Programmable Controls Encompass a Wide Range of Functions and Components

Programming Still Split for Control: Languages Vary, but PLCs Aren't the Only Intelligent Components in the Machine Automation Mix

In a recent survey (, a third of participants who use PLCs for control reported their programming languages comply with the IEC 61131-3 standard; another third said some of their languages comply with IEC 61131-3; and the rest said none did because because they use their PLC vendor's version.

"Manufacturers often add enhancements to the basic IEC 61131-3 capabilities within one or more of the languages," explains Chris Radley, senior product line manager, Kollmorgen ( "Since these enhancements are outside the standard, they will not be transferable to other manufacturers' implementations of IEC 61131-3. The enhancements are typically additions, not changes, to the language's basic capability so if the user does not use the enhancements and stays within the basic structure and commands of a given language, it will be transferable."

Portability of the logic is at the foundation IEC 61131's benefits, says Ed Sandlin, product management, OEM solutions, Schneider Electric ( "The best portability occurs in the text-based languages," he explains. "Feature-rich structured text provides superior programming capability, management of resources and most importantly, the greatest ease of portability. Ladder logic by contrast has the highest utilization, not because of its efficiency, but because of its familiarity."

The different IEC 61131 programming languages allow the user to mix and match in one program and to select the best-suited language for a given programming task, explains Bjoern Falke, product marketing lead specialist, Phoenix Contact Automation Systems ( "While some tasks may be fastest to program in ladder logic, more complex instructions are handled much more easily in structured text or function block language," he says.

"With  IEC 61131-3 languages, programs are developed and executed with predictable behavior, and the code is reusable," says Kevin Hull, senior applications engineer, Yaskawa Electric America ( "Libraries enable importation of previously developed logic."

The use of these languages produces harmonized program developments and techniques and reduces installation and troubleshooting time and the need for specialized training, says Peter Damesimo, manager, business development, c3controls (

Using common programming languages allows programmers to be more efficient, says Eric Hollister, product sales engineer, Pilz ( "It allows for a lower learning curve, resulting in less training for engineers and making it easier to move from one vendor to the next with less downtime," he says. "Also, if common platforms are used, diagnostics become easier."

The standard facilitates customer choice, says Michael Foley, product manager, Eaton ( "That said, it does not make switching manufacturers entirely pain-free in terms of the overall investment, but it considerably lowers the barriers," he explains.

"Most recent graduates prefer function block over ladder diagram so having a software that provides seamless conversion between these helps future-proof machines that are designed to last more than 20 years," says Richard Jackson, Pan-American software product marketing manager, Omron Electronics (

 "The original idea behind IEC 61131-3 compliant languages was portability of programming allowing sections of code developed for one manufacturer's controller to be used on one from another manufacturer; it works that way in most cases for structured text, but proprietary instructions from each manufacturer prevent ladder and function block programming languages from being portable."

