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Remotely programming PLCs.

Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
I'm facing a project where there will be 3 PLCs on a moving platform that moves about the USA. Invariably there will need to be changes to their code. I want to be able to do that remotely. I'm looking for solutions in any form. That is it could be something you buy that will mimic a local programming computer or a fully enabled PLC that has the native functionality. This is going to be a wireless situation, of course.

I'd prefer to use Automation Direct's CLICK series as they have the biggest bang for the buck and I'm very familiar with them but they provide no alternative programming methods as needed, you just plug a programming computer into them via RS232. (Except since I last used one they've added an Ethernet port that you can program thru which might make this a little easier.)

I'm open to any suggestions or brain storming, what have you got?!

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Why not just something like a MiFi hooked up to a local LAN. Lots of security needed, but you could basically connect to the Internet and communicate with the PLCs. Or, similarly, a satellite internet approach: http://www.exede.com/services-pricing/?zip=92886 The satellite claims to be in geosync, so it's ostensibly available anywhere in the US, might be somewhat better than Verizon. Are the systems constantly on the move? Are they going to be in poor cell coverage areas?

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
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RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Hi IR,
MiFi or something similar sounds like a possible solution since they serve up about 10 IP addresses typically.

Some constraints that help the issue is that this would only be done when a human is present at the PLC(s) location as random programming changes could be disastrous. This is because typically PLCs are taken out of RUN and re-initialize when put back into RUN which could upset the apple cart if done at just the wrong time. It would only be done with someone around, which means likely security would be pretty easy as I can have someone need to do something to actually allow a programming change. Something like plug in a cable or take a selector switch out of 'none' and set it to 'PLC2'.

This also means the re-programmings can take place at convenient times and places, i.e. when in a solid reception area and while the system is NOT in geographical motion. So satellite links are probably not a necessity though that one you linked is pretty dang cost competitive!

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

If you want to roll your own, there are boards that could do that:
https://www.sparkfun.com/products/13120 tutorial: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/mg2639-cellul...

But, That's a lot of work, I think. But, there must be code available on the web for this sort of thing. Almost all new products come with a web interface and reprogramming functionality, like the cable modem I'm using now, as well as my security cameras.

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
homework forum: //www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Hadn't thought of that. I like the SIM card angle but I'm kinda concerned by the rumors of everyone dumping GSM stuff real-soon-now. Maybe I have that wrong?

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

I went thru something similar a couple of years ago but solution was not very elegant, I just provided a cheap laptop with the PLC software (Click software has a free version, right?) and had LogMeIn on the laptop. Required someone local to turn on the laptop and plug it in but from there I had ability to rework the program and had a set of eyes on site to make sure everything was ok.

Not very sexy but worked ok for me, and customer was ok with having the laptop with the programming software on a "programming tool".

MikeL.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Cellular modem?

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Hi MikeL; That's what they had before and it worked.. adequately.. At least until it walked away. :/


IR, et.al.

I kinda want to up the game a little. I'm now trying to improve things a bit more than just programming. It would be really sweet to be able to have anyone with the credentials to log in and see live data too. These are private rail cars by the way. So it would be nice to log in to see the actual position of the car(s); did they get properly transfered? The speed. The consumables stores, water and diesel. The waste tankage remaining. The temperatures inside and out. What power source is on-line; HEP, generator, shore. It might be nice to have a steerable web camera for security purposes.

So seeing those dirt cheap MiFis on epay this is looking more approachable all the time. I'd still want some manual security for the programming function.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

It occurred to me on the way to work that our enterprise system might a reasonable prototype for connecting to the PLC. We have:
> External VPN access only, which is ostensibly more secure than SSL
> 2-factor access (password and cellphone) for any access, including the VPN itself, and the web interface to Outlook.
> Internal network with internally hosted webpages for access to timecards, etc.

