisition. It is a method to record data over a period of time and/or events.

The recorded information can come from sensors in the field. They can be digital or analog. With analog (voltage or current) we can measure temperature, pressure, sound, weight, length, etc. Digital data can be used for counts, times, events (motor overload), etc.

Data collecting can be time or event driven. Time based would be like collecting data every minute, shift, day etc. An event based collection would be from an error in the field such as an overload of a motor or a fault with a temperature controller.

Data mining / analysis is the most important part of the data logging.

Data mining / analysis is the way in which we look at the data and determine  what to do. Clustering is a method to look at the data in similar groups for comparison. An example of this would be the amount of material made on individual shifts in the plant.  Setting up the data logging in a way to examine the output over time is very helpful in determining methods to increase productivity in the manufacturing environment.

Time studies or observations are vital in the lean manufacturing world. Data logging can be useful in assisting with these studies. However, unlike the usual manual approach, this time study can be continuous.

Doing Time Observations

Data logging does not have to be expensive. It is also not as intimidating as it may sound.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is available in a free download. Just subscribe to ACC Automation to get the link for the free download.
 
This eBook will walk you though step by step on getting information into a database so you can start analysing the data. With traditional loggers, software will read the memory of the PLC and store in a local computer. If the network stops or the PLC communication fails then the logging will stop.
Creating a robust PLC data logger allows the communication to be stopped for a period of time without losing any of the data for collection. This is accomplished by storing the data locally on the PLC until communication is restored. All of the data is then read without loss. The amount of time that the connection can be lost will be dependent on the memory size of the PLC and the frequency of the data collected.
This series will walk you through the steps to create and implement a robust PLC data logger using the following equipment and hardware.
  • Automation Direct – Do-More – H2-DM1E PLC (Ethernet Modbus TCP)
  • Do-more Designer 1.3 (Simulator instead of PLC mentioned above)
  • Windows based computer running IIS
  • Visual Basic 6

Additional information on Omron Host Link Protocol and Indirect Addressing can be found in the eBook.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is available for a free download. Just subscribe to ACC Automation on the left side menu of the website to get the link for the free download.

Watch on YouTube : Now You Can Have Robust Data Logging For Free
If you have any questions or need further information please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

How you can learn PLC Programming without spending a dime!

I have been writing PLC programs for over 20 years. I often get asked what is the best way to lean PLC programming. Programming in the way I was taught in college was with the Motorola 6809. (Yes, I know that I am dating myself) This was microprocessor programming, but it was the best way to sometimes explain the methods behind PLC programming. Manufacturers of PLCs had allot of proprietary software that were not even related in their appearance and methods of programming. Today we have a few standards that have changed the look and feel of the programming software packages so each manufacturer is similar. The following is the best recommendation that I have for beginners to start to learn PLC programming today.

The first place to start in order to learn PLC programming is the free publication by Kevin Collins. This PDF will teach you PLC programming without just telling you what a PLC is and how it functions. He also includes some test questions along the way in order for you to retain and understand the important points that he is making.

PLC Programming for Industrial Automation
by Kevin Collins
(Note: This book is now for sale on Amazon.)
https://www.amazon.com/Programming-Industrial-Automation-Kevin-Collins/dp/1846855985
Topics covered include:

  • PLC Basics
  • Ladder Programming
  • Conditional Logic
  • Ladder Diagrams
  • Normally closed contacts
  • Outputs and latches
  • Internal relays
  • Timers
  • The Pulse Generator
  • Counters
  • Sequential Programming Introduction
  • Evolution of the Sequential Function Chart
  • Programming using the Sequential Function Chart
  • Entering the SFC program into the PLC
  • Modifying an SFC Program
  • Selective Branching
  • Parallel Branching

After learning the basics from the above manual, practice. Create programs yourself and test what you have learned. You can accomplish this by using simulators. Allot of the programming software will have simulators. The simulator will mimic the PLC hardware so you can test your programs before installing in the field. Traditionally I have not been a fan of simulators, but recently Automation Direct has introduced a simulator with their Do-More PLC. It is the Do-More Designer Software. This software simulator includes the entire instruction set (Not Just Bit Logic) as well as communication protocols. It can be downloaded and installed for free from the above link.

