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What Is A Programmable Timer? Programmable Timers are used for measurement, display and control in applications that have variables. Programmable Timers can work with a single input or, in some cases, a pair of signals. Timers exist because many processes are based upon timed events. Programmable timers are usually electronic and use digital displays, precise digital set-ability, high accuracy, and fast reset times. Digital electronic timers use LCD or LED displays and offer long time ranges and come in a several types.

Preset Counters Preset counters, or predetermining counters, are essentially totalizers that can control an external circuit when it’s counted total matches user-entered preset limits. While one or two presets are typical, some models include up to 50 presets. These programmable counters are used in manufacturing and process applications to control batch lot size, material cut-lengths, punching or drilling, stacking, and many other count, position, or length related operations. The programmable version of the preset counter offers maximum flexibility through user selected advanced features such as: input calibrators, movable decimal point, bi-directional counting modes, and output logic options. In some applications, programmable counters may replace two or more individual counters - providing cost effective, customized solutions to your counting and controlling challenges. When specifying these counters consider the following: 

Input - what will be counted and where will the input be obtained

Count Speed

Number of Digits - based on maximum count value

Type and size of display

Packaging - mounting requirements and enclosure size


Additional considerations for the programmable timers include number of preset limits, output device, and output action.

Rate Indicators and Controllers The second group of Programmable Timers includes rate indicator and controller. Rate indicators provide a digital display of a process. Simple versions connect to a sensor and give a direct readout of frequency or voltage, which represents rate or speed. Units can show variable such as motor revolutions per minute or material feet per minute. Some rate meters have calibration that scales, or converts, the input signal to engineering units using a sensor. Rate controllers add the ability to compare input to one or more values or "alarms". These "alarm" can trigger control outputs or relays to prevent out-oftolerance operation or take corrective action to bring the process within normal limits. Some programmable rate metering products can measure process times. This is a measurement made of how long a process takes, rather than how fast it is going. They may be used on conveyor lines to indicate the time a product spends in a galvanizing tank or baking oven. Additional considerations when specifying these timers include: 

Ambient Light

Warning Light/Alarm Requirements

Additional Power Supply for Sensing Devices/Alarms

Communication Links

Time Indicators and Preset Timers Preset timers are the third group of Programmable Timers. They are various operating functions that enable the device to activate/deactivate control outputs based upon a preset time interval. The time indicator version displays an elapsed time and is available to register seconds, minutes or hours. These indicators are used for measurement of equipment running and cycling times, product testing and time studies. Many of these timers are used for the automatic control of machine cycles, event sequencing, malfunction detection, and process time regulation. These programmable timers can be in one of three states: rest, timing, and timed-out. When the programmable timer has been reset, the timer does not perform any timing function. The timing period starts when an external signal is received. The timed-out state is the period between the end of timing and when the programmable timer returns to the rest state.

When specifying these timers for your application consider: 

Control Function - reset, repeat cycle

Time Range

Mounting Types


Service Voltage and Frequency

Setting Accuracy

Repeat Accuracy

Front Panel

Load - what device will be controlled by the timer and specs

Cycle Rate

Action on Power Failure

Operator Restraints

Special Requirements - NEMA, high temp/humidity, corrosive, electrical interference

Agency Approval

Multifunction Indicators/Controllers The final type of Programmable Timer is the multifunction indicator/controllers. The multifunction instruments are combinations of totalizers, predetermining counter, and rate measurement techniques. They do the job of several instruments, saving time, money and panel space. These devices are used when applications require multi-step, sequential operations by count and/or time. One example is for this device is for liquid transfer and dispensing operations - providing totals and rate functions. The counters described need a signal that represents the unit to be counted, which is often available as a voltage pulse or contact closure. When no signal is available, a sensor will be needed. Programmable Timers are available in ranges as large as 0.01-9999 hours and as precise as 0.05-5 seconds. Choose from a variety of cycle types, delays times and special considerations such as NEMA ratings.

For more information on Programmable Timers, visit the Galco Industrial Electronics website

The Many Types of Programmabe Timers  

This publications focuses on the many types of programmable timers; from preset counter to rate indicators and more. This resource is for l...

The Many Types of Programmabe Timers  

This publications focuses on the many types of programmable timers; from preset counter to rate indicators and more. This resource is for l...