 Bus Controller BUS CONTROLLER
X67 CAN bus controller meets the CANopen specifications DS 301 and DS 401. Automatic baud rate detection, PDO linking, life/node guarding and emergency objects are supported. Integrated X2X Link connection makes it possible to connect additional modules. AutoMapping is used to automatically detect these modules, whose data is then placed in the I/O map. Sixteen digital channels can be configured to operate as digital inputs or outputs.
B&R Industrial Automation
 Controller COMPACTRIO
cRIO-9023 controller has a 533 MHz PowerPC processor, and the cRIO-9025 controller has an 800 MHz PowerPC processor, as well as dual Ethernet ports for network programming, communication and expansion I/O. Both controllers work with the existing CompactRIO reconfigurable chassis, which include field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that are programmed using LabView 2009 graphical system design platform. In addition to an extended operating temperature, the new CompactRIO controllers are available with conformal coating.
National Instruments
 I/O Processor SNAP PAC
Snap-PAC-R1-W is a rack-mounted I/O processor and controller that offers IEEE 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi wireless networking, along with standard Ethernet networking.
Opto 22
 processor 1.6 GHZ OR POWER
CX5000 PAC uses Intel Atom technology to deliver up to 1.6 GHz processing power in a magnesium housing. DIN rail-mountable, it has a fanless design with a maximum power loss of 12.5 W. CX5010 is equipped with a 1.1 GHz Intel Atom processor, while CX5020 features a 1.6 GHz processor.
Beckhoff Automation
 programmable gateway PROGRAMMABLE GATEWAY
BL67 programmable gateway performs local or distributed control functions and manages local I/O, while also acting as the master on the DeviceNet or CANopen network and making the data available to the Ethernet network. These gateways are designed to give users invested in a DeviceNet infrastructure the ability to migrate to Ethernet.
NE0A-SCPU01 safety network controller provides 12 safety inputs, two test outputs and six safety outputs. It can be used as a stand-alone controller, a safety slave or a DeviceNet standard slave and has preconfigured and TUV-certified program templates for the user to select based on an application's safety requirements, save as templates and reuse on multiple NE0A units.
Omron STI
 controller VERSION 10
MLC motion logic controller with Version 10 firmware is based on a 1 GHz PAC platform that provides motion logic and robotics capabilities. The platform supports an all-Ethernet communication interface for connecting controls, drives, I/Os, safety, HMI, Web and machine-to-machine synchronization. It allows for control of up to 16 robotic kinematics concurrently and up to 64 axes of motion and logic on a single controller. Version 10 firmware also provides Flex Profile camming capabilities.
Bosch Rexroth
630/654-0170, x. 115
 controller SYNQNET
eZMP SynqNet stand-alone controller supports 64 axes of motion and 17,000 points of I/O and has Ethernet, USB, video and PCI connectivity. It is a SynqNet motion network master for SynqNet amplifiers and I/O devices and can be programmed using Visual Basic, C/C++/C# or other third-party software packages. It uses Windows XPe  and supports other RTOSes. Connectivity is built-in with Ethernet TCP/IP, USB 2.0, Device USB, VGA and serial port interfaces.
 programmable relays SMART RELAYS
Series 900 smart programmable relays include 16 timers, 16 retentive selectable four-digit up/down counters, 16 time switches, 16 compare counters, 16 soft text messages, 32 auxiliary relays and 12 analog comparators. These devices offer the ability to add up to three expansion modules, expanding I/O to 32 digital inputs, 16 relay outputs. The backlit LCD screen allows displaying and modification of pre-selected parameters of function blocks, viewing I/O status and programming on the device. Rated IP20 with UL and CE markings.
Modicon M238 PLC uses SoMachine software, which embeds intelligence in four primary hardware platforms. It also adds an embedded high-speed counter (HSC) for counting pulses and update outputs, regardless of the scan time of the application; one CANopen master to manage 16 devices that is open to third-party devices; up to eight HSCs (100 KHz) and up to seven expansion modules (up to 248 digital I/Os, up to 56 analog I/Os).
Schneider Electric
ILC 170 ETH 2TX controller features two Ethernet ports, which come with a built-in Ethernet switch to daisy-chain multiple controllers. Optional SD card memory provides program transfer between the controllers. It has an onboard data and program memory (512 KB) and retentive memory (48 KB), eight digital inputs and four digital outputs (500 mA) integrated onboard. The controllers are programmed with PC WorX Express.
Phoenix Contact
 controller OPEN STANDARDS
MP2310iec machine controller offers three models that allow up to three local modules of digital or analog I/O to be controlled, includes open standards EtherNet/IP and Modbus/TCP and can operate local Sigma-5 outputs. Mechatrolink motion network provides a channel for configuring the machine from a single location with one software tool even when complex motion such as camming or gearing functions are required. Third-party remote I/O modules can be interfaced via Mechatrolink, EtherNet/IP or Modbus/TCP.
PAXLT temperature meter is programmable for 14 different thermocouple and RTD inputs for temperature monitoring and control. Programmable capture times prevent false maximum and minimum readings. Output modes and setup options are fully programmable. The meter is manufactured with NEMA 4X/IP65 sealed bezel and complies with CE requirements.
Red Lion Controls
Speedway 767 I/O System combines a PLC, modularity of distributed I/O and IP67-grade protection in a machine-mountable control. It has a -25 to 60 °C operating range, and all modules and controllers are fully encapsulated. It accommodates up to 64 I/O modules/station, eight channels/module, 512 channels/station and 50 m between digital, analog or specialty modules. It supports EtherNet/IP, Modbus/TCP, ProfiNet, Profibus, DeviceNet and CANopen protocols, and is fully programmable via CoDeSys 3.0 and configurable via FDT/DTM technology.
Productivity3000 programmable automation controller is a modular, rack-based system of up to 116,000 I/O points with local, expansion and remote I/O bases and a full lineup of discrete, analog and specialty I/O modules. The controller has 50 Mb memory and seven communication ports, features a four-line x 10-character LCD, and seven onboard communications ports support USB, Ethernet and serial devices. USB plug-and-play connection is available for programming and online monitoring.
