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How to Build an Allen Bradley PLC Trainer Kit for PLC Training at Home

By
Vladimir Romanov
|
April 10, 2020
Table of Contents

Allen Bradley PLC Trainer Kit Essentials

The best way to learn PLC programming is to get hands-on experience. However, as many are trying to learn how to program these devices before landing a job, it becomes crucial to invest in your own hardware in order to accelerate the learning process. That being said, a PLC programmer will face three challenges when it comes to building an effective PLC trainer.

  1. Although you may be familiar with PLC components, you may not always know all the electrical parts required to get your system going.
  2. The cost of the system is a major concern for many. It is possible to invest accordingly into the right PLC while cutting costs on non-branded components such as buttons, indicators, relays, power supplies, and switches.
  3. Advanced users aren’t always familiar with the different variations of hardware components as well as cost-effective ways to focus their budget on learning the systems.

In this article, we’re going to review each component, discuss the purpose it will serve in the PLC trainer kit as well as the impact it may create for the student. Furthermore, we will talk about the cost, alternatives, and other components it may pair with well. Our goal is to help you build a cost-effective trainer that you can be proud of, upgrade as you advance your knowledge, and, most of all, be able to show-off during your interview.

Purchasing PLC Hardware & Parts

How to Build an Allen Bradley PLC Trainer Kit for PLC Training at Home
How to Build an Allen Bradley PLC Trainer Kit for PLC Training at Home

We receive a lot of questions concerning the vendors of PLC Hardware. If you’re looking to use parts in an industrial setting, we recommend purchasing from a local distributor that has access to official Allen Bradley components. However, for learning purposes, we believe that the most cost-effective way to purchase these components is through eBay. Therefore, we’ve left a reference link for each part that will lead you directly to what we would search for that specific component.

Note: depending on your location, a different marketplace may be available. Example: In Mexico, MercadoLibre may have better deals. Since we are not as familiar with these marketplaces, it will be up to you to find the eBay equivalent components.

PLC Trainer | Main Components

In this section, we’re talking about the main components of your trainer kit. These are essentials that we recommend you pick up early in your PLC studies so that you can get the most from our PLC programming classes.

Programmable Logic Controller [PLC]

The PLC is the primary driver of automation and should be the main focus of your studies. There is a wide range of different PLCs within the Allen Bradley family. However, we typically recommend that students invest in one or both of the following: MicroLogix 1100, CompactLogix. Let’s take a look at each one.

MicroLogix 1100 PLC

The MicroLogix 1100 PLCs are programmed in RSLogix 500, a PLC programming language that is becoming less and less common. However, we believe that this platform provides the most cost-effective way to master most of the PLC programming best practices. Furthermore, there’s still a significant portion of older plants which prefer this software.

The MicroLogix 1100 PLC comes in four different variations:

1763-L16AWA

  • Input voltage: 120/240VAC
  • Digital inputs: 10x 120VAC
  • Analog inputs: 2x 0-to-10VDC
  • Digital outputs: 6x Relay
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $190 USD
  • See on eBay

1763-L16BWA

  • Input voltage: 120/240VAC
  • Digital inputs: 6x 24 VDC, 4x high-speed 24VDC
  • Analog inputs: 2x 0-to-10VDC
  • Digital outputs: 6x Relay
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $210 USD
  • See on eBay

1763-L16BBB

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Digital inputs: 6x 24VDC, 4x high-speed 24 VDC
  • Analog inputs: 2x 0-to-10VDC
  • Digital outputs: 2x Relay, 2x FET VDC, 2x high-speed FET VDC
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $210 USD
  • See on eBay

1763-L16DWD

  • Input voltage: 12-to-24VDC
  • Digital inputs: 6x 12-to-24VDC, 4x high-speed 12/24VDC
  • Analog inputs: 2x 0-to-10VDC
  • Digital outputs: 6x Relay
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $185 USD
  • See on eBay

Q: Which MicroLogix 1100 should you buy?

A: The four variations are excellent for practice and cost nearly the same amount. However, consider that a 120/240 VAC input power PLC would not require any external power supply. Furthermore, the 1763-L16BWA PLC would provide a 24VDC bus you can use for your external inputs and outputs. Lastly, consider the difference in working with VAC versus VDC. In a manufacturing setting, you may encounter either one, but safety practices dictate that 24VDC should be used in most modern applications.