TTFN
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
homework forum: //www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

You can do that very easily with any Rockwell Logix platform PACs, ie CompactLogix or ControlLogix and an Ethernet I/P port, which are virtually all new ones now. All you would need is an IP address at the destination and Studio5000 at your end. That's essentiall how all programming is done now for that platform.


"You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you had to overcome to reach your goals" -- Booker T. Washington

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Jeff; I can't bring myself to consider anything Rockwell.. For starters as I was looking up Studio5000 at the car-dealer-ship-like Rockwell site it brought down my browser toasting 35 minutes of response to IR.

Secondly I can't find any prices and I realized the whole scene is going to abstract-off to finding an account person which will result in having to work through the whole "we're out of that module" circular quoting-hell-torture. They should stop with the deep ensnarement methods and come forward into, at least, the 20th century with their sales network. [/rant]

IR(greatly amended).
Thanks for the multi-factor link.
A data webpage served by a local wall mounted mini-PC serving out thru a VPN is a great candidate.
I hadn't considered an Outlook based data collection.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Rockwell isn't the only platform that can support such things, Wago probably can (although CoDeSys 2.3 is showing its age), Omron likely can, GE Fanuc as well.

I must admit I'd prefer not to use Rockwell stuff either if I can avoid it, the whole licencing thing for their programming software is much more painful than other platforms.

All the stuff about security of PLCs as network devices is critical if the intention is to provide a remote ethernet connection for programming, most of the platforms don't have good end point security, and thus rely on people not getting access to the network as a restriction means. Wago runs different user accounts on their PLCs as a security means, but there are some vulnerabilities in some of their (older, I think) units that won't get fixed either.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Thanks FreddyNurck for the mini run-down.


Stuxnet here we come!

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

There's nothing to stop you from using the Click units with an ethernet to serial converter and / or a 4G cellular device with a serial port on it, then you would use the relevant programming software to program it at your end (almost) like you're standing in front of it.

A former employer of mine used to use dialup PSTN connections for all their PLCs and RTUs, with the caveat that to program the PLC, an operator needed to be present to change the serial cable over. I transitioned a number of sites over to direct ethernet, although the wider security constraints were also handled by my employer's network communications department, they had their own VPNs set up, so I didn't need to worry about that aspect.

There are a number of manufacturers now that offer their own supported VPN for their controllers (Comap for generators is one), which takes away a lot of the setup issues, but isn't really helpful unless you can use one of their products directly for your application.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Hi Freddy;
VPN is sounding like maybe the best solution so far. I found this site:
http://www.zeroshell.org

Which has this FAQ page:
http://www.zeroshell.org/faq/vpn/
That seems to describe the perfect setup of essentially tying two LANs together across the internet (VPN LAN-to-LAN). I should then be able to sit here at my LAN and link to the rail car's LAN.

I'm still trying to figure out the niggling details, like how does my end of the VPN actually find the train end as my end is internet connected thru a dynamic IP address and the train end is going to definitely be changing its IP address as it moves about the country.

BTW: Freddy, the CLICKs now come with an Ethernet port so no serial adapters needed.


Hi controlsdude; Can't resist torturing me with archaic "channel distributors" sold products huh?
The only thing they have that is applicable sounds like a pretty good solution:
Industrial-Cellular-Gateway-ICX35

Now all I have to do is find the distributor, call them, learn how they didn't know they sell the product, and that they'll have to find out availability and cost and get back to me... sigh.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Sierra Wireless make a cellular modem, it's marketed in the US by Prosoft, I looked into it for a similar project.

I asked the local vendor to prove it to me, I was able to make changes in a remote PLC hundreds of miles away. They even had a webcam hooked onto the local network. I could see the trees outside the window waving in the breeze.

I pointed out that it's one thing to get the local IT guy to let you hook on to his network and another to communicate through a PABX, the cell modem bypassed all that.

