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Anyone connect a Allen Bradley to an Apex Controller?

Tdoan

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I currently have an apex and it does a pretty good job for specific task, it is clearly designed for one tank and limited control. It does have good report functions and connects to send out notifications pretty good.
I have worked with PLCs mostly AB from PLC5, 500 and 5000s. I can see a cost and control advantage if it was able to be connected to each other. Does anyone have experience doing this with an AB controller or any other controller?
 

K7BMG

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I guess I am wondering why you feel the Apex is only good for one tank?

I have had three set up with one Apex in the past.
 
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Tdoan

Tdoan

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I am not saying it can’t, it is just not cost effective. Example if you want the same probes from one tank or another you would have to buy multiple modules.
the Input module only has a few inputs not 16 like a PLC. There is not an output module other than the power module.

I Guess if you don’t know how a PLC works you may not understand my question.
Can the Apex be linked to a PLC?
 
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K7BMG

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Yes, I understand.

Does the AB have the capability for all the other possible equipment.
ORP
Dosing pumps
PH
Salinity
ETC.

And then have a user interface to interpret and adjust things based on the information.

The Apex is not perfect but it is designed for the aquarium.
I dont know that the Apex will properly interpret the information from another PLC and be able to control things.

I am an electrical contractor and specialize in fueling installations.
So PLC units are not foreign to me but not very common.

The ones I have come across are not unlike the Apex.
They have the main controller (Brain) and several ports to add, things to.
Such as Temperature probes, thermocouples, etc.
Then they will have a series of contacts to control various things.
Additional specialized modules can be connected for a particular purpose, but then the PLC needs to be programmed by the PLC software engineer.
Then you are talking some serious money for that.

Allen Bradly, Square D, and others do make good stuff.
I just dont know if it is cost effective overall.
I would like to be wrong here trust me.
I am a fan of the Apex but I think that other equipment manufacturers have better more reliable components.
 

Zj42

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I think you'll find that the Allen Bradly would be more cost prohibitive in the long run after factoring in the cost of the chassis, power supply, and processor. We have a saying "ailing badly.... You may find better but you'll never pay more". Don't get me wrong, they're the industry standard for a reason but very expensive. A micrologix all in one unit may work well for discrete (on off) I/O but there's no analog capability. Also I don't think it would be possible for AB to interfaceI've with the Apex aquabus protocol. Honestly I've wondered about this for some time as well so if you decide to incorporate a PLC into your aquarium set up please share!
 

Greybeard

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Hm. I, too, work with PLC's in industrial settings. Some of the industrial systems I work with have many thousands of input/output points. For this type of system, Allen Bradly's family of processors, while not the cheapest, do work very well.

A subscription to Rockwell's Factorytalk Studio costs several thousand dollars per year, and list price for a ControlLogix 1756 is what,$1800? Of course, that module would need to be mounted in a rack (another grand or so), and you'd have to add I/O cards, a power supply, custom cabling... should really be in a water tight enclosure, if you're going to be using it around water.

I seriously doubt that you'd end up saving money :D

As to the original question, can they inter-operate? At what level? I'm fairly certain nobody makes an Apex module for a ControlLogix chassis... or a ControlLogix module for an Apex. Apex doesn't offer a 'standard' RS232 port. I'm fairly certain that Aquabus is a serial interface of some sort... might be a way to reverse engineer Aquabus and make a connection that way. You could always use analog or digital I/O as comm signals, using the Apex's 0-10vdc outputs to an analog input card on the Logix processor... you could get some signals through that way. Dry contact outputs from a binary output card could be connected to a breakout box, to get some switching on the Apex controlled by the Logix processor.

Not certain what any of this would gain you, really. There isn't going to be a simple way to get AB Temp probe inputs into the Apex, where those values could be evaluated as native temp inputs. May not be possible at all, but it certainly isn't going to be easy... or cheap.

Seems like, if you really want inexpensive, you might start with the Arduino or Raspberry PI platforms. There was even a start on such a project... Reef-PI, discussed here in detail. I think the originator switched to Apex (@Ranjib ? Is that a true statement? Don't mean to stick my foot in something here...)
 

rtbell1771

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It's a neat idea and I had looked into this having an industrial controls background. Yes you can get an industrial PH and ORP probe and other sensors and get the system to work at a price, but like @Greybeard says, for the systems to talk to each other -not easily. If you started as a full PLC system (no Apex) then yeah with a lot of work, you can make it work. Maybe large public aquariums use a proprietary system made for their use that uses SquareD, Rockwell Automation systems - that makes sense. Love the thinking though!!
 
