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Hardware Comparison: Allen Bradley ControlLogix Control Systems V. Emerson VersaMax Micro and Nano Controllers

The ControlLogix Control Systems, made by the well-known Rockwell Automation and their line of automation equipment, Allen Bradley, provide a high-performance experience without sacrificing ease of use. With a common development environment and a tight integration between software and hardware, the time of development and installation is reduced considerably.

            As an alternative, Emerson, having acquired the intelligent platforms business from General Electrics, offers the VersaMax Micro and Nano Controllers which advertise a similar experience in what ease of use stands for, but with a stronger focus on cost reduction and the small foot print of their devices, without sacrificing much in the features department.

Allen Bradley’s ControlLogix Control Systems

            This family of powerful controllers currently have two series of products, the newer 5580 and its predecessor, the 5570. At the same time, both series come in two different varieties, the ControlLogix and GuardLogix lines, the latter being products dedicated for safety applications without loosing the advantages given by both series.

The ControlLogix system provides a good range of control along with communication in a small package, with the possibility of taking the advantage of its modularity to design, build and modify in a more efficient way, this kind of features usually gives to the user the opportunity of taking significant savings in training and general development.


            There are not many differences in features between 5580 and 5570 series, but they are very significant, for instance, the performance of the 5580 controllers is said to be five to twenty times more compared to the performance of the 5570, this pales in comparison to the two times improvement from the 5560 series to the 5570. The other very important difference, is that the 5580 have an embedded ethernet port, which actually makes the line cheaper than the 5570 that would need an additional module to be able to add this feature.

5580 Controllers

            The different models from the 5580 series of controllers only differ from themselves in the memory capacity and the maximum number of ethernet/IP nodes supported, the following table shows the configuration for each model:

Model Memory Size Ethernet/IP Nodes
1756-L81E 1756-L81EK 3 MB 100 nodes
1756-L82E 1756-L82EK 5 MB 175 nodes
1756-L83E 1756-L83EK 10 MB 250 nodes
1756-L84E 1756-L84EK 20 MB 250 nodes
1756-L85E 1756-L85EK 40 MB 300 nodes

5570 Controllers

            In the case of the 5570 series, the only expected difference between one model and another is the memory capacity, which can be seen in the following table:

Model Memory Size
1756-L71 1756-L71K 2 MB
1756-L72 1756-L72K 4 MB
1756-L73 1756-L73K 8 MB
1756-L74 1756-L74K 16 MB
1756-L75 1756-L75K 32 MB

            The “K” added at the end of the catalog number of each of the models, stands for a version available with a conformal coating that adds an extra layer of protection for more demanding and corrosive environments.

            Besides the aforementioned differences, the 5580 have other advantages over the 5570 series, like redundant capability, and new controllers for different situations: process, extreme temperatures, and no stored energy. Other than that, the characteristics between the two lines are very similar, below will be presented a comparison table provided by the official products page:

Feature 5580 Controllers 5570 Controllers
Performance 5x-20x (Compared to a ControlLogix 5570 controller) 2x (Compared to a ControlLogix 5560 controller)
Embedded Ethernet Port 1 gigabit (Gb) No
Local Programming Port USB USB
Energy Storage Module (ESM) Included Yes Yes
Onboard Display Included Yes Yes
Supported in Studio 5000 Automation Engineering & Design Environment™ Yes Yes
Non-volatile Memory Secure Digital card Secure Digital card
Max. User Memory 40 MB 32 MB
Max. I/O Points 128,000 digital; 4,000 analog 128,000 digital; 4,000 analog

GuardLogix Versions

            This versions of the ControlLogix family is prepared to be the better option for safety control application, taking advantage of safety functions that can reduce downtime. These controllers can achieve SIL2/PLd with a primary controller (Only in the 5580 series) and SIL3/PLe with the addition of a safety partner. The following tables will show the different models available and their differences:

5580 Controllers

Model User Memory Size Safety Memory Size Ethernet/IP Nodes
1756-L81ES 1756-L81ESK 3 MB 1.5 MB 100 nodes
1756-L82ES 1756-L82ESK 5 MB 2.5 MB 175 nodes
1756-L83ES 1756-L83ESK 10 MB 5 MB 250 nodes
1756-L84ES 1756-L84ESK 20 MB 6 MB 250 nodes
1756-L8SP 1756-L8SPK  

1756-L7S Controllers

Model User Memory Size Safety Memory Size
1756-L71S  1756-L71SK 2 MB 1 MB
1756-L72S  1756-L72SK 4 MB 2 MB
1756-L73S  1756-L73SK 8 MB 4 MB
1756-L7SP  1756-L7SPK

            Basically, once the safety system is validated, any logic can be modified and all the safety functions will operate with SIL integrity. This integration allows the standard memory to read the safety memory, thus allowing HMIs and other controllers to show and read the safety data without any problem.

            It is worth noticing the integration that Studio 5000, the software suite behind the ControlLogix controllers, brings to the table, giving to developers the possibility to work with all the elements of the control system in one place.

VersaMax Micro and Nano Controllers Specifications and Features

“Easy on valuable panel space, but big on features” is what GE Fanuc claimed when they presented this line of micro and nano controllers, and they were not wrong about it, these controllers bring a considerable number of features and power in very compact sizes, in the form of the smallest VersaMax Nano, the modular and scalable VersaMax Micro and the powerful VersaMax Micro plus.


