Input Output Section of PLC

Input Output Section of PLC

The input output section of PLC is the section to which all field devices are connected and provides the interface between them and the CPU. Input/output arrangements are built into a fixed PLC while modular types use external I/O modules that plug into the PLC.

Figure 1 illustrates a rack-based I/O section made up of individual I/O modules. Input interface modules accept signals from the machine or process devices and convert them into signals that can be used by the controller. Output interface modules convert controller signals into external signals used to control the machine or process.

input output section of plc
Figure 1 Rack-based I/O section.

A typical PLC has room for several I/O modules, allowing it to be customized for a particular application by selecting the appropriate modules. Each slot in the rack is capable of accommodating any type of I/O module. The I/O system provides an interface between the hardwired components in the field and the CPU. The input interface allows status information regarding processes to be communicated to the CPU, and thus allows the CPU to communicate operating signals through the output interface to the process devices under its control.

Input Output Section of PLC

Allen-Bradley controllers make a distinction between a PLC chassis and rack as illustrated in Figure 2 . The hardware assembly that houses I/O modules, processor modules, and power supplies is referred to as the chassis. Chassis come in different sizes according to the number of slots they contain. In general, they can have 4, 8, 12, or 16 slots.

Figure 2 Allen-Bradley PLC chassis and rack.

A logical rack is an addressable unit consisting of 128 input points and 128 output points. A rack uses 8 words in the input image table file and 8 words in the output image table file. A word in the output image table file and its corresponding word in the input image table file are called an I/O group.

A rack can contain a maximum of 8 I/O groups (numbered from 0 through 7) for up to 128 discrete I/O. There can be more than one rack in a chassis and more than one chassis in a rack.

One benefit of a PLC system is the ability to locate the I/O modules near the field devices, as illustrated in Figure  3 , in order to minimize the amount of wiring required. The processor receives signals from the remote input modules and sends signals back to their output modules via the communication module.

Figure 3 Remote I/O rack.

A rack is referred to as a remote rack when it is located away from the processor module. To communicate with the processor, the remote rack uses a special communications network. Each remote rack requires a unique station number to distinguish one from another. The remote racks are linked to the local rack through a communications module.

Cables connect the modules with each other. If fiber optic cable is used between the CPU and I/O rack, it is possible to operate I/O points from distances greater than 20 miles with no voltage drop. Coaxial cable will allow remote I/O to be installed at distances greater than two miles. Fiber optic cable will not pick up noise caused by adjacent high power lines or equipment normally found in an industrial environment. Coaxial cable is more susceptible to this type of noise.

Memory Addressing

The PLC’s memory system stores information about the status of all the inputs and outputs. To keep track of all this information, it uses a system called addressing. An address is a label or number that indicates where a certain piece of information is located in a PLC’s memory. Just as your home address tells where you live in your city, a device’s or a piece of data’s address tells where information about it resides in the PLC’s memory. That way, if a PLC wants to find out information about a field device, it knows to look in its corresponding address location.

Examples of addressing schemes include rack/slot-based, versions of which are used in Allen-Bradley PLC-5 and SLC 500 controllers, tag-based used in Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers, and PC-based control used in soft PLCs.

In general, rack/slot-based addressing elements include:

  • Type: The type determines if an input or output is being addressed.
  • Slot: The slot number is the physical location of the I/O module. This may be a combination of the rack number and the slot number when using expansion racks.
  • Word and Bit: The word and bit are used to identify the actual terminal connection in a particular I/O module. A discrete module usually uses only one word, and each connection corresponds to a different bit that makes up the word.

With a rack/slot address system the location of a module within a rack and the terminal number of a module to which an input or output device is connected will determine the device’s address.

Figure 4 Allen-Bradley PLC-5 rack/slot-based addressing format.

Figure 4 illustrates the Allen-Bradley PLC-5 controller addressing format. The following are typical examples of input and output addresses:

Figure 5 illustrates the Allen-Bradley SLC 500 controller addressing format. The address is used by the processor to identify where the device is located to monitor or control it.

Figure 5 Allen-Bradley SLC 500 rack/slot-based addressing format.

In addition, there is some means of connecting field wiring on the I/O module housing. Connecting the field wiring to the I/O housing allows easier disconnection and reconnection of the wiring to change modules.

Lights are also added to each module to indicate the ON or OFF status of each I/O circuit. Most output modules also have blown fuse indicators. The following are typical examples of SLC 500 real-world general input and output addresses:

Every input and output device connected to a discrete I/O module is addressed to a specific bit in the PLC’s memory. A bit is a binary digit that can be either 1 or 0. Analog I/O modules use a word addressing format, which allows the entire words to be addressed. The bit part of the address is usually not used; however, bits of the digital representation of the analog value can be addressed by the programmer if necessary.

Figure 6(a) SLC 500 Bit level
Figure 6(b) SLC 500 Word level addressing.

Figure 6 illustrates bit level and word level addressing as it applies to an SLC 500 controller. Figure 7 illustrates the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix tag-based addressing format.

Figure 7 Allen-Bradley ControlLogix tag-based addressing format.

With Logix5000 controllers, you use a tag (alphanumeric name) to address data (variables). Instead of a fixed numeric format the tag name itself identifies the data. The field devices are assigned tag names that are referenced when the PLC ladder logic program is developed.

PC-based control runs on personal or industrial hardened computers. Also known as soft PLCs, they simulate the functions of a PLC on a PC, allowing open architecture systems to replace proprietary PLCs. This implementation uses an input/output card in conjunction with the PC as an interface for the field devices. Combination I/O modules can have both input and output connections in the same physical module as illustrated in Figure 8.

Figure 8 Typical combination I/O module.

A module is made up of a printed circuit board and a terminal assembly. The printed circuit board contains the electronic circuitry used to interface the circuit of the processor with that of the input or output device. Modules are designed to plug into a slot or connector in the I/O rack or directly into the processor. The terminal assembly, which is attached to the front edge of the printed circuit board, is used for making field-wiring connections.

Modules contain terminals for each input and output connection, status lights for each of the inputs and outputs, and connections to the power supply used to power the inputs and outputs. Terminal and status light arrangements vary with different manufacturers. Most PLC modules have plug-in wiring terminal strips. The terminal block is plugged into the actual module.

If there is a problem with a module, the entire strip is removed, a new module is inserted, and the terminal strip is plugged into the new module. Unless otherwise specified, never install or remove I/O modules or terminal blocks while the PLC is powered. A module inserted into the wrong slot could be damaged by improper voltages connected through the wiring arm.

Most faceplates and I/O modules are keyed to prevent putting the wrong faceplate on the wrong module. In other words, an output module cannot be placed in the slot where an input module was originally located. Input and output modules can be placed anywhere in a rack, but they are normally grouped together for ease of wiring.

I/O modules can be 8, 16, 32, or 64 point cards. The number refers to the number of inputs or outputs available. The standard I/O module has eight inputs or outputs. A high-density module may have up to 64 inputs or outputs.

The advantage with the high-density module is that it is possible to install up to 64 inputs or outputs in one slot for greater space savings. The only disadvantage is that the high-density output modules cannot handle as much current per output.

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