Connect an Industrial Controller to a Kid’s Construction Set

If you’re an experienced computer programmer, or have worked with development boards such as the Arduino and the like, you might be…

Jeremy S. Cook
3 years ago

If you’re an experienced computer programmer, or have worked with development boards such as the Arduino and the like, you might be surprised to find out that industrial machinery generally uses a very different paradigm for control called “ladder logic.”

In fact, this type of PLC code more closely resembles an electrical schematic than a program written in Python or C. Though this may seem strange, one of the big advantages is that, in theory, a non-programmer with an electrical background can look at this code and tell what is going on with a machine based on inputs and outputs.

Interestingly, many of the engineers that work with this technology come from a variety of backgrounds and picked up their skills in the field. Though everyone has to start somewhere, when you’re working with machinery worth thousands or even millions of dollars, mistakes can be quite expensive.

To facilitate this learning while keeping costs to a minimum, this “Short notes on everything” post goes over how he created a system to allow a Siemens PLC to control a Fischertechnik construction set — a kid’s toy.

Though the PLC at the heart of it likely cost much more than an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, it’s a great idea for learning how to program in ladder without potentially breaking something very expensive!

Be sure to check out the results of this endeavor in the video below.

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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