The next step I recommend is then to advance into some of the advanced instructions. An understanding of the numbering systems in the PLC will be a benefit. Math, PID, register manipulation and conversion instructions are just a few of the advanced programming you can learn. All of these and more instruction information can be obtained from reviewing the documentation from the PLC manual that you are programming. Once again all of these instructions are included in the Do-More Designer Software.

Program structure is the next topic. Allot of programmers would stop here and can do well with developing software, however there is much more that you can lean.  Sequencers give programmers the methods to change logic on the fly and allow troubleshooting the system easier. This method of programming can benefit you greatly and reduce the development time of your logic.

The last step that I recommend learning is the sharing of information. I am meaning the information that you program through an HMI and/or SCADA package. This refers to understanding of the ways in which information can be gathered from the PLC and displayed in different ways. Here are a couple of previous articles that have been written on this subject:

How to Implement the Omron PLC Host Link Protocol 

Robust PLC Data Logger

As you can see, there is allot of information available to you to begin and lean PLC programming without spending a dime!  Remember that PLCs are similar to computers, (Moore’s Law) they increase in size and ability. Systems are expanding and changing everyday. Happy programming.

Do you know of additional tips or methods to share?

Watch on YouTube : How you can learn PLC Programming without spending a dime!

If you have any questions or need further information please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

Here is a Method That is Helping PLC Programmers to Program Faster

PLC programming involves both direct and indirect addressing. Direct address programming involves writing each ladder logic rung to do the operation required. We often forget about using the powerful indirect addressing to solve our logic.

The below animated picture will show a simple example of using indirect addressing. This will use the MOVE instruction and transfer a word indirectly to output word V100. V[V0] means that the value in V0 will point to the V memory to get the value to move. You can think of this as a pointer for the memory location to move.

Of course we need to monitor V0. Our values are in sequence from V1 to V6. We need to ensure that V0 is always in the range from 1 to 6.

Lets take a look at a program sample using the Do-more Designer Software. We will set up the sequence similar to the animation above, but expand the program.
Just like above we will set up the pointer at V0 and the output at V100 memory locations. V1 to V37 will hold our output data sequence. This is outputs that we want to set on each event and/or time frame. You can see some of the registers and the corresponding values. These are set as a hexadecimal value. The following link will provide a review of the numbering systems in the PLC. (WHAT EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT PLC (PROGRAMMABLE LOGIC CONTROLLER) NUMBERING SYSTEMS)

This is the logic to set up the move instruction. The source is V[V0] which means the pointer is V0 in this memory area. The destination will be V100.

An internal timing bit ST5($100ms) is used to increment the pointer V0. This could also be done by an event or series of events. The pointer is then compared to ensure that it is between 1 and 37.

Finally the output word is then transferred to the physical outputs. This is done by using the MAPIO instruction. Each bit can be set independently.

p

This example uses indirect addressing to program a sequence based upon time. We could just as easily used indirect addressing to compare inputs to a table and set the outputs accordingly. You can see how this method can greatly reduce the amount of time to develop your program. This holds especially true if the sequence needs to be changed. It would be just a matter of changing data values in the table.

The following are separate posts that use indirect addressing:

Building a PLC Program You Can Be Proud Of – Part 1
This use the control of an intersection traffic light to demonstrate direct versus indirect addressing.

Building a PLC Program That You Can Be Proud Of – Part 2
A sample program to control valves. This uses indirect addressing for the inputs as well as the outputs.

Now You Can Have Robust Data Logging for Free – Part 1
Using indirect addressing, this sample program will log information in the PLC to be retrieved at a later time.

Indirect addressing is a powerful method of programming to simplify and program faster than you ever thought possible. You can even use indirect addressing in the PLC to scale a non-linear analog input signal. Let me know you thoughts on using indirect addressing. What can you come up with?

Watch on YouTube : Here is a Method That is Helping PLC Programmers to Program Faster

If you have any questions or need further information please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

Looking For Production Improvements – Then Do A Gemba Walk!

I recently went for a Gemba Walk with Ann Machan,  General Manager of Pentair. Instead of doing normal daily production meetings, their walk does everything you can do in a boardroom, plus so much more.

What is a Gemba Walk?
http://www.gembawalk.com/the-gemba-walk/

We met in her office and were explained the KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for the operation of the plant.  Each of these KPI’s are posted at each department where the work happens and are on a large white board.