Unfortunately the project got cancelled before I was able to implement it, one day.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

I understand your disdain of Rockwell. I feel the same, although I use them all the time. But what you are asking to do is not that difficult. I use 4G links all over the place and I can log in easily, depending on the strength of my 4G signal. Verizon will sell you 4G equipment and service. You can set up an island anywhere you can get service. Of course there is a monthly charge.

If you don't want to use Rockwell, Red Lion has some nice equipment which is far less expensive and comes with free programming software. Siemens is good also, but the software is not free.

One note about Prosoft (as was mentioned earlier)...their products are painfully expensive, but with good tech support.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
IR; I can see that working.. sort of. :)


eeprom; Thanks GREATLY for the RedLion suggestion. Their R6000 series looks perfect!
http://sn-6000-router-5-port Looks to be very well designed, their documentation is excellent, and I can see the price online and order directly. What a delight. Thanks.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

I know i love torturing you with off the shelf solutions that actually work. I really have not had any problems with Prosoft products. I have used multiple products off that website in past projects going back over 15 years.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
controls; I do appreciate your input!

I'm checking with the distributor now. As predicted they have to, "find out what price and availability is".

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Hi Keith

I came across this a couple days ago, take a look and if your familiar with this brand let me know your thoughts on it.
I downloaded their education programing software and find it interesting it combines Tbasic for powerful apps.

http://shoppingcart.triplc.com/product_info.php?pr...

If anyone else has used this product please comment.

Chuck

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Its possible to set up OpenVPN, its also possible to not bother with any security at all, configure a 4G cellular device with an ethernet port to connect to your PLC, use something like DynDNS to locate the IP address of the modem, and just leave the connection open to anyone to log in. Obviously this isn't a good idea, nor is it a good idea to rely only on the password authentication that might be present for the modem as the security means.

A fair few of the cellular modems will support such things as OpenVPN to create a secure connection, its just a matter of getting all the configuration sorted. Red Lion (Sixnet in this case) has some decent products, so does Westermo, and Moxa. Ruggedcom might even have something, although I've never looked at their modem options. Their managed switches and serial device servers are quite good though. Make sure you disable all unsecured communication means for the relevant modem in question too (telnet, ftp etc).

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)

Quote (Roy)

Sierra Wireless make a cellular modem, it's marketed in the US by Prosoft, I looked into it for a similar project.

I asked the local vendor to prove it to me, I was able to make changes in a remote PLC hundreds of miles away. They even had a webcam hooked onto the local network. I could see the trees outside the window waving in the breeze.

I pointed out that it's one thing to get the local IT guy to let you hook on to his network and another to communicate through a PABX, the cell modem bypassed all that.

Unfortunately the project got cancelled before I was able to implement it, one day.

Roy I missed commenting on your contribution. The Prosoft stuff looks pretty good. I'm glad to hear you got exactly what I'm after going. That's seriously encouraging!

controlsdude; LOL just what I predicted.. "We sell that? Please give me ALL your information(dogs name etc) and I'll get back to you."
He did too. Said the Prosoft ICX35HWC (a nice 5 port cellular modem/gateway/router) is not going to be in production for at least 6 more weeks and when it is available it will be $755 which is actually about $200 less than the aforementioned Red-Lion equivalent. Not sure the $200 is worth guinea pigging for them. Possibly a more established product would be better, like the Prosoft one Roy used.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
flexoprinting; at the risk of hijacking my own thread that product looks pretty good.

I think you should compare it against the PoKeys57CNC for what you want to do.

https://www.poscope.com/pokeys-devices/PoKeys57CNC

Download the three manuals not related to MACH3 under 'Downloads' and take a read. Pretty impressive.


Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)

Quote (Freddy)

Red Lion (Sixnet in this case) has some decent products, so does Westermo, and Moxa. Ruggedcom might even have something

Thanks! More to look into.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.


Keith, talk about a jewel in the rough. The software is free including easy block diagram interface and their I/O devices are very reasonably priced and almost shocking compared with what we pay for brand X.
Very impressive indeed Sir!

