Build Your Own PLC Trainer
Along with the Simulation Trainers I described in previous posts I have been working on a do-it-yourself kit. I have built a couple of these and have documented all the assembly instructions in a wiring manual that comes with the kit. I shipped one of these to Shawn Tierney of the Automation Blog/Automation School, and unfortunately it revealed the weakness of using a glued plastic box. So now I am in the process of redesigning the enclosure to make a bolt-together version using aluminum extrusion and the same type of plastic door shown above. The weak spots were the hinges and door latch, though the plastic itself works well.
I am still somewhat undecided on the back part that the din-rail mounts to. Previously I used 1/4″ plastic and tapped holes. This required using acorn nuts because the screws stuck out the back. The new material will be 1/2″ and easily tapped, possibly some kind of composite material. You may wonder why I don’t just use a regular fiberglass or plastic enclosure? I actually visited Bud Industries in Cleveland, the make some of the least expensive enclosures out there. The cost was still quite high for custom cutouts and delivery was pretty long. The other advantage of a kit is that it can ship flat, plus it makes it interesting to actually assemble everything.
All of the components fit in the cardboard box shown above, but even after wrapping the enclosure in bubble wrap it didn’t do well in shipping. This new design should work much better.
This is a picture of the larger box. It is suitable for a full-sized PLC such as Allen-Bradley’s SLC or ControlLogix, or Siemens S7-300 or S7-1500. The blue box at the top of this post is a good size for the A-B Micrologix or CompactLogix, or the Siemens S7-1200. There are other kits available online, but I don’t think you will find anything with as good of an instruction manual, and I have gone to extremes making it as inexpensive as possible. It also has my cool stacklight and E-Stop features just like my simulation trainers.
This should be completely ready for release by the beginning of the year. Check out my store at www.automationllc.com to keep up with what’s available.