Low-cost PLC for beginners | How to Get Started with Your Own PLC

This article will show you a variety of low-cost PLC starter kit options to meet a variety of programming, educational, and development needs.
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There are many ways to learn how to program a PLC, and RealPars offers many ways to get started.

Our collection of video series is well-known for its clear, concise presentation of a wide range of topics on PLC programming and automation concepts.

But you may ask, how can I get access to software and hardware to practice the skills I have learned from the RealPars courses?

Trial versions of the programming software are great, but what do you do after the short trial period ends? And what about testing the software? The simulation programs can be quite expensive.

At RealPars, we understand that automation engineers like you want to get real-world, hands-on experience with industrial PLC software and hardware to build the skills that allow you to become more proficient in PLC programming. And now you can!

Become Proficient in PLC Programming by a Cheap PLC

Low-cost PLC – Most Basic Starter Kits

Low-cost PLCs are compact PLCs that are offered by manufacturers for programmers just like you and me; those who need a complete system for skills development and exploration.

1) Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit

Siemens S7-1200 PLC starter kits are available at low cost and come with fully licensed components.

Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kits, a Cheap PLC

Within a very short time, you can be up and running, creating and testing your own PLC programs using a real PLC used widely throughout the automation industry.

Basic starter PLC learning kits include a PLC processor, software, and cabling. Let’s explore a few Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kits that are available for immediate purchase and quick delivery.

Basic Starter Kits - Cheap PLC

How to Purchase your low-cost PLC

Head on over to this page to order  your S7-1200 PLC starter kit.

You can see that the starter kit includes an S7-1212C PLC, TIA Portal Basic programming software (life-time access version), an 8-point input I/O simulator, an Ethernet cable, and a hard plastic storage box, called a Systainer.

Siemens S7-1200 PLC starter kits Accessories

This PLC has a built-in 120VAC power supply. You will need to wire the input power terminals to your local power source using a power cord or other appropriate cabling.

PLC Built-In Power Supply

The S7-1212C is a powerful, small PLC. This PLC model is commonly used in onboard machine applications. It has built-in I/O, including 2 analog inputs, 8 digital inputs, 4 of which can be high-speed counters, and 6 AC/DC relay outputs.

The S7-1212C boasts 2 megabytes of memory and a Profinet/Ethernet interface port.

PLC Built-in I-O, Memory And Interface Port

This PLC model is equipped to be able to create the programs for every RealPars course example, including Functions, Function Block, Data Block, PID, and Interrupt Blocks.

This model also includes a basic runtime license for OPC UA to assist in the communication of data to and from the PLC to other applications, like data historians which is something you could not find with the older version.

To learn more about OPC UA, you can check out the easy-to-follow course we have already created for OPC UA. A quick heads up, the course requires paid access! 🙂

Cheap PLC with Basic Runtime License for OPC UA

Low-cost PLC with HMI Panel

2) S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + KP300 HMI

For those who need a more advanced development starter kit, there are several models that include all of the hardware and software included with the Basic Starter Kit, plus a basic HMI panel.

HMI panels allow the user to interact directly with the PLC logic, just as a machine operator would.

This starter kit (6AV6651-7HA02-3AA4) includes a KP300 HMI Panel. This panel has a 3-inch monochrome display with function keys and a Profinet interface.

Cheap PLC s7 1200 + KP300

You can see that the price of this version of the starter kit is more expensive than the basic kit, but if you were to purchase all of these components separately, the cost would be more than twice the price of the starter kit.

Cheap PLC Starter Kit

3) S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + KTP400 HMI

The next step up starter kit model (6AV6651-7KA02-3AA4) includes a KTP400 HMI panel which has a 4-inch color touchscreen display and a Profinet interface.

Cheap PLC+KP400

4) S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + KTP700 HMI

One more step up is a starter kit (6AV6651-7DA02-3AA4) that includes the KTP700 HMI panel, which has a 7-inch color touchscreen display and a Profinet interface.

 Cheap PLC 1200+KP700

Advanced Starter Kits – with Safety PLC

5) Siemens S7-1200 Fail-Safe Starter Kit

If you need to gain experience with safety PLCs for hazardous systems control applications, you may want to consider the S7-1200 Fail-Safe Starter Kit (6ES7212-1HF42-4YB1).

This starter kit includes an S7-1214 FC CPU, one ProfiSafe digital input module, one ProfiSafe digital output module, and the other items contained in the basic starter kit.

S7-1200 Fail - Safe Starter Kit

This CPU only has 256 kilobytes of memory, but this is more than adequate for most small safety PLC applications, such as boiler damper control, flammable gas monitoring, and overpressure detection.

S7-1200 Fail-Safe Starter Kit Applications

Advanced Starter Kits – with S7-1500

6) Siemens S7-1500 PLC Starter Kit

If your intent is to use a starter kit to serve as a testbed for larger process logic development or simulations, you can choose a starter kit with an S7-1500 CPU (6ES7511-1TK02-4YB5).

This starter kit comes with an S7-1511T CPU, power supply, SIMATIC memory card, and all of the other items included in the Basic Starter Kit.

The S7-1500 starter kits come with TIA Portal Professional, but with only a 1-year license activation. This may seem like a negative, but one year can offer an adequate period of time to develop and test many sophisticated programs.

Siemens S7- 1500 Starter Kit

7) S7-1500 PLC Starter Kit + ProDiag

Other available S7-1500 starter kits (6ES7511-1CK03-4YB5), include the S7-1500 ProDiag module which can be configured to provide machine and process diagnostics through configuration instead of programming.

These diagnostics can be shown on operator panels to aid in machine maintenance and troubleshooting.

S7- 1500 Starter Kit + ProDiag Module


In this article, we showed you a variety of low-cost PLC starter kit options to meet a variety of programming, educational, and development needs.

Automation Engineers, Computer Engineers, Electricians, Instrument Techs, and anyone aspiring to be PLC Programmers will find the Siemens PLC starter kits affordable and valuable for creating and testing PLC programs.

Many companies are purchasing these low-cost starter kits for the training and development of their employees. Order a starter kit and start your journey towards becoming a proficient PLC programmer!

I am adding the PLC starter kit list we discussed above here again in the case you need to copy and send it to a coallauge or fiend:

1) Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit (6ES7212-1BE34-4YB0)

2) Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + KP300 HMI Panel (6AV6651-7HA02-3AA4)

3) Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + KTP400 HMI panel (6AV6651-7KA02-3AA4)

4) Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + KTP700 HMI panel (6AV6651-7DA02-3AA4)

5) Siemens S7-1200 Fail-Safe Starter Kit (6ES7212-1HF42-4YB1)

6) Siemens S7-1500 PLC Starter Kit (6ES7511-1TK02-4YB5)

7) Siemens S7-1200 PLC Starter Kit + ProDiag module (6ES7511-1CK03-4YB5)

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

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