PLC Recommendations for newbie

4 posts in this topic

Dear Mr. PLC forum members,

I am brand new to the world of PLC’s and I am looking for advice on PLC platform selection for a device prototype.

The proposed PLC is for a “smart” hydroponic system. Please see system I/O and other parameters below.

Parameter 1: Price - I am self-funding this so price of PLC and software is important. Happy to spend ~$2000 for PLC; I/O cards and related hardware. Total prototype cost is around $15,000 including PLC.

Parameter 2: Availability & Support in Australia.

Parameter 3:Newbie Friendly: I intend to code the PLC myself and have never coded a thing in my life before. 

Parameter 4:Discrete Outputs: 11; Discrete Inputs: 0; Analog Outputs: 2-3; Analog Inputs: 9 

Parameter 5: Capability to extend to IOT for remote access control and monitoring (via cellular or wifi router)

As you can see, this is a relatively simple automation project. All my research seems to point to Automation Direct’s BRX PLC but I just wanted to get some suggestions and feedback before purchasing.

Anything else that might suit my needs?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.



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Welcome to MrPLC Bruce:

Being from the USA I cannot comment on parameter 2 of your request.  But I am sure members like @Sleepy Wombat will ahve input.

As far as the Automation Direct being suitable, I would think it would do the job and with knowing nothing you should be able to learn to program it.

The Rockwell Micro 800 series might also enter your consideration, but I've not had good luck with them in IIOT and SCADA environments.  As a stand alone island system they're fine.  @TimWilborne has done a lot with the Micro 800 family and can provide a positive counterpoint to my negative.

@TimWilborne although in the USA will also prove an invaluable training resource with his video series.

Again Welcome aboard Bruce. and be sure to check out our PLC Laws pamphlet.

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Have a look at Omron NX102 series.

Most manufacturers can easily support your I/O requests. The NX102 will require modules. The NX bus items are inexpensive. This whole package may top out your budget but it's definitely worth weighing with your options.

I've been in these forums for a long time, I've seen a lot of Aussies in and out of the Omron forums through the years. I would have to believe the Omron support is pretty good there. I'll defer to other forum members in that category. 

Sysmac Studio is the software. It's an IEC compliant platform which means it supports the standard data types and has programming capability in multiple formats.

It has an EtherCAT port which you may or may not be interested in. EtherCAT is a very fast communication protocol widely used for motion control. It has two Ethernet ports that support EtherNet/IP protocol. This is a popular protocol for your SCADA requirements.

The best feature of the NX102 is, it's an OPC server. This could easily satisfy your IOT requirements. 


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As someone who is relatively new to PLC programming myself (less than 18 months experience), I can vouch for Omron being reasonably easy to learn, particularly if you have experience in designing electrical circuits/controls (this makes learning ladder logic really straightforward). As a fellow Australian, I can say support from Omron has been great, very rarely have I had to wait longer than 24hours for an email answer, and their engineers are usually contactable via mobile.

Cost for an Omron system would likely exceed your budget. I can't say how much, but your best bet would be to email them with your requirements and get their suggestions and pricing. Like IO_Rack, I would also be thinking that one of the NX102 series devices would be suitable, however there might be some more cost effective options available.

Remember to allow for the cost of any programming software too. I realise the software licensing is a once off cost, however I don't know if this is a one off project or not. Sysmac Studio was about around the 2k mark if I recall correctly, but they do have a trial version you can play around with before deciding if you wanted to go that way or not.

All the best, and good luck with your prototype :-)

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