DIY Programmable Logic Controller Trainer

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This short article presents a simple trainer that may be used for Programmable Logic Controller and other industrial control and automation development. The 19 x 14 inch plate with a single 15-inch DIN rail is large enough to handle a variety of assemblies. This will allow you to explore the operation of relays and other assemblies typically found in an industrial control panel. It is large enough to accommodate a smaller PLC. The front panel is designed to hold up to five 22 mm switches.

As you search the ‘net you will find several suppliers that offer PLC trainers. Many of these devices offer significant improvements in terms of cost and functionality when compared to the assembly presented in this article. However, if you desire the challenge of building your own testbed, you may glean information from this article. Also, you may be able to save money by building the device with components you already own.

Consider this a starting point upon which you may improve. This article includes pictures and a partial parts list to get you started.

Figure 1: Side view of the trainer showing the EAO lighted pushbuttons.

Parts List

This assembly was build using commonly available parts including:

In addition to the materials, you will need a variety of tools including a drill, saw, measuring tools, scratch awl, deburring tools, and center punch. In is also helpful to use a knockout punch tool (slug buster) for the 22 mm hole. Such a tool will cut through the 1/16” aluminum like a knife through butter. We should note that some people prefer a step drill bit or even a holesaw as the cost is lower.

Metal Work and Assembly

We will not attempt to describe how to work with sheet metal as there are many online tutorials. Many excellent resources are available produced by passionate experts in the field. They shine and do a better job that your author ever could.

One particularly useful YouTube video was posted by Mark Presling as How to Safely Drill Holes in Sheet Metal Using a Twist Drill.

Tech Tip Component cost often follows the Pareto distribution otherwise known as the 80-20 rule. The principle suggests that most of a project’s cost is contained within a small percentage of its components. In this example, nearly all the cost is tied up in the front panel. This may seem counterintuitive as the base plate is more expensive. However, the front panel with its many holes represents a considerable amount of embodied work. If you value your time, remember that the labor costs quickly add up.

Figure 2: Top level view of the PLC trainer including a variety of DIN rail mounted industrial control devices.

Conclusion

One final comment. The DIY techniques and skill in the use of tools are invaluable if you plan on continuing in the field. This includes assembling the control panel itself, or just as important, the small jigs to hold sensors or actuators such as pneumatics. I believe you will find that industrial control and automation is so much more than wiring and programming.

Please leave comments and suggestions below. Provide suggestions for enhancing rig. Pictures of your handywork are especially welcomed.

Best Wishes,

APDahlen

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