An Introduction to ABB AC500 PLCs

This article will provide a basic understanding of the features and capabilities of the ABB AC500 family of PLCs and hardware.

There are many manufacturers of Programmable Logic Controllers that are used in the Automation industry. One of the leading PLC manufacturers in the world is ABB PLC. ABB offers a full line of industrial PLC controllers and safety PLC controllers with a wide range of I/O cards, interfaces, and modules.


The AC500 PLC is a scalable platform that provides options for small to very large automation systems. The standard AC500 PLC is offered in models ranging from 128 kilobytes of memory for small applications to models with 160 megabytes of memory for larger applications.

Each model can accept several different Terminal Units which can provide interfaces for communication and various I/O modules.

The I/O modules available include AC and DC digital input and output modules and voltage and current analog input and output modules. Special Terminal Units are used when hot-swapping of I/O modules is required.


AC500 Communication modules

A large number of communication interfaces are available for AC500 PLCs.

Each CPU has the capability for up to four interfaces integrated into the CPU module.
Additionally, up to four slots are available for additional communication modules.

AC500 PLCs Communication Interfaces

Supported modules include Ethernet, EtherCAT, Profinet, Profibus DP, CANopen, DeviceNet, Serial, Modbus TCP, as well as others.

All modules are equipped with standard connection ports based on the interface and terminals for wired connections.

Communication Interface Modules


Other AC500 PLC models provide specialized functionality, such as the AC500-eCo, which is a small, compact PLC with a small number of I/O integrated into the processor module.



The AC500-HA family of PLCs provides hardware redundancy through the use of redundant bus connections and a synchronization cable.



The AC500-S PLC platform provides an integrated safety system featuring safety-rated controllers and I/O cards.



The AC500-XC controller is used in areas where extreme environmental conditions are likely to exist.


ABB PLC programming software 

All AC500 are programmed using the ABB Automation Builder software.

Three versions are available: Basic, which is a free version for basic system engineering tasks, Standard, and Premium.

The Standard version is intended for integrated system engineering with additional support for communication interfaces.

The Premium version extends the Standard version by adding productivity and collaborative features, such as change management tools, Python scripting, and Open Device integration.

ABB Automation Builder Software

ABB Automation Builder is an integrated software package that allows configuration and programming of PLC controllers, safety controllers, I/O, motor drives, motion control, ABB CP600 HMI panels, and SCADA functionality, such as data archiving and process alarming.

ABB Automation Builder Software Configuration

Multi-program download tool

For larger systems, Automation Builder includes a multi-program download tool that allows program downloads to multiple PLCs from a single setup.

Automation Builder Multi-Program Download Tool

AC500 OPC Server

Additional software modules available for Automation Builder include several very useful applications that are often used in automation systems. The AC500 OPC Server application allows data in AC500 devices to be shared with other applications and servers, including data historians and 3rd Party PLCs, such as Siemens S7 PLCs or Rockwell Logix PLCs.

AC500 OPC Server Application

Virtual Commissioning Platform

The Virtual Commissioning Platform add-on application allows testing of the software program independent of the hardware.

Virtual devices are used to emulate the real hardware, so field signals and communication between devices can be simulated.

The speed of the Virtual Controller execution can be sped up, slowed down, or frozen so that logic states can be inspected.

Virtual Commissioning Platform

AC500 PLC programming languages

ABB AC500 PLCs are typically programmed using Continuous Function Charts, an advanced type of function block, and structured text.

Support for the other IEC 61131-3 standard languages such as Ladder Logic, Sequential Function Charts, and Instruction List is also provided.

Standard libraries, objects, and connectivity tools help the automation engineer integrate the various devices and applications that are required for a complex system.

Automation Builder can be installed on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2012.

ABB AC500 Programming

AC500 PLC example system

Now Let’s configure a simple ABB AC500 PLC system to demonstrate how the components we have introduced are connected. We will define a small system that will include a CPU and interfaces for Profibus DP and Ethernet.

We will have 24-volt DC I/O with one Digital Input card, one Digital Output card, and one Analog Input card connected to the CPU terminal base. Additionally, We will include one CP600 operator control panel.

Consult the latest ABB PLC Automation catalog to learn more about the hardware offered and the specifications for each device.

Simple ABB AC500 PLC System

First, select a CPU that will be able to handle the communication interfaces and the small number of I/O points in the system.

Choose the PM583-ETH CPU, which comes with one megabyte of memory, one Ethernet port, and two serial ports.


Choose a TB-511 terminal base to support the CPU’s Ethernet port and to provide one additional communication card slot for Profibus DP.

Select a CM592-DP Profibus DP Master communication card to fit next to the CPU in the terminal base.

To support the three I/O cards, we need three TU518 I/O bases, one DI524 32-point 24 volt DC Digital Input card, one DO526 eight-point 24 volt DC Digital Output card, and one AI523 sixteen-point Analog Input card.

TB - 511 Terminal base - CM592-DP

To finish the hardware setup, select a CP6610 operator control panel with an Ethernet port. This panel has a 10.1-inch screen and high-definition resolution.

CP6610 Operator Control Panel-

This article has provided a basic understanding of the features and capabilities of the ABB AC500 family of PLCs and hardware.

Once you understand the requirements for your process, choosing the right AC500 PLC, communication interfaces, and I/O modules should be no problem.

Want to Learn More?

Newcomers to RealPars have free access to one of our online courses.

You can take advantage of this offer by downloading the RealPars app (iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, FireTV, Rokuand selecting the first lesson of the PLC Hardware course. Just like the video, the lessons are all high-quality and also very easy-to-follow.

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Also, for a low monthly fee, you’ll get full access to an exclusive library of courses on PLC programming and industrial automation topics as well as new fresh out of the oven videos each and every week. These courses are all member-exclusive and are not shared anywhere else on the internet.

If you would like to get additional training on a similar subject please let us know in the comment section.

Check back with us soon for more automation control topics.

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The RealPars Team
By Scott Sommer

By Scott Sommer

Automation Engineer

Posted on Aug 10, 2020
Ted Mortenson
By Scott Sommer
Automation Engineer
Posted on Aug 10, 2020
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