Programmable Logic Control PLC

I am looking into some automation of basic tasks, and think that a PLC is the best approach.

This is a site that another forum recommended. Has anyone else used anything from these guys in the past? I have very very basic programming skills and need something that I can pick up rather quickely. I saw a unit in McMaster that seemed easy to use with a ladder style programming module, or a software suite that you interfaced with via RS-232.

Any help, war stories, trials and/or tribulations are welcome.

(I hope this was the right forum to post this in)
My recommendation would be to use a PIC from microchip. You can get a nice kits from If of course learning PicBasic isn't what you want to do, you can also learn assembler (painfull if you ask me) and program the chips like that. I have found that a PIC is easy to use once you've wrapped your head around the basic principle (get the book PIC Microcontroller Prroject book, ISBN 0-07-143704-5 for an easy to understand intro) and they are cheap and abundant. If you decide to go this way, I highly recommend you get the PicBasicPro compiler, not just the entry level version.
I programmed a simple PLC to control an unmanned storage and retrieval crane for warehouses. The PLC received a command from a computer to store or retrieve a load from a specific location and the PLC handled all the functions including speed of the crane based on how far from the location it was, parity checking of the location address, checking whether a bin that should be empty was in fact full and vice versa and stopping the crane if the load toppled over. It was even programmed to board a car that would take the crane to a different aisle.

This was around 1981. We also had an onboard computer that handled a few functions the PLC could not do such as checking for prohibited locations like ones where there was a fire sprinkler or a light fixture. To debug the code for the computer in those days, the EPROMs had to be sent back to the home office and through lengthy phone conversations with the field, the code was fixed, the PROMS were burned and sent back to the field. With the PLC, I could modify the circuit on the spot. Even though the PLC had by far the more complicated part of the operation, about 80% of my time was waiting for EPROM turnaround.

The Physics Forums Way

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving