Hardware Comparison: CompactLogix Selection Guide

Recently we discussed selecting a new ControlLogix platform and the questions you need to ask yourself, and the expert you discuss them with, before you choose the right controller. For some, the answer will not be a ControlLogix, but a CompactLogix platform, based on system size and complexity. This article will delve into how to separate out the various versions of this controller line and give you a foundation for the conversation about which CompactLogix controller is best for your application.

The CompactLogix line currently comes in a much larger range of options than the ControlLogix. Because of its popularity and the wide range of applications it can serve, there are several legacy versions of the CompactLogix that are still (and will continue to be) supported by the manufacturer. Currently, Allen Bradley offers three families of CompactLogix controllers, the 1768, 1769, and 5069 families. Inside this, the 1769 family is broken down into the L3x controllers and the 5370 controllers while the 5069 family is broken down into the 5380 controllers and the 5480 controllers. Which all sounds very confusing, right? In reality, it’s Rockwell’s attempt to slowly migrate a large customer base to the newest controller, the 5069 family. The 5370 version of the 1769 family is the transition to the newer technology, based on the older footprint. And the 1768 controllers are the oldest form factor and technology base, but there must be enough of them out there that customers don’t want to get rid of that they’re still offered.

What does all this mean for you? Not much in the end, because a few simple questions quickly weed out all the unnecessary noise and you’ll quickly start focusing on what you need.

Those simple questions start with this – Are you replacing an existing CompactLogix, or is this a new system? If you’re replacing an existing system, you can either select a new platform or a more capable version of the existing platform. The easiest upgrade is to stay inside the same platform (1768 or 1769-L3, etc.) because you won’t have to change the hardware around the controller and will only require minimal changes to the program to improve your capabilities. If you’re willing and able to perform a more complete upgrade (new IO hardware or configuration and a more extensive code update), then you look to find the best processor to fit your application and focus on the newest line for product lifecycle considerations. If you’re going with a new system (or converting from an existing competitor), then you focus on the newer lines that meet your needs and ignore all of the older systems.

After that first question, the next ones will help focus on specific versions of the family you’re looking at, and give you the right questions to ask the expert you talk to when finalizing your processor selection.

Firstly, a statement. The focus of your research will (and should) tend towards the latest family of controllers, the 5069. There are several reasons for this, with the main one being the 5069 controllers will be supported the longest of the CompactLogix controllers. Just like you wouldn’t buy a vehicle today with a carbureted engine because finding support on it is difficult, you wouldn’t want to put yourself in a situation where you can’t get supported on your (relatively) new control system. While using outdated systems can seem cost effective on the front end, unless you have an absolutely reliable supplier of replacement parts, you’ll find that the initial cost savings will be quickly outweighed by the maintenance costs. Additionally, the 5069 series has some improvements that are significant, with the biggest being that you can fit more program onto the available memory of the controller. Previous versions required you to maintain a reserve of the available memory for system processes (typically 20-30%), meaning a 1MB controller was really a 700KB controller. The 5069 family has a separate memory area for system processes, so a 1MB controller allows for 1MB of program, effectively almost doubling the size of the controller. Where this becomes apparent, the cost increase from the 1769 family to the 5069 family is almost negated when you realize you can look at the next controller size down (2MB 5069 vs. 3MB 1769.) The only real drawbacks to the 5069 currently are the software version requirements (the controller can’t be programmed in anything before version 28, and really version 30) and the IO modules that are in development (Rockwell is notorious for not meeting product launch dates, which can lead to issues if you’re expecting an upcoming product.) What this all means is you’ll see this article gears towards the 5069 family, because the benefits far outweigh the costs currently, especially with the ease of utilizing those capabilities to overcome some of the challenges.

If you’re not going to be performing a direct replacement, the first question you need to answer is “Do I need or want integrated safety in the controller?”. If the answer is yes, the 5069 (5380) and 1769 (5370) controllers will be your focus. Each of these families offers a CompactGuardLogix version of the controller, allowing for integrated safety up to SIL3/PLe depending on the model. If you’re looking for safety in your controller either one of these families will work, and they both have their benefits and drawbacks. The deciding factor on this will be based on two factors – if the IO you require is supported by the family (the 5069 family is new, so IO modules are still being developed) and if you require motion controls or not (which is the second, and truly deciding, question in my opinion.)

The second question you need to ask is, “Do I need or want motion capabilities?” If the answer is no, then the 5069 family is going to be your focus with the 5069 CompactGuardLogix in particular. if your answer is yes, then the selected family comes down to IO availability (although with remote IO capabilities being equal, the 5069 family should be your focus still.) The reason for the focus on the 5069 ComactGuardLogix is the benefit to cost ratio of the controller – because there’s an option that offers safety without motion (the 1769 family only offers safety and motion together), for a relatively small price increase you gain the ability to easily add safety functionality to your system without having to replace the controller. The difference between the safety only and the safety and motion controllers are typically around a 10% versus 30% premium over the non-capable controller.

The third question you need to ask is “How big is my system?”. This question will determine the size of the controller you need, based on nodes and program size. First, a definition – nodes are any device that resides on the controller’s network, whether it be a drive, a remote IO rack, a computer, a camera, or another controller. As your node count increases, the required controller size will increase also. One rule of thumb I follow is I add 50% to my current node count to allow for expansion when selecting a new controller, as the future decision to replace the controller or consolidate nodes is not a fun one. A benefit to the increased node count is it should put you into a controller that will have sufficient space for the additional programming that always happens once a project is commissioned and the increased capabilities of the control system allow for new and improved functions of the production line.

