Always the top brands will be the most popular PLC and over many years it is my opinion that this is because of their marketing strategy, history, reputation and worldwide acceptance more than any other reasons. This does not mean they are better or worse in any way, just means they are more accepted world wide and more people are experienced with their software. Thus there is some security for the owner in respect to programmer support or future resources etc (people come, people go) and a basis on which management may dictate what hardware is used. There is also the consideration on the capital outlay for programming software which can be very expensive.
Choice most often depends on your application and infrastructure. Example: if an entire factory or whatever was “x-brand” and communicating with each other through “y-protocol”, it may be wise to keep to the same-same. Other brands PLC may talk same protocol but then you need to think about software and the experience of your programmer resources, spares etc.
The alternative may be a more task or machine specific PLC that can communicate the same protocol but at the cost of the programmer not knowing the device or software, or the costs of additional software and also there may be less skilled programmers in this hardware choice constricting the owners future options in using this alternative.
Experienced programmers fall into two basic categories. Just like Joe-Builder who has had 25yrs experience – now Joe, was that 25years experience doing different things or was that 1years experience 25 times? I have encountered this so often, fantastic CV but doesn’t know anything because has been in same job, day in day out, year after year. Very good at THAT job mind you but no real (other) world experience. PLC programmers are often the same, know x-plc (or software language) inside out but nothing else.
Just my opinion but a good programmer is someone skilled in ladder logic, functions / function blocks, structured text, CRC etc and knows when to use it. Someone also familiar with the hardware and its associated costs. Someone who knows how the hardware device scans and can makes efficient use of its resources through the above mentioned skills. Someone also who is mind-full of who will maintain / modify and what can be modified and what should not… etc. Bit of a mouth full I know, but such a person can then make choices of hardware based on the end result required and not be constrained in his/her thinking based on what already exists or what they themselves know or what they or their management consider to be the current reality.
So, a long story to ask another question. Are you really asking which is the most popular brand PLC because a quick google search using the a brand name would tell you that in seconds based on the number of millions of pages available for THAT brand or are you asking which PLC should you choose?
As further comment…
Today I would go task specific by choice. If you want ultra speed, complex math or fast analogue and. or heavy processing etc… then you are looking at a soft logic PLC that will talk the same protocol as the other PLC’s in the factory. If the task is simple logic and minimal analogue and does not require ultra fast scan times (i.e. 10ms+ is acceptable) then many top brands offer a range that will do this.
There are many things you can do in ladder logic that will satisfy a situation admirably. There are lots of things you can do in structured text that is impossible / impractical to do in ladder logic. All soft-logic PLC’s I have experienced are totally useless at complex ladder logic. This is WHY I choose by what the task requires as opposed to choosing because of what constrains my current reality thinking or comfort zone.
The end result is a functional task, machine or project that is maintainable – not what a particular