Thanks for that, Chuck

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Hi Keith

In my case Keith the Triangle Research product would be a better fit. I may need to replace an old Reliance AutoMate PLC soon and this product has outputs w/10A up to 250V ac. The PoLabs product outputs are only 10V probably better suited for our German die cutter w/servo drives.

Although Trilogy software is not free, it's reasonably priced especially compared to A/B,
I really like A/B products but have a hard time selling it to the bean counters with alternatives like this. I do question how durable they are and was hoping someone would chime in with hands on for these.

Chuck

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Thanks for the info Chuck. I'm using one of the 57CNCs to run a router with Mach3 and it works great for that but you're probably correct since all the typical CNC stuff is 24V outputs unless the outputs are relays.


You did notice this page of optional hardware?

http://www.poscope.com/

Specifically:
https://www.poscope.com/PoExtBusRE

Which is:


Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Everyone else Re: Remote PLCing

The project is in purgatory because, now days, to get a rail car "positioned" off of an Amtrak train you have to have approval from the Federal Transportation Board to alter a passenger train's normal trajectory. Getting that approval thru Amtrak is a disastrous nightmare of super massive blackhole size. It's supposed to take 7 days.... It's now been two months of #^$@(#(Q@. Cripes.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.


Yes Sir!, Saw those and really like them because the board can be repaired in house and all those components appear easy to find. My Dinosaur is
switching 120V.

When you do get clearance let us know how it all works out, likes and dislikes with the project if that's ok with Thread police that is.

Thanks, Chuck

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Just got a great idea for an article ... "Downtime to Death - Does your company understand what your automation control people are up to?"
Thanks for all the thread, he he

Don
BIN Industrial & PLC Training
http://bin95.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

We have a similar setup where we have multiple controllers in remote locations. We are always changing set points, updating logic, firmware, etc... If your controllers are part of a safety system, I would be leery of changes programming remotely and not on location. I tried this once and when I downloaded it to the controller, it didn't update and ended up somehow deleting the logic. Then again, we are remote location and using cell modems to communicate which can be slow. It may be different if it was connected to a networked system, but a good bench test could build confidence in that option.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Thanks guilio2010. Not really safety for these controllers and as mentioned nothing will ever be changed unless someone is physically present.


Purgatory is still stalling it all. Helluva a way to run a railroad.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

We have a machine that the OEM installed an eWon module (https://ewon.biz/product-gallery). They have a slew of products for communicating with machines and between machines. I don't have a lot of experience with them. The one in our place needs access to the wi-fi, though. Good luck.

General Hammond: "O'Neil, what the hell are you doing?" O'Neil: "Right in the middle of my backswing?!?!"

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

A couple of machines came into our plant with eWon modules. They probably work fine, but we never allowed them to be connected. Our corporate IT would take a very dim view of a product poking holes through the firewall. And they would eventually notice it -- cue heads rolling...

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

Look at www.secomea.com they are not free but can do it all quite securely.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Thanks SparkRay.
$839 Seems a reasonable price for Cellular.

And Thanks dV8r.
Very nice website (sans making one search all over the web to find prices).
Seems a little expensive on first cut. $1,200 but may provide other benefits as they specifically list the programming of PLCs using the PLC's native development tools over cellular and show a bazillion different brands doing it.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

If by chance you use a GE QuickPanel+ View or Control the $1200 part is included.

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Update: Circa late June 2016

I finally pulled this off - very successfully too!

I Chose the Red Lion RAM6921 cellular modem router RTU. It came with a built-in 5 port router and GPS!!! I was able to set it up with passwords everywhere. I did end up needing a B2B Verizon Account and shelled out for a static address since I have other plans for the B2B now. I setup an IPsec Virtual Private Network and can look up the rail car anywhere, anytime. It's fabulous. The GPS is spectacularly accurate, always showing precisely where on the tracks the antenna is even mounted, (always over the left rail).

It was fun setting up my phone as a hotspot, then using my laptop to setup the VPN via my phone to the Red Lion 50 feet forward in the car via LTE. Data volume is very manageable.

