Bridging automation controllers ‘as it has never been done’

02 January 2010

In every large industrial automation architecture, it is necessary to interface systems from different vendors, and multiple protocols have to get along with each others. As a result, PLC-to-PLC protocol interfacing for data transfers is inevitable.

Ken Roslan, ProSoft Technology, with Message Manager in Houston
Ken Roslan, ProSoft Technology, with Message Manager in Houston

Traditionally, PLC programming is required in several locations on the factory floor for these interfacing purposes. And these various programming sessions are done with multiple programming packages (at least one per PLC vendor). And very often, the machine builders do not give access to their PLC source codes.

“A problem sometimes encountered in PLC communications,” says Ken Roslan of ProSoft Technology, “is that one of the ‘satellite’ PLCs uses a piece of code to communicate with the master. But this code may have been created years ago by someone in the company who is no longer there. If there is a problem, someone may reload the software and it might not be the right version.

“Big customers know about these problems, but smaller engineering departments may think they know enough about the process to skip these details and see no need for any further help.”

The Message Manager

For those who do need PLC-to-PLC communications help, he recommends ProSoft’s ILX56-MM “Message Manager.” He was at the ISA show in Houston, where his company was showing the Message Manager for the first time.

The ILX stands for “integrated logics” and the first product was designed for Rockwell Automation’s PLC lines. It is the first of a series to be developed.

“The Message Manager pulls all data transfer processes into one single location, and it requires no special (PLC-specific) software to support and maintain,” he says.

It is the ideal solution for shops that use different vendors of PLCs, because some PLCs are “locked down” and you can’t get inside them to program them to release data,” he says.

For configuration, all the interfacing job is done from one single location and the module uses a built-in graphical web-based configuration tool with “easy-to-use” and “intuitive” user prompts.

The Message Manager acts as a single aggregator of data transfers between multiple PLCs. Physically, it is a module that takes place in Rockwell Automation´s ControlLogix chassis.

Unlocking OEM equipment

For plant automation applications where end users utilise customised OEM equipment in conjunction with their overall process automation schemes, the Message Manager allows end users to transfer PLC data from OEM equipment to a Rockwell Automation controller without modifying the OEM’s code.

This eliminates the need for access the OEM source code (which may not be available), concerns about affecting the OEM’s machine operation, and/or owning and maintaining other PLCs’ programming software.

Data transfers can be set up to 16 controllers from the leading PLC manufacturers: various Rockwell Automation controllers via any network supported in the Rockwell Automation 1756 ControlLogix platform, Siemens (S7 PLCs and other controllers using Industrial Ethernet protocol), and Schneider Electric (Quantum, Premium, M340 and other controllers using Modbus TCP/IP protocol).

“Interfacing systems using multiple protocols has never been so easy and quick” says Mr. Roslan, who is a veteran of Rockwell network engineering.

“The new Message Manager module bridges automation controllers from different sources as it has never been done before.

“Traditionally, communication between PLCs requires small modifications to be done in each PLC program, often in several locations on the plant floor. It’s a fact of life that repeatedly, new machines come with new PLCs—and often with multiple programming packages because each PLC vendor has his own programming environment.

“With the new Message Manager from ProSoft Technology, the automation engineer has no PLC programming to do and above all no special software to buy, learn and maintain. Configuring the data transfers only requires... a few clicks!” he says.

Highlights include:
* Built-in web based configuration utility
* Supports Internet Explorer 7
* Single slot – 1756 backplane compatibility
* Remove and Insert Under Power (RIUP)
* Supports Local or Remote rack
* Scrolling display for status and diagnostics

All ProSoft Technology products come with a three year warranty and unlimited technical support. For more information visit

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