Setup Engineering Test Station
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">I don't need a full-blown simulation, just something simple to achieve valve feedback, 1st order responses, and work through the logic."
You will need to write some simple logic to do this yourself. There is no built in support for this kind of simulation. I've done this kind of thing on several projects and its really quite easy to do, however depending on whether you used "Control Modules" or not means you have to put the simulation code in a different place.
">I am looking at a Soft Controller. Is this what others are using?"
">will it be as easy as marking them "simulated" to switch the controllers back and forth to a SoftController?"
Unfortunately No. ( I would really love to be wrong about this answer )
"Hardware Simulation" only tells the soft controller to simulate the hardware - it does not tell the 800xA System to use a different controller.
">What about buying the Environment license to setup 2 environments, with the test machine in the Engineering environment?"
This is the "official" solution. But its quite expensive. It is however very complete and works for pretty much all situations.
Instead of using an off-line engineering environment, you might be able to use "Library Versions". This means that you write all of your application code in a re-usable library. Your actual programs are just instances of your library applications. This makes Changing and Testing Code very easy ....
- Create a new version of the library,
- Make the changes to the new library version. The existing code is unaffected because it continues to use the old version of the library.
- Create an instance of the updated Library code in a test program and load that program to a soft controller
- Write a simulator for your code
- Test and commission your code using the simulator
- Once testing is completed, update your live code to use the new library version and download the changes.
- Backup and remove the old unused library versions.
We're using this technique on a quite large Batch application and it works very well because this is how the project is structured. It allows us to make and test very extensive changes to the applications if required. However, this may or may not work for you depending on how your existing project is written.
Another option may be simply to clone the entire 800xA system in to VMWare virtual servers and get a temporary license to allow you to run the cloned system. Make the changes you require and then export them. If you are already using VMWare this is much easier.