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Home >Merger of PLC, motion control, and robotics predicted to drive global PLC software market

Merger of PLC, motion control, and robotics predicted to drive global PLC software market

24 May 2016

According to the latest research study released by Technavio, the global programmable logic controller (PLC) software market is expected to reach more than 484 million in revenue by 2020.

The report titled ‘Global PLC Software Market 2016-2020’, provides an in-depth analysis of market growth in terms of revenue and emerging market trends. To calculate the market size, the report consider revenue generated from sales and aftermarket services of PLC software.

“Traditionally, industrial robots, motion controllers, and PLCs were programmed separately. PLCs are programmed in ladder logic; motion controls with their wide range are programmed using a PC library or other proprietary language; and industrial robots are programmed in complex proprietary languages that are difficult for non-technical personnel to understand. Therefore, end-users are demanding robots, motion controllers, and PLC to be programmed in familiar PLC languages, so that it can be easily understood by machine builder programmers and maintained by end-user's service personnel,” said Bharath Kanniappan, one of Technavio’s lead analysts for automation research.

As automation applications continue to grow, two distinct areas of industrial control systems, namely robotics and motion are merging in terms of deployments. Robotics is a path dependent on event-based application. Motion control is typically a scan-based velocity or positioning application. The user interface in robotics is teach-pendent centric, and motion control uses programming methods such as ladder logic and FBD.

Global PLC programming by programming language type 2015

  • Ladder 85.88%
  • Functional block diagram 10.03%
  • Others 7.24%

Global PLC software market by ladder logic

The global PLC software market by ladder logic was valued at USD 395.1 million in 2015. Ladder logic is the most preferred method of programming PLCs. PLC ladder logic mimics relay logic and is based on relay logic wiring schematics. This eliminates the need to train electricians, engineers, and technicians about the program. Ladder logic is widely used in PLC implementation; whereby sequential control of a process is required. It is useful for simple control systems and reworking of hardwired relay circuits.

As PLCs have evolved and became more sophisticated, ladder logic language has also improved and is being used in complex automation systems. It is used in conjunction with an HMI program. Generally, ladder logic languages from two software providers are not compatible and different variants of PLCs within the same brand may have different ladder notations and cannot be interchanged between models.

Global PLC software market by functional block diagram

The global PLC software market by functional block diagram (FBD) was valued at USD 54.53 million in 2015. FBD is the second-most widely used programming language for PLCs. It presents a graphical image to users with underlying algorithms already defined. The programmer simply completes the required information within the block to complete each phase of the program. Reduced downtime and ease of use have accelerated the adoption of function blocks diagrams and the use of its library components. The adoption of FBD is also encouraged by the development of standards by IEC that make their use easier.

FBDs are stable, and can be used in a wide range of applications. They reduce complexity and enable programmers to work with a function block without the need to understand internal functionalities. Functional block language provides the flexibility to reuse the code.

Global PLC software market by others

The global PLC software market by others was valued at USD 35.09 million in 2015. The programming languages categorized under others include instructional list, sequential functional chart, and structured text. Instruction list consists of different lines of code with each line focusing on one operation. It has a systematic layout and format, which makes the incorporation of a series of simple mathematical functions easy. A program written in instruction list language can be moved easily between hardware platforms.

Though the adoption of this language is minimal due to its limited applications, it is popular in Europe, which places a higher premium in the transferability of programs. In Europe, it is widely used in automotive, power generation and transmission and water and wastewater industries, as it is compact and occupies less space in the PLC memory.