We’re all used to general purpose microcontroller boards such as the Arduino or its many imitators, but perhaps we don’t see as much of their industrial cousins. A programmable logic controller (PLC) is a computer designed to automate industrial machinery, and comes with protected interfaces and usually a specific PLC programming environment. Thus [Galopago]’s work with an inexpensive Chinese PLC clone is especially interesting, providing a route forward to using it within the Arduino IDE ecosystem.
Opening it up, the processor is identified as an STM32F103, and the connection needed to place it in bootloader mode is identified. Then it can be programmed from the Arduino IDE, even though its bootloader can’t be changed. Then to complete the process it’s necessary to identify the various different inputs and outputs by old-fashioned hardware reverse engineering.
This PLC may not be quite as robust as some products costing much more money, but it still represents a cost-effective way to access a microcontroller board with much of the interface circuitry already installed that would normally be required for controlling machinery. We expect that we’ll be seeing it appear on these pages over the coming months, and perhaps there might even be another comparison in the air.