L43S and L45S Compact GuardLogix programmable automation controllers (PACs) use the same configuration, networking and visualization environment as larger-scale systems and can control eight axes of integrated motion over SERCOS. The controllers also support the use of CompactBlock Guard I/O and PointGuard I/O on EtherNet/IP. Featuring a 1oo2 safety architecture, the controllers are rated to Safety Integrity Level 3 (SIL 3) and Performance Level e (PL e).
Rockwell Automation
VS1SP and VS1GV drives have a PLC mode that allows up to 30 rungs of simple ladder logic to be embedded in the drive itself. Each rung consists of two input conditions that can be logically combined (AND, OR, XOR, NOR, NAND) to create an output condition. The input conditions can be the digital inputs of the drive or one of many status bits in the drive itself. The outputs may be digital outputs or drive commands.
APAX-5000 has two standalone CPU modules working together; one provides high computing power for HMI/SCADA, recipe, database and communication tasks, while the other is dedicated for SoftLogic I/O tasks. The controllers also support backup functions. The same I/O processing program can be stored on two controllers, one will execute the I/O processing and if that controller fails, the second controller will automatically take responsibility for I/O processing within 1.5 s. The modules are designed to be hot swapped.
QCI-D2-MG-C and QCI-D2-IG-J controllers support CANopen. These controllers provide 3.5 A continuous and 4.5 A peak output at 12-48 V. CiA 402 refers to CAN in Automation (CiA) CANopen Drives and Motion Control Profile 402, which defines such functions as startup and homing techniques, as well as motion profiles.
QuickSilver Controls
FP0R PLCs provides 16 or 32k steps program capacity and 32k words data register, equipped with built-in general purpose memory for backing up of all the development source code with notes, comments and variables. Processing speed is up to 0.08 μsec per step (when executing programs up to 3K steps). It comes standard with 10, 14, 16, or 32 I/O models and is expandable with the standard FP0 expansion units (up to 128 digital I/O points).
Panasonic Electric Works
908-464-3550, x2026
 controller PACMOTION
PACMotion is a motion controller for the PACSystems RX3i controlling up to 40 axes in a single rack over a high-speed backplane with a hybrid distributed control architecture. PACcore architecture is designed to add more axes to complex machines without slowing down the update rate. Motion computations are performed in the PACMotion Module and communicated via a virtual dual port interface with PACSync Technology. Motion path planning is updated at 1 ms, and position loop update occurs every 500 μs.
GE Intelligent Platforms
 processor OPEN OS CPU
E-RT3 2.0 series features high-speed RISC processor, a choice of operating systems including VxWorks 6 or Linux, and compatibility with existing FA-M3 I/O platforms and CPUs. The device is designed to run proprietary algorithms or other specialized applications while allowing the standard logic CPUs to coordinate discrete machine control.
Yokogawa of America
 controller IN THE ZONE
EZ-Zone RM can be used as a PID temperature/process controller, an over/under limit controller or these functions can be combined into an integrated controller. Other control functions can be integrated, such as high amperage power controller output. It can be configured with between one and 16 modules controlling from one to 64 loops, is single-loop scalable and offers current monitoring for the entire system, onboard data logging, sensor backup capability and Tru-Tune+ adaptive control.
mxCONTROL 8620 incorporates multi-parameter panel-mounted transmitters into single platform multi-parameter controllers. It is capable of processing up to four analog and four digital inputs, five relay and four transistor outputs as well as four optional analog outputs—a total of 23 I/O—simultaneously. All standard modules can be loaded by SD card or from a standard PC via the USB interface.
Bürkert Fluid Control Systems
 controller FIVE LEVELS
CJ2M programmable controllers have five levels of program capacity, from 5K to 60K steps. All models come with a standard USB port, and some have a combination of built-in EtherNet/IP and plug-in serial communication options. All CJ1 power supplies, input/output, control and communications modules are compatible with CJ2M. Programming is identical for CP1 micro, CJ1/CJ2 compact and CS1 rack style platforms, so migration among CPU platforms can be done.
Omron Electronics
Eaton's Logic Controller (ELC) features PLC logic and a set of input/output and communications capabilities.  The design is geared for small machine control stations, as well as MCCs and other enclosed applications where space is critical.
HEC-4000-E-R controller is based on patented PLC on a Chip technology. The standard enclosure is submersible to 3 ft and is screw and sub-plate mountable. It is programmed using EZ Ladder software which supports ladder diagram with function block programming. The I/O includes four 8-32 Vdc inputs (two are 40 kHz high-speed counters); six digital outputs rated to 4 A with automatic over-current safety and programmable status monitoring.
Smart SoftPLC combines I/O control and logic, communications, firewall/VPN, and an embedded Web server in a small package. It runs a ladder logic instruction set, with virtually unlimited user memory for logic and data. Additional functions include LogData and SendEmail. User written functions in C/Java language are supported. A four-port Ethernet switch/route with power over Ethernet (PoE) and fiber connection options, five serial ports and a phone modem port for remote applications.
SoftPLC; 512/264-8390
PNOZmulti Mini, PNOZmm0p, bridges the gap between the PNOZsigma relay and the PNOZmulti programmable relay. The Mini is a software configured safety controller configured using a graphic-based software package. It has 20 inputs, 10 if the device being monitored requires dual-channel wiring and four semiconductor outputs, two if dual-channel wiring is required. The chip card stores the entire configuration program and can be copied as many times as needed.
Pilz USA
The 12 Vdc MicroSmart Pentra uses a traditional brick design with 10, 16 or 24 built-in I/Os. Functions include an optional communication module to configure up to seven serial devices, connecting HMI, PC, barcode readers, RFID equipment, AV controllers and more.