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Tdoan

Tdoan

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I think you'll find that the Allen Bradly would be more cost prohibitive in the long run after factoring in the cost of the chassis, power supply, and processor. We have a saying "ailing badly.... You may find better but you'll never pay more". Don't get me wrong, they're the industry standard for a reason but very expensive. A micrologix all in one unit may work well for discrete (on off) I/O but there's no analog capability. Also I don't think it would be possible for AB to interfaceI've with the Apex aquabus protocol. Honestly I've wondered about this for some time as well so if you decide to incorporate a PLC into your aquarium set up please share!
There is absolutely analog capability.
 
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Tdoan

Tdoan

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It's a neat idea and I had looked into this having an industrial controls background. Yes you can get an industrial PH and ORP probe and other sensors and get the system to work at a price, but like @Greybeard says, for the systems to talk to each other -not easily. If you started as a full PLC system (no Apex) then yeah with a lot of work, you can make it work. Maybe large public aquariums use a proprietary system made for their use that uses SquareD, Rockwell Automation systems - that makes sense. Love the thinking though!!
I believe if the apex has registers that can be accessed you could send binary or hex information from the AB processor. Basically you could use some of the human interface of the Apex to monitor and get alarms.
 
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Tdoan

Tdoan

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Hm. I, too, work with PLC's in industrial settings. Some of the industrial systems I work with have many thousands of input/output points. For this type of system, Allen Bradly's family of processors, while not the cheapest, do work very well.

A subscription to Rockwell's Factorytalk Studio costs several thousand dollars per year, and list price for a ControlLogix 1756 is what,$1800? Of course, that module would need to be mounted in a rack (another grand or so), and you'd have to add I/O cards, a power supply, custom cabling... should really be in a water tight enclosure, if you're going to be using it around water.

I seriously doubt that you'd end up saving money :D

As to the original question, can they inter-operate? At what level? I'm fairly certain nobody makes an Apex module for a ControlLogix chassis... or a ControlLogix module for an Apex. Apex doesn't offer a 'standard' RS232 port. I'm fairly certain that Aquabus is a serial interface of some sort... might be a way to reverse engineer Aquabus and make a connection that way. You could always use analog or digital I/O as comm signals, using the Apex's 0-10vdc outputs to an analog input card on the Logix processor... you could get some signals through that way. Dry contact outputs from a binary output card could be connected to a breakout box, to get some switching on the Apex controlled by the Logix processor.

Not certain what any of this would gain you, really. There isn't going to be a simple way to get AB Temp probe inputs into the Apex, where those values could be evaluated as native temp inputs. May not be possible at all, but it certainly isn't going to be easy... or cheap.

Seems like, if you really want inexpensive, you might start with the Arduino or Raspberry PI platforms. There was even a start on such a project... Reef-PI, discussed here in detail. I think the originator switched to Apex (@Ranjib ? Is that a true statement? Don't mean to stick my foot in something here...)
I would agree if you had to buy software it may not be cost effective, but I don’t have to buy any. I believe the Apex interface is good and would not even consider factory talk. The apex interface is very nice and would rather have it.
If the Apex used an integer file and a word could be passed with the input module then code could be written to monitor and control the PLC. It also sucks that there is not DC relay output modules for the Apex or even 8 DC outputs on one module.
the jacks used for the inputs is just an attempt to keep people buying there hardware.
 

Ranjib

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Hm. I, too, work with PLC's in industrial settings. Some of the industrial systems I work with have many thousands of input/output points. For this type of system, Allen Bradly's family of processors, while not the cheapest, do work very well.

A subscription to Rockwell's Factorytalk Studio costs several thousand dollars per year, and list price for a ControlLogix 1756 is what,$1800? Of course, that module would need to be mounted in a rack (another grand or so), and you'd have to add I/O cards, a power supply, custom cabling... should really be in a water tight enclosure, if you're going to be using it around water.

I seriously doubt that you'd end up saving money :D

As to the original question, can they inter-operate? At what level? I'm fairly certain nobody makes an Apex module for a ControlLogix chassis... or a ControlLogix module for an Apex. Apex doesn't offer a 'standard' RS232 port. I'm fairly certain that Aquabus is a serial interface of some sort... might be a way to reverse engineer Aquabus and make a connection that way. You could always use analog or digital I/O as comm signals, using the Apex's 0-10vdc outputs to an analog input card on the Logix processor... you could get some signals through that way. Dry contact outputs from a binary output card could be connected to a breakout box, to get some switching on the Apex controlled by the Logix processor.

Not certain what any of this would gain you, really. There isn't going to be a simple way to get AB Temp probe inputs into the Apex, where those values could be evaluated as native temp inputs. May not be possible at all, but it certainly isn't going to be easy... or cheap.