Our recommendation of MicroLogix 1100 model: 1763-L16BWA

CompactLogix PLC

CompactLogix PLC Trainer Kit
CompactLogix PLC Trainer Kit

The CompactLogix PLC family from Allen Bradley has many variations of PLCs. Since many of these models aren’t cheap, it is advised to be very attentive to what you’re paying for when it comes to these PLCs and be aware of what else may be required to get them running.

The CompactLogix PLCs will either run RSLogix 500, RSLogix 5000 or Studio 5000. We advise purchasing uniquely the models capable of running Studio 5000 if your goal is to learn. These PLCs are comparable in price to the ones that may only run RSLogix 500, and you should be able to save on the price by purchasing a MicroLogix instead.

1769-L1 Family

1769-L16ER-BB1B

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Digital inputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Digital outputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Comms: 2x EtherNet, USB
  • User Memory: 384 KB
  • EtherNet/IP Nodes: 4
  • Local IO: 1734 Type
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $750 USD
  • See on eBay
  • Additional Required Hardware: 120VAC-to-24VDC Power Supply

1769-L18ERM-BB1B

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Digital inputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Digital outputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Comms: 2x EtherNet, USB
  • User Memory: 512 KB
  • EtherNet/IP Nodes: 8
  • CIP Motion Axis: 2
  • Local IO: 1734 Type
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $800 USD
  • See on eBay
  • Additional Required Hardware: 120VAC-to-24VDC Power Supply
1769-L2 Family

1769-L24ER-QB1B

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Digital inputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Digital outputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Comms: 2x EtherNet, USB
  • User Memory: 0.75 MB
  • EtherNet/IP Nodes: 8
  • Local IO: 1769 Type
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $750 USD
  • See on eBay
  • Additional Required Hardware: 120VAC-to-24VDC Power Supply, 1769-ECR

1769-L27ERM-QBFC1B

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Digital inputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Analog inputs: 4x Universal
  • Digital outputs: 16x 24VDC
  • Analog outputs: 2x Universal
  • Other IO: 4x high-speed counters
  • Comms: 2x EtherNet, USB
  • User Memory: 1 MB
  • EtherNet/IP Nodes: 16
  • CIP Motion Axis: 4
  • Local IO: 1769 Type
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $925 USD
  • See on eBay
  • Additional Required Hardware: 120VAC-to-24VDC Power Supply, 1769-ECR
1769-L3 Family

1769-L30ER

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Comms: 2x EtherNet, USB
  • User Memory: 1 MB
  • EtherNet/IP Nodes: 16
  • Local IO: 1769 Type
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $750 USD
  • See on eBay
  • Additional Required Hardware: 1769-ECR, 1769-PA2 OR 1769-PB2 OR 1769-PA4 OR 1769-PB4 (Power Supply)

1769-L36ERM

  • Input voltage: 24VDC
  • Comms: 2x EtherNet, USB
  • User Memory: 3 MB
  • EtherNet/IP Nodes: 48
  • CIP Motion Axis: 16
  • Local IO: 1769 Type
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $1095 USD
  • See on eBay
  • Additional Required Hardware: 1769-ECR, 1769-PA2 OR 1769-PB2 OR 1769-PA4 OR 1769-PB4 (Power Supply)

Q: Which CompactLogix should you buy?

A: The three families outlined above have many differences when it comes to inputs, outputs, memory, motion capability, and external IO cards. We recommend that you first consider if you plan to invest in practicing CIP motion, drives, and servo motors that come with it. If not, do not purchase a controller with this feature; the price is significantly higher due to this capability alone. Furthermore, consider the additional hardware you’ll need to purchase for your controller. Chances are, you’ll want to have digital inputs, digital outputs as well as analog capabilities. Hence, based on the price points outlined above, the most cost-effective option would be the 1769-L30ER or the 1769-L24ER-QB1B.

Our recommendation of CompactLogix model without Motion: 1769-L30ER or the 1769-L24ER-QB1B

Our recommendation of CompactLogix model with Motion: 1769-L36ERM

Power Supply

In most industrial environments, you will find a 24VDC standard on inputs, outputs, safety, sensors, relays, etc. Therefore, your plc learning kit should incorporate a 120VAC-to-24VDC power supply capable of powering your PLC (if it’s of the 24VDC kind), EtherNet switch, sensors, buttons, and other devices you may choose to install.

When it comes to choosing a power supply, we recommend focusing on the output power (5A is an excellent start) rather than the brand. In other words, you may find a non-Allen Bradley power supply that would be just as good for a much lower price. Here are a few options

SOLA SDN 5-24-100C

  • Input voltage: 100-240VAC
  • Input current: 2A
  • Output voltage: 24VDC
  • Output current: 5A
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $34 USD
  • See on eBay

PHOENIX CONTACT QUINT-PS-100-240AC/24DC/5

  • Input voltage: 100-240VAC
  • Input current: 2A
  • Output voltage: 24VDC
  • Output current: 5A
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $25 USD
  • See on eBay

Q: Which Power Supply should you buy?