I went with the Red Lion offered LTE MIMO plus GPS antenna which was about $260. It's an IP67 black 5" diameter half-dome. The RAM6921 was ~$950 and is amazingly robust and professional feeling in operation and it's steel case is very tough. Turns out Verizon is so impressed with the Red Lion offerings they actually offer the 6921's siblings as 'industrial cellular modems'.

I figured out how to run a VPN from my cell phone so I can locate and check status using my phone even.

Thanks again for the suggestions everyone. eeprom thanks for the Red Lion tip. Their tech support was very service oriented and worked diligently to answer my questions.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

itsmoked, that is awesome , I'm trying to do a similar project , what is a B2B account ? And I'm guessing the static IP ran you about $500. I tried using a MIFI for this type of app. But the external IP address never worked , could not access my router on the public side. So I'm very interested in your solution and who did you deal with at Verizon, because the people I deal with on the phone or at the desks have no idea what I'm talking about. Also did you use a SIM or an APN for the carrier.?

RE: Remotely programming PLCs.

(OP)
Hi ZombieC.
A Verizon B2B account is pretty interesting. You sign a couple of agreements via a sales guy who becomes your account exec for Verizon. A B2B account theoretically allows you to provision your own devices adding and subtracting devices at will on/off the Verizon network. As the network manager for your own little cellular kingdom you pick the "group" and the data plan for that group to share. The two groups consist of data quantity plans with overage rates. Group 1 starts at 1MB runs up to 150MB a month which an unlimited number units can share. Group 2 starts at 250MB and runs up to 10GB. You assign which group your devices live in and share.

To clarify "theoretically" this is all doable and done thru the B2B "management console" EXCEPT the difference between G1,G2,G3, and LTE is great enough that Verizon hasn't figured out how to allow management console to work with LTE yet. They expect around the end of the year. The console works fine with all the prior comm schemes.

Additionally; You get dynamic addressing with everything I've explained above. No doubt I could've used a service to keep track of the shifting addresses or come up with a scheme where the field units phone-home but that limits where I can talk to them from if "home" changes. This would all take some time to setup too and I was working on a very short time schedule. So I decided to cut to the chase and go with static IP addresses. Verizon charges you $500 upfront for static IPs, all you want. I went that route as it makes a lot of things way easier.

Also the management console does work for the Verizon B2B network currently IF and only IF you opt for a Verizon "private network". This is considered many times more secure than the standard network because they setup a routing tables and run everything thru their routers as apposed to 'any' routers. They also work this thru a specific router you designate on your 'business' end. Apparently it actually takes a lot of work. It takes about two months for Verizon techs to setup. It also has a one time charge of, you guessed it, $500. I did not go for this as currently I have only one device on the system. As I add more Things I will likely take it all over to a private network for the added security.

A last point is you also sort of get a specific tech guy assigned to you. He's usually given to you by your corp contact guy. BTW My guy was astoundingly helpful and bent over backwards WAAAAY backwards to help me meet my strict time deadline. Doing a bunch of work from home hours after working hours for me.

SIM or APN I started this whole thing by going to the local Verizon Store where they sold me an addition to my personal phone plan increasing my data plan and handing me a SIM for the Red Lion 6921. It did not work happily and I ended up figuring out I needed what B2B offered. My account guy was going to send me a new SIM but instead after a bunch of after hours work changed the SIM card I had in possession to take it into the B2B network and what he would've sent me saving us another day.

I hear occasional horror stories about Verizon Support but I have to say the excellent quality support I have always received from them has me solidly in their camp. For more than a decade they have provided me with outstanding support. Everything from a kid racking up a $500 texting bill (they promptly retroactively changed my plan saving me $400) to dealing with phone failures, etc., etc., always fixed everything quickly for me and often in surprising and money saving ways I hadn't even known about.

Contact me and I'll pass on a name to you.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

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