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Free PLC Simulators

I recently decided to see what kind of free PLC simulators and integrated development environments (IDE) I could find that run on Windows.  A free IDE+simulator is great for teaching; for example, I can give examples that any of my readers can try out, but if I use a real PLC, I’ll be using what I have (Panasonic), which probably isn’t what most of my readers have.

Here is what I found:

  • Tri-PLC’s i-TRiLOGI free development environment supports both ladder logic and their version of BASIC and includes a simulator.  Tri-PLC also sells low cost PLCs.
  • Infoteam’s OpenPCS free development environment supports all the IEC61131 languages (including ladder and structured text) and includes a free PC-based simulator.  Infoteam’s business model is similar to CoDeSys:  customizing and charging money for the OpenPCS runtime.  (CoDeSys also has a simulator, but their free download is time-limited to a maximum 1 hour continuous run time.)
  • EasyPLC is basically a soft-PLC with a HMI builder and is free in demo mode (simulation only).  It’s worth a look: for example, its simulation mode includes 3D.  The commercial license is affordable, starting at 50 Euros).
  • I vaguely recall rumors of being able to use an Allen-Bradley simulator for free, but couldn’t find anything when I searched (besides,  I don’t think the development software would be free….) Note 3/15/2012: see next paragraph for A-B link
  • Via MrPLC, I found a link for Allen Bradley MicroLogix 1000/1100 free starter software and RSLogic Emulate 500 simulator.  I haven’t tried this combo out, and I don’t know the limitations, but in theory you should be able to learn some A-B programming for free.
    • Update 11/25/2014: this link no longer works, although the download might still exist elsewhere.p 
  • Automation Direct’s Do-more Designer is a free download and includes a simulator.  It appears to only support ladder logic (no Structured Text).  It can drive I/O (such as Ethernet I/O) from a computer, so it will only run continuously for about an hour.  (Added 7/17/2013)
  • Codesys has CODESYS Control for Raspberry Pi SL.  The free version is limited to 2 hours continuous run-time; a license for 35 Euros removes that restriction, but it’s still restricted for training and testing use only.  Capabilities include EtherCAT master, Modbus TCP Master/Slave, Ethernet/IP scanner, Web Visu, and SoftMotion CNC.  It supports the Raspberry PiFace digital I/O module.  It’s not realtime; expected jitter is 50 to 400 μs.  (Added 11/4/2014)
    • If you’re interested in learning IEC61131 PLC programming, playing with EtherCAT drives or I/O, etc, it’s an interesting product, since you can get started with real hardware for $65-$120 (RPi+PiFace for ~$65, Codesys SL license ~$50).
    • PLCS.net has an online PLC simulator (signup required).
    • And, if you have sophisticated safety requirements, at least three safety PLCs have free simulators.  However, these three are all based on block diagram (like a Siemens’ Logo!), not ladder logic, and are definitely not usable as a standard PLC.
      • Leuze’s software is on this page.  We are currently using the MSI-202, and before we bought it, I successfully used the simulator.  However, it’s not instantly intuitive.  As far as I can tell, the Phoenix PSR-TRIFASE is the same controller, and its software is also free.
      • The Sick Flexi-Soft Designer software is here.  The Flexi-Soft is also sold by Mitsubishi (it is a joint product).  I evaluated this software, too, but we decided the Leuze was a slightly better fit.
      • The Banner XS26 software downloads are available here; I haven’t used it but saw it at Semicon West 2015.
    • Although it’s not free, I should give a mention to Siemens’ Logo! Softcomfort, since its simulator is very easy to use – and very useful, since none of the Logo! models I have used provide any on-line debugging information.  I believe Siemens do offer a free trial.

I choose to download and try out OpenPCS because I really like having support for all the IEC61131 programming languages.  I haven’t used OpenPCS enough to be able to discuss it intelligently, but hopefully I’ll be able to write more in a month or two.

If you really want to learn PLCs, then at some point I think you have to buy a real PLC and connect it to real sensors and outputs.  Simulating stuff just isn’t the same.  Real PLC’s can be quite affordable; many manufacturers (including IDEC and Siemens) sell complete kits (PLC and software, plus sometimes a HMI) for $250-$400, Tri-PLC and the Automation Direct Click! series are <$150 and have free software, Panasonic FPWinPro 6 Basic is free (but code size limited), etc.

Beyond PLC’s there are some interesting options.  For example in the PAC world Opto 22 has a free IDE and control simulator, but you need Opto 22 I/O since there’s no I/O simulation.  In the robotic world, Denso Robotics has a free 3 month trial of WinCaps III which includes 3D robot simulation with no controller required.

Back in the PLC world, I’ve finished reading Cascading Logic; it’s a good book, and I hope to get a review up fairly soon.

5 comments

1 Irfan Ali { 02.22.13 at 4:19 am }

GOod

2 scaindia { 04.09.14 at 11:11 am }

There are a number of institutes in Bangalore that offer the PLC and SCADA training in Bangalore. Browse the web to avail info about the best PLC And SCADA training.

3 Don (PLC Training) { 12.08.14 at 6:24 am }

You may also want to mention a very unique PLC simulator, it simulates faults so you can practice PLC troubleshooting. See http://bin95.com/Troubleshooting-PLC-Controls-Simulator.htm

4 Tony { 12.08.14 at 12:57 pm }

Don,
Since it’s not free (which is what my post is about), I’m not adding it to the main post. However, I’m leaving your comment because the simulator does look interesting, useful AND unique — and the price is within reason.

–Tony

5 Don (PLC Training) { 12.08.14 at 7:54 pm }

Thanks Tony. As I went through each of the great free/demo trial PLC simulator resources you shared, it totally slipped my mind the main topic was free. i was just thinking simulators. 🙂 Have a great holiday season.

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