Need recommendation on "starter" PLC.


Thread Starter

Stephen Cole

I am a BSEE with 16 years experience in the power distribution field with zero experience using PLC's. I am however an experienced
programmer and PC user. I would like to purchase a PLC for experimentation at home to gain experience and learn how to use PLC's. I am
seeking a recommendation on what model PLC to buy that would start me on my way into the world of PLC's. I have seen literally hundreds of
models and have no idea where to start. If someone could recommend a relatively inexpensive yet popular PLC that I could purchase to learn
how to use to educate myself with practical experience I would be greatly appreciative.


I would recommend an Allen Bradley SLC503. It may not be what you'd label as inexpensive, but it will start you into an "automotive" world
of PLC's.
However, when taking into account the cost for a chassis, I/O modules and the software to run it, I think you might be far better off taking
a college course.
It depends on what your goals are.
If you just want to get a basic understanding of PLC code, I would by a PLC (and software) from "": . One of the small PLCs would be good. A D0-05DR (120vac supply, 24vdc inputs, 6 relay outputs) is $99 last I checked. The software, PC-PGM-105 is $99. Programming cable D2-DSCBL is $27. You might want to call there sales department for specials on starter kits. If you want to train yourself on something that has a larger market share then go with Allen-Bradley. For training, a small PLC will do. Try a MicroLogix 1000 or an SLC500 system. If you go to an SLC 500, you may want to splurge a little and get a 5/03 processor so that you can do on-line edits. Check Ebay for pricing. SLC 5/03 get sold often as plants are upgrading to SLC 5/04 (for DH+
communications) or ControlLogix.
SLC 5/03 System:
1. 1747-L531, SLC 5/03 processor
2. 1746-P1, power supply
3. 1746-A4, 4 slot chassis
4. 1746-IA(4,8,or 16), 110 vac Input Module (4,8,or 16 point)
5. 1746-OW(4,8,or 16), relay output module (4,8,or 16 point)
And you'll have a spare slot for anything else you want to play with (maybe an analog card?).
You will also need programming software and a programming cable.

You might consider the Entrelec LGR 12C DC model 'smart relay'. This tiny unit comes in a 'demo kit' with some hardwired but removable I/O to assist various demo routines.

It is extremely inexpensive <$200US and uses a version of classic ladder type configured interface. Other products exist in this line but this is the least for the most regarding and intro to classic PLC forms.

Soon the IEC interface model will over run the ladder/sequence interface model - but until this happens the Entrelec is an appropriate beginner unit in my opinion.
every plc brand has it's own version of programing software and don't forget the communication cables for each of the sub categories!

as far as getting started, idec is a brand whitch is cost effective for the hardware and software/cable. also check out the website. they are direct distributors for their products.

you should find there is an electrical distributor in your area giving good prices and support for a name brand plc product line. this will be the most popular equipment used in the plants in your area. and they will usualy offer a
1 or 2 day class on programing there products. these classes are basic but useful for a beginner.

some plants will specify a particular brand of plc to use in the equipment they order from the OEM.

every brand of plc will have it's own syntax to use for the addressing. these are subtle differances and can be overcome with a programer's reference book.

if you want to play with the big boys ( a-b omron gefanuc ) get ready to spend over $1000.00 for software and cables to let you program some of the product line.

don't forget about the "mmi's" ( man machine interface ) this will be another software and cable package with different cables for programing and using. these are fun and have the capability to directly manipulate or display bits or words inside the plc. they come in all shapes and sizes from 2 lines and 4 function keys to pictures of the plant with real-time data on your windows computer.

i hope this info is useful - welcome to the club.
Tim Davis

I have two manufacturers to suggest, GE Fanuc 90-70s and Allen Bradley PLC5. I have seen generator control systems that use both. Now my next suggestion is to shop on ebay for used equipment, you can pick up hardware for a fraction of the cost for new. Software is a problem unless you have lots of money to spend you
will be better off talking with others in your field to see if they have software you can borrow. Most expensive industrial software is copy protected and need what is called a site license or key disk. Now if you don't want to go
that far check ebay for Allen Bradley slc100/150s(1745) you can pick one up for less than 50 bucks and your local Allen Bradley distributer can give you a copy of the software in 2002. It uses a simple rs232-rs422 converter and you can
get the manuals online. Good luck I went threw the same about 3years ago now I work with PLCs almost everyday.

rajesh kenge

You can buy GE-Fanuc make Versa-Micro 23-point micro PLC. It is relatively inexpensive, also has 13 Digital inputs and 10 Digital outputs, also have 2 Analog inputs and 1 analog output, also has a High speed counter input.

You can program this with versamax for micro/nano PLC from GE-F.

You can gain expereince on all the analog programming and digital programming as well as HSC.

Best of luc.


Cory Lancaster

Allen Bradley is the most popular PLC in the world, and bloody expensive.

You should probably start by trying out the LogixPro PLC Simulator from":

Info From Site: "What is the LogixPro PLC Simulator?"

"Combine our ProSim-II programmable process simulations with a PLC Editor/Emulator which mimics Allen Bradley's (Rockwell) RSLogix 500, and you have LogixPro; a complete stand-alone PLC training system without the expense of a PLC. ..."

Note: If you must buy a PLC to have hands on experience, try the DL05 from
"": . The PLC is $99, and the Windows software to program it is also $99.


James Ingraham is the obvious choice, especially since it's very easy to order from them. However, I recommend the Aromat FP0, a cigarette-pack-sized PLC that is inexpensive but flexible. The Entrelec stuff (which is the same as Moeller's Easy Relay and A-B's PicoLogix) is cute but a bit limited.

Another semi-inexpensive option is a Modicon Momentum processor. The 171 CCC 780 10 ($450)processor can snap on to a 170 ADM 690 50 ($250) input/output AC base module and can then be programmed. The Momentum can be programmed by the
Concept S software (sorry, I don't have pricing but I think it's about $500). You'll note that we're already way over the cost of Aromat or

Personally, I can't stand to use anything but RSLogix 5000 for programming PLCs, but a copy is $1100. It will work with the A-B CompactLogix, which is about $1000 for a processor and a power supply. Figure another $300 for some I/O to try out.

If you listen long enough, you will be right back where you started; too many choices with no way to decide. My advice: decide how much you want to spend, then pick something under that. If you've got $5000 burning a hole in your pocket then by all means get an A-B ControlLogix. Otherwise, stick to or Aromat.

-James Ingraham
Sage Automation, Inc.
My recommendation like a few others is to get a DL205 from "": with a dl250 processor to start. If i'm not mistaken they also sell simulator modules with built in switches and lamps for your I/O. Don't forget to pick up an analog board or two so that you can gain some experience in the analog signalling area. this by far is your least expensive option as far i'm
concerned. buying a PLC5 processor will cost about 5 grand versus maybe $500 that you would you spend for the whole Direct Logix package!. Good Luck!

Edward Ratnam

I am considering a DL-05 PLC sold by automationdirect as a starter PLC. If you have experience with this one, can you please share your comments? Thanks.

Edward Ratnam

Hi Cory, I would like to embed an OPC Server into a PLC or embed it into a board which can communicate with a PLC. I am considering a DL05 PLC to do this and was wondering if this would turn out to be a futile task? Thanks.

Edward Ratnam

Hi Tim, What do you think about the DL05 PLC by automationdirect? I am thinking of embedding an OPC server either into the PLC itself or into a separate piece of hardware. Any info will be appreciated. Thanks.