The walk each morning starts at the shipping office with the rest of the staff. The operator in shipping  discusses how their department has done in the last 24 hours in relation to the KPI. Questions are raised about the next 24 hours and possible issues. Before we leave this department Ann asks a few personal questions to the shipper. He answers and they start to laugh. It is obvious that they have a good relationship in which information can flow freely.

Splitting up the group into three different teams to cover the entire plant, the walk continues. We went to three additional departments where again we were shown the KPIs and how they related to the department. Notes were taken and questions asked about possible issues and current problems. Information was exchanged from the previous days problem with the solution for one that was to be implemented that afternoon.

We assembled back all together in a central location in the plant. A large board with people’s names (Responsible for Department) was listed on the left side and twenty one numbers were written on the top representing three weeks. The current week that they were on, followed by the next two weeks. This grid pattern was where they then discussed the walk and the issues raised. To the right of the board a chart was placed. This chart contained the total number of problems/issues solved for each department and total company. A graph was also displayed showing the growing trend. Underneath this chart were the KPI charts that all showed either sustained or improved performance.

We started with the previous days issues under yesterdays date. A status update was given and the posted note was moved to either the completion clip at the side or put under a future date. When this was complete, a representative of each of the three groups when through their list of issues. These were then assigned and placed on the board. Problems that required additional investigation were discussed briefly and then the 5 why process was assigned to the person who had the greatest knowledge.

This whole process took about one hour. The Gemba walk accomplished the following:

  • Everyone’s understanding on the current company situation based upon the KPIs
  • Everyone knowing exactly what is expected
  • Everyone taking pride and knowing they are doing a good job
  • Everyone knowing someone is there to help

I found the whole experience of the Gemba walk fascinating. It is the only way that I see that you can have clear lines of communication to all staff. The way in which to grow as a company is to learn from our workers and in turn we will teach them.  It was an opportunity to:

  • See the work being done
  • Experiment with ideas
  • Learn from all parties involved
  • Explain why things are this / that way
  • Watch what is being done

Take your own Gemba walk on your production floor. Let me know how it turns out.

If you have any questions or need further information please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

Lubrication basics

I recently went to a seminar on lubrication basics. This was presented by Mike Deckert of Flo Components Ltd.

So why talk about lubrication on a industrial automation website? Lubrication is vital in maintaining uptime on equipment. It is often thought of near the end of most automation projects, but it should be a principle component of all projects. If a piece of equipment moves, it will probably need lubrication. We often talk about MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) on equipment. MTBF will be very low if lubrication is neglected.

In a study conducted by a major component manufacturer, over 50% of failures are the result of improper lubrication.  (Pins and Bushing)

  • Lubrication Related Failures: 54%
    • Inadequate Lubrication – 34.4%
    • Contamination – 19.6%
  • Installation Errors – 17.7%
  • Overload – 6.9%
  • Storage and Handling Errors – 2.8%
  • Other 18.6 %

Bearings fail in a plant for many reasons. Manual lubrication is still the dominant method of lubrication for grease bearings. 95% of all bearings are manually lubed. With plant production increasing the scheduled service time between has lengthened. Maintenance staff have generally been reduced resulting in fewer people carrying out the lubrication requirements.

Lubrication has the following functions:

  • Reduce Friction
  • Reduce Wear
  • Helps Dampen Shock or Absorb Shock
  • Reduce Temperature
  • Minimize Corrosion
  • Seal out Contaminants

Lubrication interval depends on the following:

  • Metal to metal contact area of bearing
  • Environment (Application)
  • Machine Speed
  • Operating Temperature
  • Type of Grease

Not all grease is the same. Grease is a solid or semi-solid formed when a thickening agent is dispersed in the oil base. Additives give grease their final special properties. The National Lubrication Grading Index  (NLGI) will grade the grease from 000 to 6, but this is not the whole story. Always look at the manufactures specification. Base oil viscosity can be completely different but still have the same NLGI.

Why are automatic lubrication systems better?

  • Grease evenly distributed
    • The best time to grease is when the object is in motion. This spreads the grease evenly.
  • Will not over lubricate
    • Grease is delivered by measured injection. This prevents seals from blowing out.
  • Correct amount of grease is applied
    • This will ensure the maximum life of the equipment.
  • Environmentally safe

Lubrication is a vital component to automation. MTBF can be increase if we plan on ensuring that our moving parts are well maintained.

