Joel Thorstensson's PLC Box Packs a Stack of Siemens Industrial Automation Tech in a Portable Case

Built around industrial-grade Siemens hardware, the PLC Box packs everything you need to get started with PLC programming.

Gareth Halfacree
22 days agoHW101

Self-described automation enthusiast Joel Thorstensson is hoping to make it easier to teach a new generation about programmable logic controllers (PLCs) — with a portable all-in-one educational lab dubbed the PLC Box.

"The world of automation is rapidly evolving, yet access to hands-on learning and testing remains limited," Thorstensson explains. "Thus, the idea of our PLC Box was born – a compact yet powerful tool that would bring the complexities of automation into the hands of students, enthusiasts, and professionals alike."

The PLC Box aims to deliver everything you need to get started with Siemens PLC programming in a portable case. (📹: Joel Thorstensson)

The idea behind the PLC Box is simple: put everything you need to experiment with PLC-based industrial automation in a single portable case. The resulting device includes a Siemens Simatic S7-1200 central processing device, the company's Simatic KTP700 7" display panel with button- and touch-based interaction, a CSM 1277 Ethernet switch, and a chunky three-button control box — offering green, red, and yellow industrial-style push-buttons.

Everything is mounted to a DIN rain installed in the bottom of a case, bar the display — which, sensibly enough, is mounted in the top, allowing it to flip open laptop-style for immediate interaction. An optional accessory, dubbed the Linear Unit, expands the hardware outside the case too — but, as the name implies, the box is the heart of the PLC Box.

Thorstensson isn't the only one looking to address a growing skills shortage in the industrial automation sector, though. Arduino recently launched a rival product with an identical aim, the PLC Starter Kit — packing one of its own Opta WiFi micro-PLCs with a switch panel and a temperature sensor and supported by a claimed 20-hour educational course. The PLC Box, by contrast, includes more complex hardware, but Thorstensson has not mentioned any educational material to support it.

The PLC Box is now funding on Kickstarter, with physical rewards starting at €3,150 (around $3,370); completed PLC Boxes are expected to begin shipping in September this year.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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