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Are you looking to get into the Controls Engineering field? Maybe you already work in controls or automation and you want to enhance your skills. Well, in this article, we’re going to explore some popular (and affordable) online courses to learn PLC programming.

If you go directly to a manufacturer (Rockwell Automation or Siemens), these courses can be thousands of dollars. Here are some high-quality alternative online courses to help you learn PLC programming.

1. Industrial Automation Bootcamp

First up we have the Industrial Automation Bootcamp. If you’re brand-new to Industrial Automation and PLC’s, then this course will give you a good holistic overview.

This course will not dive into the world of a specific PLC brand, so if you’re looking to become an Allen-Bradley or Siemens wizard, this is not the course. I recommend checking out some of the other courses on this list.

plc programming classes online
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What you can expect to learn

  • Design Factory Automation from A to Z.
  • Design Automation Electrical Panels.
  • Draw Schematics for Electrical panels.
  • Calculation of cable sizes for any project.
  • Design Motor driving control circuits.
  • Get knowledge and hands-on experience in using VFD.
  • Learn PLC programming in Ladder Diagram (LD).
  • Learn PLC programming in Functional Blocks (FB).
  • Learn PLC programming in Structured Text (ST).
  • Learn PLC programming in the Continuous Flow Chart (CFC).
  • Design Human User Interfaces (HMI).
  • Design protection for electrical panels.
  • Learn about the different sensors that exist in the industry.

Course Logistics & Sign Up

The course is 100% online through Udemy. You can access the course lessons for life and learn at your own pace. It’s designed for Electrical, Control, computer, and Industrial Engineers. However, anyone willing to learn factory automation and controls is encouraged to sign up.

I recommend taking the course over 1-2 weeks. Otherwise, you could forget the materials and have to start over again.

Sign up for the Industrial Automation Bootcamp.

2. Learning PLC Ladder Logic

Another awesome PLC programming course is Learning PLC Ladder Logic on LinkedIn Learning. This course is designed to demystify Ladder Logic programming. So, if Ladder Logic confuses you, then I can’t recommend this course enough.

plc programming motor latch example
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The course will show you the fundamentals of writing PLC programs in Ladder Logic, how to use AND and OR statements, plus a host of common Ladder Logic patterns (latching, branches, timers, and counters).

What you can expect to learn

  • Input and output instructions.
  • Field devices and program instructions.
  • Adding multiple inputs using AND and OR methods.
  • Adding multiple outputs.
  • What branching means in ladder logic.
  • Using latch/unlatch output instructions.
  • Timer and counter instructions.

Course Logistics & Sign Up

Take this course online through LinkedIn Learning. Plus, when you’re done, you can showcase your new skill(s) on your LinkedIn profile. It’s pretty convenient, especially if you want to get promoted or change career paths.

LinkedIn Learning has a free 30-day trial that you can use to take this course. No excuses! Sign up and start learning ladder logic, today!

3. Siemens S7-1200 PLC & HMI using TIA Portal

Like I mentioned before, the majority of factories already have established which PLC brand they’re going to use. Some factories have a mixture of brands, but a lot of new Factory 4.0 and PLC efforts are focusing on standardizing technologies. The Siemens S7-1200 PLC & HMI course will teach you the in’s and out’s of programming Siemens PLCs and HMIs.

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I recommend picking either Siemens or Allen-Bradley if you’re not currently employed or you don’t know which controller to learn. Siemens is a little more affordable than the average Allen-Bradley Logix controller (except the Micro-series), plus you can get a free 30-day trial of the TIA portal through their website.

What you can expect to learn

  • Learn how to communicate with a PLC on a PC using Siemens TIA Portal.
  • Learn how to convert standard circuits to PLC Circuits (Ladder Logic).
  • Learn fundamentals commands of Siemens S7-1200 in TIA.

Course Logistics & Sign Up

I can’t emphasis how important it is to use Industry-standard hardware in your learning. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time with off-brands that the majority of large factories don’t use.

If your factory uses Siemens PLCs, then I HIGHLY recommend taking this course on Siemens S7-1200 PLCs and HMIs. Coming from Allen-Bradley programming, I was able to take this course and get up to speed with configuring an S7-1200 PLC and KTP 400 HMI in a few weeks. Not too shabby!

Sign up for the S7-1200 course here.

4. Allen-Bradley PLC Training with RSLogix 5000 and Studio5000

On the other hand, if you know you’re going to be working with Allen-Bradley PLC’s (or you want to be an A-B programmer), then there’s no point in taking a Siemens course. ControlLogix courses through Rockwell Automation can cost upwards $5,000 per session.

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Because of this, I recommend checking out the PLC Training with RSLogix 5000 and Studio5000 on Udemy. This course is a fraction of the cost and will show you how to navigate Studio5000 (formerly RSLogix 5000).

