Here at The Automation School we know that learning to use PLCs can be frustrating if you don't know how to get your hands on the actual PLC Programming and Simulation Software.
That's why we cover this topic in detail in all of our courses, and in today's article I'll give you a brief walkthrough on how you can get free or trial versions of Allen-Bradley Programmable Controller Programming Software
Legacy PLCs: PLC-5, SLC-500, MicroLogix
If you work in a plant with a lot of legacy products, you'll be happy to know that years Rockwell has made RSLogix Micro Starter Lite, RSEmulate 500, and RSLinx Classic Lite available as free downloads.
While the free version of RSLogix Micro Starter Lite only programs the MicroLogix 1000 and MicroLogix 1100 controllers, those two controllers program very much like the rest of the MicroLogix family, as well as the SLC-500 and PLC-5.
So in learning RSLogix Micro you'll also be learning key aspects of the SLC-500 and PLC-5, as I discuss in the sample lesson in my MicroLogix PLC course designed for new users, PLC Basics Second Edition.
Another topic I cover in that course is how to get and use the free edition of RSEmulate 500, which allows you to complete the option exercises without have to purchase a PLC.
Rockwell's Low Cost PLC Line: Micro800 (810, 820, 830, 850, 870)
This small and cost effective PLC shouldn't be confused with “smart relays,” as not only is the Micro800 a line of full fledged PLCs, they also support Ladder Logic, Function Blocks, and Structured Text programming languages.
While the programming software for the Micro800 doesn't look like RSLogix, its simple “standards based” programming environment supports three of the IEC-61131 languages, and is in my opinion is a great place to start before going on to more complex development environments like Studio 5000.
And as you've probably guested, the Micro800's programming software, Connected Components Workbench (CCW,) is completely free, with the latest versions also including a free Micro850 simulator so students can complete option PLC Training exercises without having to purchase a physical PLC.
As someone with over thirty years using Rockwell PLC's, and having used RSLogix since its initial beta, I can honestly say that once you learn how to use CCW in my Micro800 Nano Basics course, you'll feel right at home creating, editing, and debugging Micro800 programs.
Rockwell's Premier PAC Line: ControlLogix, CompactLogix, RSLogix/Studio 5000
But unlike other premiere Programmable Controllers on the market today, Rockwell doesn't make getting a trial copy of their Studio 5000 Programming and Emulation software as easy as just downloading it from their website.
To actually get a trial copy you have two options:
The problem is, while this program has been around for over a dozen years, most distributors don't know it exists.
If you run into that situation, or you're located overseas and don't have a local Rockwell representative, the other option is to contact Rockwell's Online Activation Support Chat as per Rockwell's advice to me on social media when I asked them about Temporary Activations:
That said, since I started The Automation School back in 2014 I've run into a few challenges actually getting Rockwell to send out a Trial License to my students, and below I'll cover the four most common that I've seen:
1) You need to ask specifically for a “30 Day Temporary Activation” of Studio 5000 Full & Emulate 5000
Clarity is a beautiful thing, and using Rockwell's own terminology can be very helpful when you're trying to get a 30 day trial of their software, which is why I suggest specifically asking for a “30 Day Temporary Activation” of Studio 5000 Full & Emulate 5000.
Studio 5000 Full Edition not only supports all CompactLogix and ControlLogix controllers, it also includes all the programming languages these PACs support, including Ladder, Function Block, Structured Text and Sequential Function Charts.
And if you don't have CompactLogix or ControlLogix hardware, Emulate 5000 will give you a way to test run your code.
2) Do not tell them you're a student or in training course.
Sadly, if you tell them you're a student they will assume you're a college student and will refer you to your college instructor to buy a “6 month student toolkit” for $200.
With that in mind, just tell them you are requesting a 30 day temporary license of the software so you can try it out without going into the details about your goal to become a proficient user of it.
3) Use your name as your company name
Since the folks at Rockwell have to fill in a “TA Form” which requires a “company name,” if you tell them you don't have a company to use they will not be able to process your TA request.
That said, if you don't feel comfortable using your current employer's name, keep in mind it's your right in the USA to use your legal name as your business name. In fact, every US citizen has the right to do business in their own legal name without the need to register as a business with anyone.
4) A Temporary Activation It's a One Time option
The purpose of Rockwell's Temporary Activations is ostensibly to give new users an opportunity to try our their software. And like other companies that offer trial software, Rockwell temporary activations will enable the software to work for just thirty calendar days (not a total of thirty days.)
And if you're serious about learning how to use Rockwell's Logix PLCs, in my ControlLogix PAC Basics and CompactLogix Basics courses I cover all this and more, including how to setup, program, and debug CompactLogix and ControlLogix programs based on real world applications.
If you have any questions about the courses I mentioned above, please feel free to reach out to me directly here.
Industrial Automation Instructor
Founder of The Automation School