Programmable controllers have come a long way in the past few years. And Mitsubishi's iQ-F line of PLCs is no exception - or maybe it is?
PLC programmers are used to thinking about using large rack mount systems when they need a lot of processing power, and while that still remains true, the lower end has grown so much that applications we used to have to reach for larger and more expensive PLCs to accomplish can now be done in much lower cost units. For example Mitsubishi's FX5 (iQ-F) series PLCs.
In the previous generation of hardware we had the FX3 series PLCs for small simple applications. And while we could do motion control on that platform, it was not as easy as on higher end platforms and the capability was limited. Then there was the top of the line iQ (Q series) platform. The Q series could do it all, and very well, but it could be costly. So Mitsubishi released the L series as an intermediary and it found a niche in the market where the Q series costs were a little too high but performance needed to be more than the FX3 could provide.
It's hard to believe but the L-series was released over 10 years ago. But would you believe me if I said that the FX5U has very similar processing power? The FX5U is now an established product. It's been on the market for 5 years and can be used to replace both the predecessor FX3U series PLCs and all but the most demanding L series applications. With options like Ethernet/IP communications, 8 axis of coordinated servo motion on a single card, and even the latest and greatest CC-Link IE TSN technology for high speed deterministic cutting edge Ethernet based control and communications. This little PLC punches well above its weight.
If you are looking to refresh your projects, it could be well worth the effort to look at the FX5 series.
Typically speaking all FX3U series PLCs can be replaced with the equivalent FX5U. A lot of L-series projects can also be replaced by the FX5U. And recently Mitsubishi released the little brother to the FX5U, the FX5UJ. This new offering matches the IO count of the previous FX3G series PLCs coming with 24 or 40 I/O. It has slightly less memory than the FX5U/FX5UC PLCs, but is also a cost reduction while being a huge step up in processing power and ability from the previous generation FX3G.
Currently as of March 2021 there are three main variants in the iQ-F series:
1. The FX5U - comes with screw terminals and various sizes starting at 32 I/O
2. The FX5UC - the compact version with either ribbon cable connection or spring terminal connection for very tight space constraint applications
- both the FX5U and the FX5UC are comparable in memory, processing speed an most other capabilities
3. The FX5UJ - lower IO count than the FX5U, smaller memory
All models include Ethernet as standard, SD Card for data logging and other functions, and all come in a very compact form factor.
If you haven't looked at the FX5 family. You may be missing something great.
Maybe this PLC IS the exception because it disrupts everything you thought you knew about compact PLC performance at a competitive price.