Seems like, if you really want inexpensive, you might start with the Arduino or Raspberry PI platforms. There was even a start on such a project... Reef-PI, discussed here in detail. I think the originator switched to Apex (@Ranjib ? Is that a true statement? Don't mean to stick my foot in something here...)
You mean Originator of reef-pi ? I am still running multiple reef-pi across my reef tank, model railroad, in house have control and irrigation control etc. I know a few folks who switched from reef-pi or had some bad mishap ., but other than that I think there are quiet a few unit (hundreds if not thousands ) that’s running out there,
 
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saf1

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Probably the wrong tool for the job. A single head unit can control several tanks but yes, it may cost more to add some additional modules. Flip side is tie everything into a single sump and manage it that way.

Pros and cons of both but at the end of the day remember the Neptune suite of tools is for home aquariums. It is also used in some scientific studies with corals in both labs and academia.
 

ichthyoid

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As far as I know, the Apex does not use any kind of industrial standard bus that might interface with an AB plc.

Custom code might be possible using aqua bus. An interface/converter may also be likely in that scenario?

I used to sell & program both Siemens & Omron plc’s. Even with my distributor discount, I couldn’t touch the price of aquarium controllers for similar functionality. I’ve also looked at Automation Direct which is hard to beat on price.

I went with Apex, due to a combination of options, universality of use & price.

Fwiw,
We have a Georgia Tech engineer in the Atlanta Reef Club that built a controller around a Raspberry Pi. He spent , no programming cost included, over $2 grand!

Maybe something has changed with AB, but they were never the low cost leader.
 

Greybeard

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You mean Originator of reef-pi ? I am still running multiple reef-pi across my reef tank, model railroad, in house have control and irrigation control etc. I know a few folks who switched from reef-pi or had some bad mishap ., but other than that I think there are quiet a few unit (hundreds if not thousands ) that’s running out there,
My mistake... for some reason, I had it in my head that you'd dropped out of the project. Honestly, I'm glad to see I was wrong. I looked into Reef-pi seriously, being a fan of the Raspberry PI platform, but to get what I need out of an aquarium controller, well, it just wasn't going to get me there, without a LOT of work... that I don't have time for. Best of luck with the project...


...And... it might be a good place for the original poster to start. Not Allen Bradley, but for low cost, effective, custom controls, Raspberry PI is hard to beat. I've got one running the door and light on my chicken coop ;D
 

Ranjib

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My mistake... for some reason, I had it in my head that you'd dropped out of the project. Honestly, I'm glad to see I was wrong. I looked into Reef-pi seriously, being a fan of the Raspberry PI platform, but to get what I need out of an aquarium controller, well, it just wasn't going to get me there, without a LOT of work... that I don't have time for. Best of luck with the project...


...And... it might be a good place for the original poster to start. Not Allen Bradley, but for low cost, effective, custom controls, Raspberry PI is hard to beat. I've got one running the door and light on my chicken coop ;D
Thank you for the kind words, and I completely understand. My comms have been lagging due to all the crazy that's going. And i moved into our first house right in late feb. I cant explain how much work it is :) . But I'm good and the project is chugging along nicely, with many sensors , control logic and pre-built circuits from a number of individuals.

I concur with you that raspberry pi and computer in general will beat micro controller based solution on edge (home computing). This is due to ecosystem, cost and requirement of lesser durability compared to their PLC counterpart. Think of Nvidia vs Silicon Graphics scenario. A trivial computer based system can pull out end to end automation (from sensor to user facing UI in mobile devices) trivially compared to their plc counterpart. A smaller 50 node pi setup backed by proper configuration management, telemetry etc are far more easier to build/operate compared to a PLC+SCADA setup. The former is bolstered by opensource communities as well as large tech giants that all uses very similar tech. Whats fascinating is you can use those exact same tech to power your home, if you want. Not that they always makes sense. but that's where we as software engineer can engage and slice/dice that layer into whats relevant for reef keeping or general home automation (since temperature control in tank is not different from havc control, from logic perspective).
With that said, I do think we (computer-based software engineers, who are not from PLC/SCADA land) can learn a great deal of reliability engineering from the other side. And bring the necessary logic (e.g. pid control, close loop feedback), hardware (real-time components, more durable parts), and practices on this ecosystem. This merges the best of both side, developer experience, and reliability. Threads like this are tremendously useful in that sense. So, thank you all for sharing these valuable insights. If we do end to end RoI analysis, I think what's most costly is engineering hours, and that's exactly why I feel its better to have a sub-optimal but open and feedback-driven solution that we can improve iteratively.
 
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