ABB PLC | 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.
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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

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

AC500 PLC system example

In the complementary article, Applying an ABB PLC to a Small Process, We will configure a simple ABB AC500 PLC system to demonstrate how the components we have introduced are connected.

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

If you have any questions about ABB PLCs, add them in the comments below and we will get back to you in less than 24 hours.

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The RealPars Team

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