The Guts Inside
The PLC mainly consists of a CPU, memory areas, and appropriate circuits to receive input/output data. We can actually consider the PLC to be a box full of hundreds or thousands of separate relays, counters, timers and data storage locations. Do these counters, timers, etc. really exist? No, they don't "physically" exist but rather they are simulated and can be considered software counters, timers, etc. These internal relays are simulated through bit locations in registers. (more on that later)
What does each part do?
- INPUT RELAYS- (contacts)These are connected to the outside world. They physically exist and receive signals from switches, sensors, etc. Typically they are not relays but rather they are transistors.
- INTERNAL UTILITY RELAYS- (contacts) These do not receive signals from the outside world nor do they physically exist. They are simulated relays and are what enables a PLC to eliminate external relays. There are also some special relays that are dedicated to performing only one task. Some are always on while some are always off. Some are on only once during power-on and are typically used for initializing data that was stored.
- COUNTERS- These again do not physically exist. They are simulated counters and they can be programmed to count pulses. Typically these counters can count up, down or both up and down. Since they are simulated they are limited in their counting speed. Some manufacturers also include high-speed counters that are hardware based. We can think of these as physically existing. Most times these counters can count up, down or up and down.
- TIMERS- These also do not physically exist. They come in many varieties and increments. The most common type is an on-delay type. Others include off-delay and both retentive and non-retentive types. Increments vary from 1ms through 1s.
- OUTPUT RELAYS- (coils)These are connected to the outside world. They physically exist and send on/off signals to solenoids, lights, etc. They can be transistors, relays, or triacs depending upon the model chosen.
- DATA STORAGE- Typically there are registers assigned to simply store data. They are usually used as temporary storage for math or data manipulation. They can also typically be used to store data when power is removed from the PLC. Upon power-up they will still have the same contents as before power was removed. Very convenient and necessary!!Ref: http://www.plcs.net/