Questioning IEC 61131-3 From A Manufacturer’s Perspective

Questioning IEC 61131-3 From A Manufacturer’s Perspective

“The problem with certainty is that it is static; it can do little but endlessly reassert itself. Uncertainty, by contrast, is full of unknowns, possibilities, and risks.” 

As engineers, manufacturers, business owners, and strategists, we try to assert every technology, every human resource, every dollar spent on a budget, every time spent, and even every rule and policy set and implemented within a workforce. 

Today is the time to question IEC 61131-3 from a manufacturer’s perspective. With the hype of the automation industry, is IEC 61131-3 really important to implement, or is it just another passing standard?

This article will go over what, why, and how IEC 61131-3 came to life, before finally deciding whether or not a manufacturer should seriously go forth, or against the IEC 61131-3 standard. 

What’s IEC 61131-3?

IEC 61131-3 is the international standard for programmable controller programming languages. It is also the first vendor-independent standardised programming language for industrial automation. 

IEC stands for International Electrotechnical Commission.

IEC 61131-3 provides a selection of multiple language support within a control program for developers to choose for various tasks. It is hardware independent with users and system integrators to transport automation. 

IEC 61131-3 Programming Languages are Ladder Diagram (LD), Instruction List (IL), Function Block Diagram (FBD), Structured Text (ST), and Sequential Function Chart (SFC).

Depending on the task at hand, each language has advantages and disadvantages. ST is usually much easier to learn and utilise for control engineers as it allows complex mathematical operations. LD has a universal language acceptance and ease of changing code while IL and ST offer European acceptance and PLC execution advantages. SFC is best for applications that require repeating or interlocks and concurrent processes and operations, allowing simpler final user maintenance. 

Why is the industry shaken up by the IEC 61131-3?

As the world strives to recover and overcome the global supply chain crisis, studies and case studies have proven that vendor-independent platforms, in comparison to vendor lock-in open up possibilities for manufacturers, engineers, and other professionals in the industry to feed the demand that may be growing or pending in their pipeline. 

With market viability, production, demand, and supply chains being the most essential elements in the manufacturing industry, IEC 61131-3 is proven to facilitate both horizontal and vertical progressions in a shorter time frame. More efficient logistics, sufficient stock, and less disrupting commitment with independent coding platforms.  

Secondly, manufacturers have established test-retest reliability (overtime), internal consistency (across items), inter-rater reliability (across different operators), and validity with IEC 61131-3.

It is important to unify, integrate, and adapt the entire process and system with the PLC, having a standard programming language is the main key. This solution allows all parts of the system to communicate, unify different codes, deploy hidden functions, and have a run-time license with only one single source of software.

Many interfaces don’t provide backward or downward compatibility, earlier versions can’t be restored, and there are bigger risks during integrations of adaptations of new/order systems and solutions. Backward compatibility processors have the capacity to execute the same binary software instructions as their predecessors. This eliminates the need to procure new applications or operating systems, thus saving huge costs. A vendor-independent platform with IEC 61131-3 like CODESYS provides an integrated development environment for programming controller applications according to the international industrial standard. This has helped many manufacturers face the global supply crisis.

How Does IEC 61131-3 Help Manufacturers?

The main reason lies in its various language capabilities and ease of use. Users and vendors can expect less waste of human resources due to less system maintenance times, debugging, and training. Controllers can be used together from different locations, projects, or companies with fewer errors and increased performance. IEC 61131 allows manufacturers to stop being committed and disrupted by vendor lock-in to its universal state and nature. It’s applicable in a wide range of environments with enough connectivity features.  

Why Not Use Other Standards?

Aside from IEC, there are various other standards that may apply in different countries. For example, ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and NEC (National Electric Code) caters to the United States.

On the other hand, IEC applies to the rest of the world, including the US. IEC provides a standardised approach to testing and certification while testing various sets of electrotechnical aspects and components to bring together the agreed-upon set of rules, specifications, and terminology that allow manufacturers to have their devices tested for conformity.

This gives manufacturers safety, peace of mind, and project investment security.

In conclusion, manufacturers have the option to choose which standard they wish to use depending on the country they prevail in, however, with risks of being unacceptable in other parts of the world when they expand their operations. 

CODESYS is a leading manufacturer-independent IEC 61131-3 automation software for engineering control systems. It offers an integrated development environment for programming controller applications according to the international industrial standard. 

The CODESYS Development System is the key tool for convenient project engineering of IEC 61131-3 applications. The powerful functional scope of the system can be extended as needed with plug-ins for increased productivity or with function libraries for reusing code.

With the adaptable CODESYS Control runtime system, any kind of intelligent device is transformed into a complete IEC 61131-3 controller.

PLC manufacturers use a toolkit to port the CODESYS runtime system on their device and turn it into a CODESYS-compatible IEC 61131-3 PLC. In addition, SoftPLC systems are provided for immediate installation on standard platforms. Numerous options, such as OPC UA, Visualisation, and SoftMotion, extend the functional scope.

The system allows for screen creation and animation in the integrated editor based on PLC variables, as well as the display on monitors of panel PLCs and industrial PCs, connected browsers, or directly in the IEC 61131-3 tool.

Ti2 Pty Ltd is CODESYS’ official distributor in Australia and New Zealand offering a wide range of quality industrial automotive, automation, and information products and services. Using genuine open standards and technologies for industrial solutions we are able to reduce the overall cost of ownership.

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Ti2 is currently very focused on working with its global partners to secure stock and avoid long delay times in delivering products to their customers. Together with our trusted partners, we are here to provide solutions.

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