Which PLC Controller Do You Need?

Whether updating old controls or installing new ones, you may find yourself asking, “What PLC is best for my application?” Programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, often run on specialized languages using ladder logic and function block. They can be costly to implement and operate. On your search for the perfect PLC, you may wonder if there’s a better way.

We’ve explained PLCs before, but it’s a relevant question. What exactly qualifies as a programmable logic controller? The meaning is in the name: a controller that can be programmed with logic. There’s a variety of PLCs on the market. Some have intense processing power, while others are built to handle simpler processes—are commonly referred to as micro PLCs.

The key feature of a PLC isn’t the complexity, but the programmability. Logical instructions are programmed onto the device. Everything else is either a data input, a control output, or a communication line to send data to central control systems, databases, servers, etc.

Graphic with the ControlByWeb logo and another header labelled “Competition”. Under the company logo is a list with a green checkmark in the background. The list says “No-Code Logic,” “Embedded UI,” “P2P Networking,” “Dropdown Menus,” and “Integration-Ready.” The second list under Competition has a red circle with a cross through in the background. The list says “Ladder Logic,” “Func. Block Diagram,” “Seq. Func. Charts,” “Structured Text,” and “Instruction List.” A darkened photograph of an oil refinery makes up the background.
Graphic with the ControlByWeb logo and another header labelled “Competition”. Under the company logo is a list with a green checkmark in the background. The list says “No-Code Logic,” “Embedded UI,” “P2P Networking,” “Dropdown Menus,” and “Integration-Ready.” The second list under Competition has a red circle with a cross through in the background. The list says “Ladder Logic,” “Func. Block Diagram,” “Seq. Func. Charts,” “Structured Text,” and “Instruction List.” A darkened photograph of an oil refinery makes up the background.

That, of course, depends. No easy answers here. But it is our firm belief that you often don’t need the supercomputer PLC that you might be considering. An honest evaluation of the application and monitoring/control goals is necessary.

If you’re running an automated factory line with real-time feedback loops, robots, big machines, and lots of safety controllers, then you need a very capable PLC. There are many well-established manufacturers of this kind of controller with great reputations and long histories of performance. We recommend you check them out.

However, most industrial monitoring and/or control applications can be summed up in relatively few “if this, then that” statements. For these applications you’re better off with a straightforward micro PLC.

And, importantly, these controllers don’t have to be as hard to use as a super-computing factory line PLC.

There is a spectrum of capabilities out there in the controls marketplace. We recommend using the controller that is capable enough, but as simple to setup and use as possible—saving you time and money. Contact our sales team to help dial in on the right PLC for your application.

Complexity is a cost. It is often a necessary and unavoidable cost in the industrial automation world. That we have mastered as much of it as we have is a modern engineering marvel. But when it is unnecessary and we accept or even promote it anyway, it’s a crime.

There are many reasons why you might be using an overly complex programmable logic controller. We’ve heard it all, and it always boils down to one thing: It’s what you are familiar/comfortable with. It’s what you know.

While anyone can be forgiven for falling into this trap, that doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate reason to overcomplicate an application, overspend on equipment and installation, and overburden end users.

ControlByWeb® PLCs are on the cutting edge of industrial control technology. Not because we invented some new AI, a new protocol, or any other insert-buzzword-here tech. Our innovation has always been in simplicity.

We make all the difficult, complex, and confusing stuff easy. And nobody else does it better.

Don’t believe us? First of all, we get it. The industry has been dominated by complexity. Secondly, see for yourself. Check out the demo below to see exactly how our products work.

X-410 Firmware Example GIF

Username: admin
Password: webrelay

Our micro PLC controllers can be programmed to handle many monitoring and control applications without code. And for those who need some code for more advanced functionality, we give you the option to use the scripting languages BASIC and LUA. They’re easy to learn, and we have resources to get started.

As a final thought, we’ve noticed more and more of our customers using Soft PLCs—software that runs all the logic of a traditional PLC. There are a lot of options on the market for this kind of software, with modern SCADA software capable of running control logic for nearly any industrial process.

If a Soft PLC is right for you, so are our controllers. While they can house the logic and run as a programmable logic controller, so too can they run as an RTU, simply following the commands coming from your central software. This can be done via Modbus TCP/IP or our API, which uses HTTP Get requests.

You might need a behemoth PLC to run your robotic production line. But you’re probably trying to do something much simpler like monitoring and controlling pumps, valves, generators, boilers, lighting systems, overhead bay doors, HVACR systems, etc. In that case, a micro PLC will do the job just fine.

For the bulk of industrial use-cases, choose simplicity with ControlByWeb. For help with your application, get in touch with our team or schedule a 15-minute demo to get a feel for our devices.

Shopping Cart