Ladder logic is the basis of most control functions Ladder logic uses switch or relay contacts to implement Boolean expressions. In years past, ladder logic was made possible with discrete relays and was sometimes termed “relay logic.” Today most implementations are done using a specialized microprocessor-based device called a programmable logic controller (PLC). Although the means of implementation have changed over the years, the basic concepts remain the same. Logical functions. When studying logic, one must begin with the basic functions. Input values can be combined using the logical AND, OR, and exclusive OR (XOR) functions (Fig. 1 at right). Logic gates use digital electronics to implement these functions. Each gate is actually a circuit, typically consisting of transistors and biasing resistors. As an example, the transistor-transistor logic (TTL) 7408 chip contains four, two-input AND gates in one integrated circuit (IC) package. These gates and other types on separate ICs can be wired together to implement a wide array of digital logic. In the case of ladder logic, logic functions are implemented by developing a ladder diagram. Named for its resemblance to a ladder, the diagram consists of two vertical rails connected by several horizontal rungs. Each rail is energized at a different voltage, and each rung contains at least one element, such as a relay coil or an indicator lamp, across which voltage can drop. In a ladder circuit, normally open (type-A) and normally closed (typeB) contacts are interconnected so as to implement the logical functions. Connecting two contacts in series implements an AND function, since the first and second contacts must both be closed to complete the circuit. Connecting the same two contacts in parallel implements a logical OR, since at least one contact must be closed to complete the circuit. An XOR implementation for two inputs, which is actually [(A AND B') OR (A' AND B)] where the

Other functions. pressure switches.” its contacts return to their normal state. at least one valve is open. controls one or more sets of contacts. requires a type-A and a type-B contact for both inputs. Devices like timers and counters can also be added to make more complex logic possible.” its type-A contacts close and its type-B contacts open. position indicators. whether it's a discrete device or a “virtual” device mimicked by PLC software. the SI relay picks up and its type-A contacts close. Many times. . and flow switches. A variety of specialized input devices. when the coil is de-energized or “dropped out. and no alarms exist. The seal-in function can be provided with a relay coil and a single set of type-A contacts as shown in the dashed box in Fig. Fig. providing a current path after the start pushbutton is released. When a relay coil is energized or “picked up. This requires a path to develop around the switch so current can continue to flow after the switch contacts open. A relay coil. Seal-in function. momentary pushbuttons are used to provide user input to a control circuit. If such a switch is used as a start pushbutton for a motor. stopping the motor. the switch must be “sealed-in” so the motor doesn't stop when the pushbutton is released. green for stopped — can also be used. 2. Indicator lamps — red for running. can provide input to the ladder logic circuit. such as temperature sensors. This basic control circuit forms the basis for much more complex control circuits.prime mark indicates a logical NOT or inversion. When the start button is pushed. Pressing the stop button drops out the SI coil. Conversely. 2 shows a simple motor control circuit that will only allow the motor to start — and remain running — when its lube oil pump is running.

. thereby representing a zero in the off state and a one in the on state. This is an example of an AND operation. These two numbers comprise the binary number system. it's important to discuss the term “logic” for a moment. AC motor control is an area that requires specific knowledge in order to troubleshoot motors effectively and ensure smooth operations. Think of a single-pole light switch in your home that controls a 100W light bulb. The switch can either be off or on. In the study of digital electronics. OR. The combination of input devices that either manually or automatically sense a condition — and the corresponding change in condition performed by the output device — make up the core of motor control. 1 and switch No. This means gaining a clear understanding of ladder diagrams and ladder logic. Let's take a closer look at what's involved in learning the symbolic language of motor control. and NOT functions.Ladder LogicBasics Tips for learning the symbolic language of motor control A specialized segment of the electrical construction and maintenance industry. which enable the automation that drives motors. Figure 1 represents the AND circuit just mentioned. Logic relates to ladder diagrams because input functions in series constitute an AND operation. A specialized branch of mathematics called Boolean algebra analyzes this relationship with two numbers: a zero (representing the OFF state) or a one (representing the ON state). Now imagine placing two single-pole switches in series to control the same 100W light bulb. The most common logic functions are the AND. In this condition. devices are used that operate in either an ON or OFF state. switch No. First. 2 have to both be on to light the 100W bulb. while input functions in parallel constitute an OR operation.