What you can expect to learn

  • Be able to completely set up and program in RSLogix 5000 and Studio 5000 from scratch.
  • This course will teach beginners how to program Allen-Bradley PLCs from scratch using RSLogix 5000 and Studio 5000.

Course Logistics & Sign Up

If you’re completely new to PLC’s and your job requires troubleshooting Ladder Logic in Studio, then you’ll want to enroll in this course. For less than $50, you’ll gain lifetime access. So, if you take the course and want to review the material months later, you’ll be able to.

I’ve taken both the $5,000 in-person Rockwell classes and the $40 Udemy classes. They’re both great, but having access to the online course makes it super easy to reference concepts on-the-fly. If you want the best bang-for-your-buck, take this online course.

Click here to sign up.

5. FactoryTalk ME with SCADA PLC System Design

The next course is for more advanced PLC Programmers looking to get into HMI Programming, Factory 4.0 concepts, and SCADA System design. If you’re beyond learning PLC programming basics, then you’ll want to learn HMI programming and more advanced topics with PLCs.

panelview plus HMI programming course
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What you can expect to learn

  • You will have a good understanding of what an HMI does, how it does it as well as what the outcomes of those actions are.
  • You will be comfortable creating basic HMI screen layouts and troubleshoot complex existing ones.
  • You will have a better understanding of manufacturing systems as a whole.
  • Create fully functional HMI Programs.
  • Understand and apply HMI Development best practices to their designs.

Course Logistics & Sign Up

Data collection and management is super important for modern factories. This is especially important if you’re looking to pursue a niche career in automation or IT. If you know how to program HMIs, PLCs and FactoryTalk ME, then you’ll have a very good chance of getting that promotion. This is especially true if the factory you work at is an Allen-Bradley shop.

Sign up for the FactoryTalk ME HMI Programming and SCADA course here.

6. Factory Automation using PLCs

To take your PLC programming skills to the next level, you can enroll in the Factory Automation using PLCs course. You’ll learn how to interface PLCs within a factory system, which is a valuable skill to have. Integration is always the hardest part of these automated work cells, so it’s an invaluable skill to learn.

factory i/o simulation for PLC programming
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Put your PLC programming skills to use and start controlling conveyors, Industrial Robot arms, and more. You can use a simulated PLC or real hardware. It’s even great for engineering prototypes.

What you can expect to learn

  • To learn how to build an Industrial Automation System as per the application.
  • Learn the mechanics of installing sensors and actuators in the machine.
  • Simulating your industrial system with PLC Logics.
  • Testing and analyzing the feasibility of the project.

Probably the coolest part about this course is the simulated automated cells using Factory I/O. This means you can build multi-million dollar automated cells in simulation without having to use real hardware. For all you Rollercoaster Tycoon Legends out there, this is wicked awesome!

Sign up and start building your own Simulated Factories using PLCs, here.

7. Program VFD, Servo & Stepper Drives using Delta and Allen-Bradley PLCs

Lastly, we have another more advanced course on VFD's, Servos, and Stepper drives. This course focuses on both Delta and Allen-Bradley control systems. I think it’s worth taking this course if you want to have more advanced control systems skills. Plus, a lot of Mid-Senior PLC Programming jobs require VFD experience.

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What you can expect to learn

  • To program the VFD and Servo with customizing parameters suitable to the application.
  • To design a turn-key circuit for VFD’s and Servo Drives.
  • To interface VFDs and Servo with PLC for intelligent operations.

Course Logistics & Sign Up

Not too many PLC programmers or Controls Engineers understand the setup and configuration of VFD’s, Servo, and Stepper motor drivers. With that said, if you learn these skills, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition when it comes to applying for a Senior Controls Engineering position.

Another benefit to this course is that you’ll be using two popular VFD’s on the market: the Delta M Series and the Allen-Bradley Powerflex 4M. Pretty awesome!

You can sign up for lifetime access to this course on Udemy.

Next Steps for Learning

As with any new skill, the best way to get better at PLC programming is to practice programming PLC’s. I highly recommend picking up a PLC and wiring up some simple I/O. Micro820 is an affordable PLC ($450) and the CCW software is free. I don’t recommend picking up an off-brand PLC unless that’s the only option. Most large companies use Rockwell Automation or Siemens products, so if you can learn either (or both), then you’ll be more likely to score the job.

If you already work at a company that uses PLCs, then try to get a license to play around in the TIA portal (Siemens) or Studio5000 (Rockwell Automation). These licenses are expensive ($4,000-$12,000), so if you already have access to them at work, the more economical it will be for you to learn it. Plus, the more exposure you have to controls software and hardware, the quicker you’ll be able to write and troubleshoot complex automation systems.

Be sure to check out my article on PLC Programming with Ladder Logic. And, if you have questions, drop them in the comments section below.

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