FPGA Implementations of Ladder Diagrams

  •  Neil Bergmann    
  •  Peter Waldeck    
  •  Sunil Shukla    


The performance of programmable logic controllers is often constrained by the microprocessor and the real-time firmware of the controller. Field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are an attractive potential implementation medium for high-speed control because of their fast and parallel execution and programmable nature. Ladder Diagrams are a standard graphical programming method for industrial controllers, but compilers from Ladder Diagrams to FPGA hardware do not yet exist. This paper explores the comparative speed of four different classes of FGPA implementation of Ladder Diagrams - Interpreted Software, Compiled Software, Interpreted Hardware and Compiled Hardware. It also explores parallel versus serial execution of Ladder Diagrams in hardware, and identifies timers as a major resource user in parallel implementations. Overall, a Shared Timer Serial Compiled Hardware system for FPGA implementation of Ladder Diagrams is recommended. Using comparable FPGA resources to other alternatives it provides a 20-600 times speed improvement over other solutions whilst maintaining correct Ladder Diagram semantics.

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