With these three (four) questions, you can quickly whittle away the unnecessary and focus on the needs of your system. With the understanding from these four questions about your system and some additional information about the various controller families, the discussion you have with an expert on CompactLogix controllers will allow you to select the best controller for your application.

The CompactLogix controller line is broken up into three families, 1768, 1769, and 5069. The numbering breakdown for each family is similar. The first part of the part is the family number, followed by a dash. The numbers and letters following the dash give information about the size and capabilities of the controller. In the 5069 controllers, there’s the –L3 and –L4 series, which is the 5380 and 5480 controllers (read about the 5480 below.) Next comes the memory size, so an –L306ER is a 600KB memory controller, while a –L320ER has 2MB. Then come the modifiers for the added functionality, with M for motion, S2 or S3 for safety (SIL 2 or SIL3), and K for conformal coating. The 1769 series follows the same format, although the processor can be an –L1, -L2, or –L3. The L1 and L2 processors are small, limited controllers typically used on standalone machines or small, limited assemblies by OEMs, and weren’t really mentioned in this discussion. The 1769 series also is not as straightforward in the memory size description, with an L33 having 2MB of memory and an L37 having 4MB.

The final discussion before the tables is the new controller that hasn’t been discussed at all, the 5480 version of the 5069 family. This controller is a special joining of a 5380 controller with a Windows 10 based computing system. This allows you to have applications that would normally be run on a separate computer running in tandem with the controller. While this sounds interesting, the capabilities are limited as it’s not a full-blown PC. There are benefits to this setup though in higher end systems that utilize trending and analytics, as the PC has direct access to the controller allowing for extremely high-speed data transfer. Can you run you HMI system on just a 5480 controller? Maybe. Can you pull some amazing data for analysis into your OEE calculator from a 5480? Yes. This is one of those controllers that if you’re looking at these types of capabilities, you already know all about the controller and you’re not even looking at the other ones, hence the lack of discussion in this article.

5069 (5380) FAMILY COMPACTLOGIX CONTROLLERS
Characteristic L306ER L306ERM L310ER L310ERM L320ER L320ERM(K)
Available User Memory 0.6MB 0.6MB 1MB 1MB 2MB 2MB
Available Safety Memory N/A
Memory Card 1784-SD2(2GB), OTHERS AVAILABLE
Comm Ports 2 ETHERNET (10/100/1000MB), 1 USB
Max Ethernet/IP nodes 16 16 24 24 40 40
Max Motion Axes
256
256
256
Max CIP Drive Axes
2
4
8
Max local IO Modules 8 8 8 8 16 16
Battery NONE
Min SW Ver 29 29 29 29 28 29


L330ER L330ERM(K) L340ER L340ERM L350ERM(K) L380ERM L3100ERM
Available User Memory 3MB 3MB 4MB 4MB 5MB 8MB 10MB
Available Safety Memory N/A





Memory Card 1784-SD2(2GB), OTHERS AVAILABLE
Comm Ports 2 ETHERNET (10/100/1000MB), 1 USB
Max Ethernet/IP nodes 60 60 90 90 120 150 180
Max Motion Axes
256
256 256 256 256
Max CIP Drive Axes
16
20 24 28 32
Max local IO 31 31 31 31 31 31 31
Battery NONE
Min SW Ver 28 29 29 30 30 30


L306ERS2 L306ERMS2 L306ERMS3 L310ERS2 L310ERMS2 L310ERMS3 L320ERS2(K) L320ERMS2(K) L302ERMS3(K)
Available User Memory 0.6MB 0.6MB 1MB 1MB 2MB 2MB
Available Safety Memory 0.3MB 0.3MB 0.5MB 0.5MB 1MB 1MB
Memory Card 1784-SD2(2GB), OTHERS AVAILABLE
Comm Ports 2 ETHERNET (10/100/1000MB), 1 USB
Max Ethernet/IP nodes 16 16 24 24 40 40
Max Motion Axes
256
256
256
Max CIP Drive Axes
2
4
8
Max local IO 8 8 16 16 31 31
Battery NONE
Min SW Ver 31 FOR SIL2, 32 FOR SIL3









L330ERS2 L330ERMS2(K) L330ERMS3(K) L340ERS2 L340ERMS2 L340ERMS3 L350ERS2 L350ERMS2(K) L350ERMS3(K)
Available User Memory 3MB 3MB 4MB 4MB 5MB 5MB
Available Safety Memory 1.5MB 1.5MB 2MB 2MB 2.5MB 2.5MB
Memory Card 1784-SD2(2GB), OTHERS AVAILABLE
Comm Ports 2 ETHERNET (10/100/1000MB), 1 USB
Max Ethernet/IP nodes 60 60 90 90 120 120
Max Motion Axes
256
256
256
Max CIP Drive Axes
16
20
24
Max local IO 31 31 31 31 31 31
Battery NONE
Min SW Ver 31 FOR SIL2, 32 FOR SIL3









L80ERS2 L380ERMS2 L380ERMS3 L3100ERS2 L3100ERMS2 L3100ERMS3


Available User Memory 8MB 8MB 10MB 10MB


Available Safety Memory 4MB 4MB 5MB 5MB


Memory Card 1784-SD2(2GB), OTHERS AVAILABLE
Comm Ports 2 ETHERNET (10/100/1000MB), 1 USB
Max Ethernet/IP nodes 150 150 180 180


Max Motion Axes
256
256


Max CIP Drive Axes
28
32


Max Local IO 31 31 31 31


Battery NONE
Min SW Ver. 31 FOR SIL2, 32 FOR SIL3


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