How the auto industry uses programmable logic control

When it comes to car manufacture automation, programmable logic control is the most popular technique used round the world. PLC is applied for factory automation, process control as well as manufacturing systems in most modern car plants. It originated from the creation of computerised versions of relay control systems, which are used to control chemical process and control manufacturing systems. The programming is possible due to a special technique known as ladder logic. With this technique, logical actions can be set up, inter-linked and timed. Read more on ladder logic here.

auto control car

“A programmable logic controller is a microprocessor specialised computer, which is user friendly. It has the ability to carry out control functions of many types and levels of complexity. It is important in monitoring crucial car manufacture process parameters and also modifying the process of operations” says Dave, expert at alldrivesandcontrols.co.uk, one of the mainstays in Unitronics Unistream implementation. “A PLC can be programmed, controlled and operated by any individual that can operate a computer. What happens basically is that the operator of the PLC draws the devices and lines of ladder diagrams with a keyboard to a display screen. The drawing is in turn transformed into a computer machine language that can be run as a user program.”

What are the advantages of using PLCs to make our cars?

It is easy to forget how much goes into making a car. In Henry Ford’s days the conveyer belt was manned by highly specialised factory workers. Today, much of the work is done by machines. PLC is a crucial, and interesting part of the process. Here are some of the benefits that they offer to the system.

It offers flexibility and facilitates productionefficiency

With a single programmable logic controller, auto companies can easily run many machines in car production plants. Opel, for example has announced that 30,000 customers are interested in the new Corsa that is yet to hit the markets. The company wouldn’t have the flexibility required to fulfil the orders, while continuing production on other popular models, without the aid of PLCs.

Easy rectification of errors

Before now, wired relay-type panels were used by businesses. This meant that any alterations to be made to the program involved the rewiring of panels and devices. With PLCs, on the other hand, a change in sequence, or the design of a circuit, simply involves retyping the affected logic. Correction of errors with PLCs is not just cost effective but also takes very little time. This helps auto manufacturers spend time on the things that matter.

It manages space efficiently

The memory for most programmable logic controllers is getting bigger by the day. This means companies can generate more counters, sequencers, timers, coils, contacts, etc. It is possible to have hundreds or thousands of counters and timers in just one machine. A lot more space would be required if looking to have as much in just one panel.

Reduced costs

The price on the average programmable logic controller can vary from hundreds to thousands. When compared to the price of coils, timers and contact that will be required to do the work required in a car production plant, this is peanuts. It also costs less to ship and install PLCs.

PLCs allow lab testing

With a programmable logic controller, tests can be done in labs. The testing, validation and correction of the program helps auto manufacturers save time and costs.

PLCs offer visual observation

When running a PLC program, a visual operation is seen on screen. This makes it very easy to troubleshoot a circuit.

With all of this, it is easy to see why PLCs are part and parcel of the auto manufacturing process today.

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