EC31-HMI/RTX controller for the Simatic S7-mEC modular controller system simplifies configuration and minimizes installation costs by combining controller and HMI functions in a single solution. With WinAC RTX 2008 and WinCC Flexible software preinstalled, it accommodates plant-wide data, process visualization and control functions in an open platform.
Siemens Energy & Automation


PLC-on-a-card can handle 64 axes for complex motion control applications, with curves calculated online, multi-axis interpolation and kinematic transformation. It has Ethernet interfaces and is programmed using the IEC 61131 multi-language environment and PLCopen-compliant function blocks.

RIO-47120 Pocket PLC is programmable for 0-5 V, 0-10 V, ±5 V and ±10 V. The resolution of the analog I/O is 12-bits standard, with a 16-bits option. In addition to a RISC processor for intelligent I/O processing, the RIO contains eight analog inputs, eight analog outputs and 16 optically isolated outputs rated at 25 mA each.
Galil Motion Control
HMIcontrol has an embedded PLC and I/O in a single system. It uses CoDeSys as the onboard programming and is IEC 61131-3 compliant. The unit can be used as a stand-alone PLC for advanced computations, scaling, or in combination with I/O systems for machine control.
MAC-PWM two-channel, high current, PWM output card can be interfaced through analog outputs from a PLC or via RS485. Protocols available include ASCII and Modbus RTU.
Entertron Industries

Net Concentrator System (NCS) has 20-bit measurement resolution and signal-conditioning capabilities. Data rates are up to 100 Mbps. The NCS has sequential control language programmability based on IEC 61131-3.
Moore Industries-Int'l