Interested in linking to "Tips and Tricks for Legacy Hardware"?
You may use the Headline, Deck, Byline and URL of this article on your Web site. To link to this article, select and copy the HTML code below and paste it on your own Web site.
For an engineer at my company, it is not atypical to be faced with outdated, legacy technology. A customer might come to us to upgrade a system that an intern did in the '90s. Maybe a company's engineers have built up a system over the past decade and need help configuring or adding more pieces to it. Or maybe a factory has a controller—made when its engineers were in middle school—that suddenly breaks down and needs to be replicated and replaced. Regardless of the situation, DMC engineers need to find the tools to connect to, read from, write to, and add on to whatever equipment someone might have.
Finding information on old industrial hardware isn't as easy as looking up technical support on your new Dell computer. There are dozens of legacy brands out there, but chances are that if you have something really old, it was made by Allen-Bradley, GE, Modicon, Omron or Siemens. All of these manufacturers are still around today, in addition to many others, and make a wide array of products from basic relays to PLCs and HMIs to other various controllers. Remember, though, that product lines can and have shifted owners many times through acquisitions and takeovers. This means even if something is labeled as a Modicon, you might actually have to go somewhere completely different to find the support you need.
A recent project I was involved with included replacing a Modicon-branded HMI. Modicon is currently owned by Schneider Electric (which might also be referred to as Telemecanique or Square D, which Schneider acquired 20+ years ago). However, this HMI actually was manufactured by Cutler-Hammer and simply labeled as a Modicon. Cutler-Hammer was acquired by Eaton in 1978, and reorganized in 2003. You can see how quickly this web gets unbearably complicated.
Here are some tips I have learned that will help your search:
This strategy has worked well for me over time, and I think that experience in finding answers for legacy systems is a strength of our engineers.
Danny Budzinski is a project engineer at system integrator DMC (www.dmcinfo.com) in Chicago.