Modicon and the Introduction of PLCs

In the mid 20th century, process automation was accomplished by hard wired relay equipment.  These mechanisms performed their tasks, but were bulky, consumed a lot of power and were complicated to maintain.

Modicon® revolutionized process control by introducing the first programmable logic controller (PLC) in 1968.  The company name is a contraction of MOdular DIgital CONtroller, and has been owned by Schneider Electric® since 1997.

Ladder Logic Programming

Modicon also created an innovative programming language for its PLCs called “ladder logic”.  This resembled familiar relay diagrams and allowed the existing work force of experienced electricians and mechanics to essentially become computer programmers without having to learn esoteric computer languages.

Ladder logic was so influential that every PLC manufacturer adapted it for their processors. This was paradigm shifting technology with which changes to machinery operations could be made immediately instead of taking hours.

Initially, the human interface to PLCs was with another purpose-built electronic device called a “programmer”.  These devices provided access to all the PLC capabilities, but were challenging to use because of their size, complicated controls and limited information displays. Programmer devices became obsolete when personal computers were introduced.

FasTrak SoftWorks, Inc. Creates Windows-based PLC Programming Software

In 1985, FasTrak SoftWorks, Inc. was the first company in the world to create PLC programming software that could be installed on desktops and laptops.  These programming packages supported the biggest names in process automation.

FasTrak’s PLC WorkShop for Modicon

In 1995, FasTrak created the first ever Microsoft Windows®-based PLC programming software called PLC WorkShop for Modicon. Soon after the original FasTrak software was released, Modicon began offering its own PLC programming utilities, like Modsoft® for DOS and various ProWORX® releases for Windows, although many still consider PLC WorkShop a more user-friendly alternative.

These software applications support the robust Modicon processor families including the 594®, 984®, Micro®, Quantum®, and Momentum®.  The durable construction of this hardware allows it to tolerate without complaint the harsh manufacturing environments of heat, humidity, dust and vibration.  These processors are so dependable that they remain in service globally.

In the interest of promoting later PLC lines, Modicon began declaring end of product life cycles for these sturdy processors and terminating support of their programming tools. However, FasTrak recognized that a large portion of the PLC market relies on these Modicon processors, and remains committed to regularly updating and supporting PLC WorkShop, and ensuring that it runs on the latest versions of Windows.

FasTrak’s Ongoing Support of the Modicon PLC Platform

In addition to regular updates of PLC WorkShop, FasTrak offers additional applications that support the WorkShop software environment:

  • Modicon Simulator™ is an application that serves as a virtual PLC for WorkShop. PLC programs can be loaded, edited, run and tested in the Simulator like in a physical PLC.
  • FTLogger™ is a data historian that records telemetry from Modicon processors for later analysis.
  • FTTrender™ displays on a chart both real time and recorded data points from Modicon processors.
  • FTVersionTrak™ is a version control and change management software with which every version of any file, including PLC programs, can be securely stored, retrieved, edited and compared.

FasTrak: The Future of the Modicon Ecosystem

FasTrak also offers knowledgeable technical support and a curriculum of software training classes for all of its Modicon related products to ensure that these popular PLC families remain relevant and viable in factory automation today. Protect your investment in the Modicon PLC platform – download a demo of PLC WorkShop for Modicon or contact us today.