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Design Of Web Based Ladder Logic Tool Kit For Programmable Logic Controller Education

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Manufacturing Laboratory Experience

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.411.1 - 10.411.10



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Paper Authors

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Sheng-Jen Hsieh

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Design of Web-Based Ladder Logic Tool Kit for Programmable Logic Controller Education Sheng-Jen (“Tony”) Hsieh Dept. of Engineering Technology and Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Texas A&M University, College Station, TX


Labs are often an essential component in engineering education. However, factors such as limited lab time, expensive equipment and high student-to-equipment ratios often hinder students’ learning. Simulation tools can be used to help prepare students to take full advantage of limited lab resources. This paper describes a web-based Ladder Logic Toolkit that provides physical and procedural simulation experiences that can help students learn about programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Students first select a programming template. Then they drag programming instructions from a tool box to the template. Finally, they evaluate program accuracy by manipulating animated input devices and observing the animated output devices. The Toolkit was evaluated by 30 undergraduate students enrolled in a manufacturing automation and robotics course. Students completed a pre-test before using the Toolkit and a post-test afterwards. Differences between students’ pre- and post-test scores were significant (α = .05). In addition, students responded positively to a survey that asked their opinions about the Toolkit’s effectiveness, ease-of-use, and relevance to their education. The Toolkit has been incorporated into Virtual PLC, a web-based system for PLC education. Future enhancements may include the development of additional explanatory feedback for certain ladder logic arrangements and extending the programming language from ladder logic to functional block diagram.

1. Introduction

The programmable logic controller (PLC) has been described as the most ingenious devices ever invented to advance the field of manufacturing automation1. Thousands of these devices have been used for such applications as monitoring security, managing energy consumption, and controlling machines and automatic production lines. As an essential part of manufacturing automation, PLCs are covered in many automation and control-related courses, such as Computer-Aided Manufacturing, Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, Industrial Control, and Manufacturing Automation and Robotics. Students from other disciplines are also exposed to PLC technology. Research by Frost & Sullivan indicates that the world market for programmable logic controller will continue to grow as units become smaller, more functional, and more able to work in tough environments2. The total PLC and software market was projected to reach $8.6 billion in 2000. This trend is likely to continue to increase as the world economy grows. There is a great need for engineers with strong skills and knowledge in this area.

A goal of engineering education is to prepare students for industry by exposing them to the types of tools and equipment they will need to use on the job. Lab experiences are an integral part of

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Hsieh, S. (2005, June), Design Of Web Based Ladder Logic Tool Kit For Programmable Logic Controller Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15345

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