Getting Started With Programmable Controllers (PLC)

I often get asked what is the best way to learn how to program PLC’s?

PLCs on workbenchIn my opinion, there’s nothing like first hand experience. Therefore, I always recommend buying a small Micro PLC to use at home as the best way to learn.

But then comes the obvious next questions: Which Micro? What software will I need? Are there any special cables I need to buy? What about I/O?

With that in mind, in today’s article I’m going to list the items I would recommend to anyone who would like to learn how to use and program PLC’s.

PLC Starter Pack: Items I recommend to anyone who would like to get started programming PLC’s:

1) Micro PLC: Allen-Bradley MicroLogix 1000, 1761-L10BXB ($150)

MicroLogix 1000I chose this particular model because it’s inexpensive ($150,) it’s 24vDC powered (safer than 120VAC,) and it programs with FREE software that’s very much like the popular PLC-5 and SLC-500.

For more information about the MicroLogix 1000 check out the below links:

2) RSLogix Micro Starter Lite (Free)

RSLogix 500 online with a MicroLogix 1400This is the free programming software for the MicroLogix 1000 and 1100. For information on how to get it, visit the below link

3) Low cost cables ($55)

USB to Serial CableSince the MicroLogix programs via serial, below I link to a low cost serial cable as well as a USB to serial adaptor needed if your PC doesn’t have a serial port.

4) Inputs and Outputs ($56)

DVD-PicThere’s nothing like actually wiring up inputs and output to your PLC, and below I list the low cost push button station, LED pilot lights, and a Pilot Light enclosure I used to make my Micro Basics video:

5) Micro Programmable Controller Basics DVD

MIcro Basics DVDThis last item is a four hour instructional DVD by yours truly 😉

I spent the better part of a year creating this four hour DVD for the backers of my Kickstarter project, and now it’s currently available as either a two disc DVD or via HD Steaming.

To find out more about it just head over to to be taken to the product page for this video at The Automation School.

I hope you’ve found the above article about the items I recommend for a PLC Starter Pack helpful.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to use the “leave a reply” form at the bottom of the page to share them with us.


Shawn Tierney
Automation Consultant
Insights In Automation

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Legacy Comments

  1. Excellen!! Are you going to provide wiring diagrams with the DVD?

    • Good evening,

      I do show the button and pilot light wiring, and review the wiring diagrams in the install doc, but also mention the course is about PLC programming and does not cover basic electrical theory.

      Hope this helps,

      Shawn Tierney

      Did you find my comment helpful? Why not become a Premium Member with a small donation, and in return I'll give you a coupon for $10 of my automation downloads! Find out more here

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