provided the running overload current is within the values of the overload relay OL. there is one very important . the coil of magnetic motor starter M1 is energized and the motor starts. When S1 is closed. S1 is simply opened. a relay coil (M1). and the thermal overload relay contact (OL). However. Typical 2-wire control circuit for starting a motor. A 3-wire control circuit is shown in Fig. 2. 2. a momentary pushbutton (START). Again. You will encounter two types of ladder diagrams: the 2-wire control circuit and the 3-wire control circuit. this circuit is used to start a motor for some industrial process. Fig. When the start button is pressed.Fig. 1. The components in a 3-wire control circuit are a momentary pushbutton (STOP). provided the running overload current is within the values of the overload relay OL. To stop the motor. and the thermal overload relay contact (OL). The components in a 2-wire control circuit are a maintained contact switching device (S1). a relay coil (M1). The 2-wire control circuit is shown in Fig. 3. a normally open relay contact (M1). Switch S1 and S2 must both be closed for the light to come on. This circuit is used to start a motor for some industrial process. the coil of magnetic motor starter M1 is energized and the motor starts. The sequence of operations here is a little more complex. The sequence of operations is fairly simple.

which. For the purpose of this article. See Fig. 4 for a list of common symbols used in ladder diagrams and motor control circuits. Fig. What components make up a full-blown ladder diagram? There are several types of input and output devices. Fig. the STOP button is pressed. 4. Common symbols used in ladder diagrams and motor control circuits. 3. Momentary contact devices are spring-loaded and are classified as normally open and normally closed devices.difference: A normally open contact of magnetic motor starter M1 seals around the start button to latch the circuit. stopping the motor. Typical 3-wire control circuit for starting a motor (M1). To stop the motor. Input devices can first be classified as momentary contact and maintained contact devices. The designation “normally” refers to the state of the device in its resting position — when no external stimulus is . we will focus on conventional electromechanical devices. breaks the latch and de-energizes the coil of magnetic motor starter M1. in turn.

they remain in either an ON or OFF state. Two dissimilar metal wires are joined together in a loop with one end being the hot junction. double-throw contact. 3PDT. Early versions of photoelectric controls had an incandescent lamp transmitter and a cadmium sulfide photocell receiver. Each of these devices sense temperature change and then presents a contact closure for use in a control circuit. SPST refers to a single-pole. while a thermocouple relies on a principle known as the Seebeck effect.acting upon it. SPDT. A thermostat relies on the thermal expansion/contraction of a bimetal.” For example. They can also be classified as normally open and normally closed. Proximity controls sense motion when an object passes by the sensing target on the device. etc. and then present a contact closure to the control circuit. Temperature-sensing devices commonly used in motor control applications are thermostats and thermocouples. They work on the principle of beam interruption to sense motion and then present a contact closure to the control circuit. single-throw contact while 3PDT refers to a 3pole. A difference of potential is generated in the loop in response to temperature change. An emergency stop is an example of a maintained contact device. They can detect metallic as well as non-metallic objects. The first two letters refer to the number of “poles. A fractional manual motor starter useful for single-phase motors (1 hp and lower) can either be an SPST for 120V applications or DPST for 240V applications. the other being the cold junction. DPST.” and the last two letters refer to the number of “throws. A green start button is an example of a normally open momentary pushbutton. Motion-sensing devices commonly used are photoelectric controls and proximity controls. Modern versions of the photoelectric control have pulsed infrared transmitters and solid-state photo-detector receivers. DPDT. The contact arrangement of switching devices can also be classified as SPST. while a red stop button is an example of a normally closed momentary pushbutton. . They operate on the principles of magnetism and capacitance. Instead. Maintained contact devices are not spring-loaded.