Flo Components Ltd. is an excellent company to help you understand and maintain your systems. They have a library full of information on their website.

www.flocomponents.com/Library.htm

I encourage you to check this out and make lubrication part of your automation projects. If you have any questions, or need further information please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

… and I also do PLC programming.

Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) programming is often thought as something everyone can do easily. We often design the system, install the hardware and then start to think about the PLC program and programmers. This approach can be improved. The landscape of PLC programming is changing and we must also change.

Computer Programming / PLC Programming
I believe that with all of the new functions of the PLC processor, you would be better served by someone that can do additional computer programming. Ladder logic has been taught in our schools for about 20 years or more. The basic bit programming in ladder is easily understood. Connecting to the manufacturers dedicated software  shows the power flow from left to right and shows the logic solved from top to bottom.

Some applications are fine if you are just replacing a few relays, however today’s manufacturing floor must be integrated. The existing hardware in the plant must also be connected to the PLC system. This will allow connection of data logging, email, vision system, motion control, HMI, computer servers, etc.

Ladder logic and the standardization of PLC’s on the plant floor has long been a topic for discussion and debate. The benefits were that anyone can look and understand the PLC logic to troubleshoot the system. Today the PLC can do allot more. Visually it can indicate /display its own troubleshooting and diagnostics to the engineer, electrician and/or operator in a variety of ways. You no longer need the skills on the plant floor all of the time. Using HMI (Human Machine Interface), computer screens, indication lights and email, just to name a few, information can be passed for troubleshooting and diagnostics. The investment in the program and integration of the system in your plant will pay for itself time and time again.

I believe that PLC programmers need more than just this programming language. They must have network and high level language skills to be capable of integrating the entire plant floor.

Let me know what you think? Are we teaching the new generation the right way?
Garry



If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.

Is Manufacturing Dead In Canada? Not so!

Everywhere you look there are signs of doom for Canadian Manufacturing. Unemployment rate, companies moving or going out of business seems to be a common theme. However we have is an increase in manufacturing output.

How is manufacturing jobs disappearing and output increasing?


Investment in the business

Take a look around. Businesses that are investing in themselves will have the staying power. Those that do not are going to be left behind, wither and die.
How is your company doing?

People
We often hear that people are the greatest asset for the business. What is the game plan? When asked to see or inquire about how they are advancing there employees; you get blank faces. A constant learning environment must be established.
The learning environment includes:

  • How individuals interact with and treat one another.
  • How information is conveyed
    • Internet
    • Intranet
    • Meetings
    • Teams
    • Postings
  • Knowledge of individual contributions
    • Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Recognize how individuals learn (Example: Millennials do not get information from an authority figure.)
    • Customize leaning for individuals

Process
Look at your process from a new born perspective. Inquire and explore why things have to happen in a certain way. Break every step down.
Kipling wrote:
I keep six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.
Query your people with questions and listen.

  • If they had more time, what would they work on?
  • What is there biggest challenge?
  • What is bugging them?
  • Are you happy?

Machine
Keep up on the latest machine innovations for your industry as well as others. Know the limitations of each machine. Table new concepts to your learning environment.
If you are to fix the machine then ask

  • Is this the first time this has happened? Will it happen again?
  • How long did it take to troubleshoot the problem?
  • Is there something we can improve upon?
  • How can this knowledge be shared with operators, maintenance, management?

Automation
There is a reason that this is last on the list. Automation can stand by itself, but it really requires an understanding of each of the items mentioned above before it is successful.
You must understand your people, process and machine before automation can prove to be an asset.

Automation, people, process and machine innovation can happen. It is up to you.

If you have any questions or need further information, please contact me.
Thank you,
Garry

Reference:
Statistics Canada for Manufacturing
http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a33?lang=eng&spMode=mainTables&themeID=4005&RT=TABLE




If you’re like most of my readers, you’re committed to learning about technology. Numbering systems used in PLC’s are not difficult to learn and understand. We will walk through the numbering systems used in PLCs. This includes Bits, Decimal, Hexadecimal, ASCII and Floating Point.

To get this free article, subscribe to my free email newsletter.


Use the information to inform other people how numbering systems work. Sign up now.

The ‘Robust Data Logging for Free’ eBook is also available as a free download. The link is included when you subscribe to ACC Automation.