            The VersaMax controllers are characterized by the local integration of a good range of features without the need of additional modules, and, at the same time, they offer different options to fill the needs of any possible application. The line has three different important groups, the VersaMax Nano, the VersaMax Micro, and the VersaMax Micro Plus.

VersaMax Nano      

This is the smallest product in this line of programmable controllers, its most important feature is, without a doubt, its small size of 75 x 80 x 47 (W x H x D), which might not seem interesting without having in mind that it has 10 built-in discrete I/O and an analog input. This makes the VersaMax Nano a great option for small sized projects which still need a proper range of features.

Features VersaMax Nano
Built-in Discrete I/O 6 inputs and 4 outputs
Analog Inputs 1 depending on the model
Logic Memory 2k words
Data Storage 256 words
Scan Time 1.3 ms/K
Available Ports 1 RS-232
High Speed Counters Up to 3 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters.

VersaMax Micro

            Not as small as the VersaMax Nano, but a lot more powerful and versatile having the possibility to upscale its capabilities by adding expansions, having, in the end, a full featured PLC at a fraction of the cost, and a fraction of size as well. There are three different basic models shown below:

Features VersaMax Micro 14 VersaMax Micro 23 VersaMax Micro 28
Built-in Discrete I/O 8 inputs and 6 outputs 13 inputs and 10 outputs 16 inputs and 12 outputs
Analog Inputs None 2 analog inputs and 1 analog output None
Maximum I/O Up to 128 I/O Up to 135 I/O Up to 140 I/O
I/O Expansion Units Up to 4 expansion units Up to 4 expansion units Up to 4 expansion units
Logic Memory 9k words 9k words 9k words
Data Storage 256 words 2k words 2k words
Scan Time 1.3 ms/K 1.1 ms/K 1.1 ms/K
Available Ports 1 RS-232 1 RS-232 1 RS-485 1 RS-232 1 RS-485
High Speed Counters Up to 4 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters Up to 4 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters Up to 4 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters

VersaMax Micro Plus

            At last, but not least, the VersaMax Micro Plus is a full featured controller with all the advantages of the VersaMax family with the addition of a more advanced instruction set, motion and better memory. Another important feature that only the VersaMax Micro Plus have, is a second optional communication port, which can be RS-232, RS-485, USB or Ethernet.

This line offers three different options, two of them keeping the size of most VersaMax Micro, and the last one being the biggest in the whole VersaMax family:

Features VersaMax Micro 20 VersaMax Micro 40 VersaMax Micro 64
Built-in Discrete I/O 12 inputs and 8 outputs 24 inputs and 16 outputs 40 inputs and 24 outputs
Maximum I/O Up to 276 I/O Up to 296 I/O Up to 320 I/O
I/O Expansion Units Up to 4 expansion units Up to 4 expansion units Up to 4 expansion units
Logic Memory 24k words 24k words 24k words
Data Storage 32k words 32k words 32k words
Scan Time 1.1 ms/K 1.1 ms/K 1.1 ms/K
Available Ports 1 RS-232 1 Optional between: RS-232, RS-485, USB and Ethernet 1 RS-232 1 Optional between: RS-232, RS-485, USB and Ethernet 1 RS-232 1 Optional between: RS-232, RS-485, USB and Ethernet
High Speed Counters Up to 4 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters and up to 4 type A_32 counters or 1 type A and one type B_32 counter Up to 4 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters and up to 4 type A_32 counters or 1 type A and one type B_32 counter Up to 4 type A counters or 1 type A and 1 type B counters and up to 4 type A_32 counters or 1 type A and one type B_32 counter B counters


            The VersaMax Micro and VersaMax Micro Plus have an expansion port available, which gives them the possibility of adding more features and I/O expansions that they would need in case of that the built-in features are not enough for certain applications, this is something in which the VersaMax Nano falls behind, since it doesn’t have any expansion port.

            Something that concerns all three lines of products, is that they can add ethernet communication through the RS-232 port thanks to the VersaMax SE, a serial to ethernet module that gives the possibility of using ethernet communication in all the controllers listed. On the other hand, the RS-232 gives the possibility of using the devices for SNP slave, Modbus RTU and Serial I/O. For those controllers with the RS-485, SNP master and Modbus master are available as well.

Comparing the VersaMax and ControlLogix families

            VersaMax and ControlLogix are two different lines of products with very different targets, for instance, VersaMax gives advantages in small projects where throughput and scalability are not a huge demand, it has a very attractive cost, not only in hardware but development, and has a good range of built-in features which gives the opportunity of using these controllers without any other expansion units, without taking out the ability to have them.

            ControlLogix, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same built-in features that VersaMax has, but it definitely brings more performance and scalability, not only that, ControlLogix have many options in its catalog for safety applications and harsh environments, fields which are not suited for devices like the ones from VersaMax. Of course, all this doesn’t come without a cost, the ControlLogix family would need a larger investment to be as functional as VersaMax is in a very tiny fraction of the cost.

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This entry was posted on January 22nd, 2021 and is filed under Allen-Bradley, GE Fanuc, Hardware Comparison, Technology. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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