PLC Sinking Sourcing Theory

PLC has input and output lines through which it is connected to a system it directs. Input can be keys, switches, sensors while outputs are led to different devices from simple signalization lights to complex communication modules.

This is a very important part of the story about PLC controllers because it directly influences what can be connected and how it can be connected to controller inputs or outputs. Two terms most frequently mentioned when discussing connections to inputs or outputs are “sinking” and “sourcing”.

These two concepts are very important in connecting a PLC correctly with external environment.

The most brief definition of these two concepts would be: SINKING = Common GND line (-) SOURCING = Common VCC line (+) First thing that catches one’s eye are “+” and “-” supply, DC supply. Inputs and outputs which are either sinking or sourcing can conduct electricity only in one direction, so they are only supplied with direct current.


According to what we’ve said thus far, each input or output has its own return line, so 5 inputs would need 10 screw terminals on PLC controller housing. Instead, we use a system of connecting several inputs to one return line as in the following picture. These common lines are usually marked “COMM” on the PLC controller housing.