Ladder Diagrams (LD) or Ladder Programming


Programs for microprocessor-based systems have to be loaded into them in machine code, this being a sequence of binary code numbers to represent the program instructions. However, assembly language based on the use of mnemonics can be used, e.g. LD is used to indicate the operation required to load the data that follows the LD, and a computer program called an assembler is used to translate the mnemonics into machine code. Programming can be made even easier by the use of the so-called high level languages, e.g. C, BASIC, PASCAL, FORTRAN, COBOL.
 
These use pre-packaged functions, represented by simple words or symbols descriptive of the function concerned. For example, with C language the symbol & is used for the logic AND operation. However, the use of these methods to write programs requires some skill in programming and PLCs are intended to be used by engineers without any great knowledge of programming. As a consequence, ladder programming was developed. This is a means of writing programs which can then be converted into machine code by some software for use by the PLC microprocessor.
 
This method of writing programs became adopted by most PLC manufacturers, however each tended to have developed their own versions and so an international standard has been adopted for ladder programming and indeed all the methods used for programming PLCs. The standard, published in 1993, is IEC 1131-3 (International Electrotechnical Commission)..

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