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Y What is a Control System ?

In general, a Control System is a collection oI electronic devices and equipment which are in
place to ensure the stability, accuracy and smooth transition oI a process or a manuIacturing
activity. It takes any Iorm and varies in scale oI implementation, Irom a power plant to a semi-
conductor machine. As a result oI rapid advancement oI technology, complicated control tasks
accomplished with a highly automated control system, which may be in the Iorm oI Programmable
Controller (PLC) & possibly a host computer, etc. Besides signal interIacing to the Iield devices
(such as operator panel, motors, sensors, switches, solenoid valves and etc.), capabilities in
network communication enable a big scale implementation and process co-ordination besides
providing greater Ilexibility in realizing distributed control system. Every single component in a
control system plays an important role regardless oI size. For instance, as shown in Fig 1.1 the
PLC would not know the happenings around it without any sensing devices. And iI necessary, an
area host computer has to be in place to co-ordinate the activities in a speciIic area at the

It could also be an application as small as a single PLC controlling a single or some output

Touch Panel
Process Control
Area Host
Touch Panel
Control Components

Fig. 1.1:
Motor Limit switch Sensor Solenoid Lights Buzzer

Fig. 1.2 : Gantry Robot Control System
(Courtesy of Gintic)

Y Typical Programmable Logic Controller-base Control System

Fig 1.2, is a typical application oI a Gantry Robot Control Machine. It is used in a pick and place
operation. The whole process sequence is controlled by a PLC. The various input devices such as
selector switches, push buttons, togle switches, sensors are connected to the input oI the PLC via
the input terminal block. The output devices such as the revolving light, indicators, relays,
contactors and solenoid valves are connected to the output terminals oI the PLC. The whole
process is controlled by a ladder program loaded into the PLC CPU memory. The program will
execute a sequence automatically according to the pre-deIined sequence oI operations. Manual
operation are also provided to allow operator to activate the machine manually by the switches,
emergency push-button Ior the purpose oI saIety in case you need to stop the operation abruptly.
In this application, the control system operates as a stand-alone operation

Robot Arm Pushbutton &
Selector Switch

Y The Role of the Programmable Controllers (PLC)

In an automated system, the PLC is commonly regarded as the heart oI the control system. With a
control application program (stored within the PLC memory) in execution, the PLC constantly
monitors the state oI the system through the Iield input devices1 Ieedback signal. It will then based
on the program logic to determine the course oI action to be carried out at the Iield output

The PLC may be used to control a simple and repetitive task, or a Iew oI them may be
interconnected together with other host controllers or host computers through a sort oI
communication network, in order to integrate the control oI a complex process.

Input Devices
Intelligence oI an automated system is greatly depending on the ability oI a PLC to read in the
signal Irom various types oI automatic sensing and manual input Iield devices.

Push-buttons, keypad and toggle switches, which Iorm the basic man-machine interIace, are types
oI manual input device. On the other hand, Ior detection oI workpiece, monitoring oI moving
mechanism, checking on pressure and or liquid level and many others, the PLC will have to tap
the signal Irom the speciIic automatic sensing devices like proximity switch, limit switch,
photoelectric sensor, level sensor and so on. Types oI input signal to the PLC would be oI
ON/OFF logic or analogue. These input signals are interIaced to PLC through various types oI
PLC input module.

Limit Switch
Rotary Encoder Proximity Switch

Output Devices
An automatic system is incomplete and the PLC system is virtually paralysed without means oI
interIace to the Iield output devices. Some oI the most commonly controlled devices are motors,
solenoids, relays indicators, buzzers and etc. Through activation oI motors and solenoids the PLC
can control Irom a simple pick and place system to a much complex servo positioning system.
These type oI output devices are the mechanism oI an automated system and so its direct eIIect on
the system perIormance.

However, other output devices such as the pilot lamp, buzzers and alarms are merely meant Ior
notiIying purpose. Like input signal interIacing, signal Irom output devices are interIaced to the
PLC through the wide range oI PLC output module.