A: There is little difference between power supplies. However, we don’t recommend buying the most inexpensive off-brand Power Supply as the manufacturer may have used the cheapest components that may produce a sub-par output voltage potentially harming your other equipment. Purchase a brand that is known within the industrial space, but isn’t top of the line (Ex: Allen Bradley or Siemens).

Our recommendation of Power Supply: PHOENIX CONTACT QUINT-PS-100-240AC/24DC/5

EtherNet Switch

Network connectivity plays an essential role in industrial manufacturing. Furthermore, most of the latest PLCs will have an EtherNet port through which you will be programming and communicating to other peripherals (Variable Frequency Drives, Human Machine Interfaces, and more.). Your PLC trainer should, at the very least, incorporate an unmanaged switch; if funds permit, we recommend investing in a managed Stratix switch for practice. However, it’s not an essential component.

Unmanaged Switches

Just like the power supply, the brand of an unmanaged switch does not play an important role. Therefore, you should aim to purchase the least expensive switch with the most ports.

Hirschmann Spider 5tx

  • Input voltage: 9.6-to-32VDC
  • # of Ports: 5
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $20 USD
  • See on eBay

Stride se-sw8u

  • Input voltage: 10-to-30VDC
  • # of Ports: 8
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $62 USD
  • See on eBay

Q: Which EtherNet Switch should you buy?

A: You may chain additional switches if needed. Therefore, it’s best to purchase two switches of 5 ports each for $20 than a single switch with 8 ports for $62 (in our opinion).

Our recommendation of Unmanaged EtherNet Switch: Hirschmann Spider 5tx

PLC Trainer | Passive Hardware

Now that you have the essentials, it’s time to discuss essential hardware, you will need to assemble your trainer into a working station. The items included here are the basics required to put together a functional and practical box that would carry your PLC, power supply, switch, and the non-essential components specified in the next section.

Enclosure

Pelican Case PLC Trainer Kit
1510 Pelican Case PLC Trainer Kit

In the field, electrical equipment is typically installed inside of an electrical panel. However, this may make your PLC trainer challenging to manage and relocate. It is advised to install your PLC hardware inside a mobile case that you can relocate as needed.

Pelican Cases

Pelican Cases are the standard of hardened travel cases used in many industries. The company has designed carrying cases for fragile equipment (film, instrumentation, etc.), dangerous equipment (firearms, explosives, lasers), and more. These cases make the perfect medium to install your PLC Trainer Kit.

Pelican 1510 Case

  • 19.75" X 11.00" X 7.60"
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $170 USD
  • See on Amazon

Pelican 1560 Case

  • 19.92" X 14.98" X 9.00"
  • Current Lowest Price (as of April 10th 2020) = $182 USD
  • See on Amazon

Q: Which Pelican Case should you buy?

A: There are three things to consider when purchasing a Pelican Case based on our experience:

  1. Portability - only certain products may be carried onto a plane. The 1510 variation is excellent for this purpose. After all, we don’t want our equipment to get lost or damaged when checked-in.
  2. Total Area - self explanatory parameter. If your goal is to expand your plc trainer kit, you’d want to maximize how much space you have in your pelican case.
  3. Depth - specific equipment won’t fit into a slim case. For example, the Kinetix 5500 series drives require a large clearing at the front. You should choose accordingly.

Our recommendation of Pelican Case: 1510

Din Rails and Terminal Blocks

Din Rails are what your equipment will mount onto. These aluminum plates will be installed in the back of your trainer kit to hold the PLC, EtherNet switch, Power Supply, Terminal blocks, and other components. They vary in length as well as metal. That being said, they can be cut as needed.

  • 12” Aluminum Din Rail

Terminal Blocks will allow you to connect external devices and carry bus voltage (0VDC and 24VDC). You should have an array of these within your trainer kit.

  • Dinkle Assembly DK4N Red/Black 10 Gang DIN Rail Terminal Blocks
  • Erayco DIN Rail Terminal Blocks Kit, 20pcs UK-2.5N 12 AWG Terminal Blocks

Q: Which Din Rails and Terminal Blocks should you buy?

A: Purchase the cheapest Din Rails on the basis of a length you can find. The same goes for terminal blocks. We recommend that you purchase at least two colors to distinguish between your devices, signals, etc.


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