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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Infoteam’s business model is similar to CoDeSys:Â customizing and charging money for the OpenPCS runtime.Â (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).Â It’s worth a look: for example, its simulation mode includes 3D.Â 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,Â 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.Â 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:Â this link no longer works, although the download might still exist elsewhere.pÂ
- Automation Direct’s Do-more Designer is a free download and includes a simulator.Â It appears to only support ladder logic (no Structured Text).Â It can drive I/O (such as Ethernet I/O) from a computer, so it will only run continuously for about an hour.Â (Added 7/17/2013)
- Codesys has CODESYS Control for Raspberry Pi SL.Â 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.Â Capabilities include EtherCAT master, Modbus TCP Master/Slave, Ethernet/IP scanner, Web Visu, and SoftMotion CNC.Â It supports the Raspberry PiFace digital I/O module.Â It’s not realtime; expected jitter is 50 to 400 Î¼s.Â (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.Â 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.Â We are currently using the MSI-202, and before we bought it, I successfully used the simulator.Â However, it’s not instantly intuitive.Â 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.Â The Flexi-Soft is also sold by Mitsubishi (it is a joint product).Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Simulating stuff just isn’t the same.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.