A First Look at Cross-Device Traces in TIA Portal

A hands-on guide to working with the new Project Trace function available in TIA Portal version 16.

One of the most exciting new features available in Siemens TIA Portal version 16 is the Project Trace function. Using the Project Trace function, it’s possible to create a single trace diagram with tags from multiple PLCs and devices. This is a powerful way to troubleshoot the interface between devices in a project.

In this article, we’ll look at how to set up and use the Project Trace in TIA Portal.

Setting Up the Project Trace

In this demo, I’ll set up a Project Trace to record the values of tags in two S7–1500 PLCs.

In TIA Portal, I’ve created a new project with two S7–1500 CPUs, PLC_1 and PLC_2, and connected those PLCs in the Networks and Devices editor.

I can add a Project Trace to the project by double-clicking on ‘Add new project trace’ in the Project Tree under Cross-device functions > Project Traces. As you can see, Project Traces are not associated with any device - they are part of the TIA Portal project.

Add new project trace

The Trace Editor opens. In this editor, you define which devices in the project are participating in the trace. Add PLC_1 and PLC_2 as participating devices in the trace.

After adding the devices, you can see a red X in the Error column for both PLCs. This symbol indicates that there is a problem with the trace configuration. We’ll fix the configuration in the next steps.

Define participating devices

The configuration of each participating device in the Project Trace is done in the inspector window.

Select PLC_1 and click on Configuration > Signals to define which tags are included in the trace. Up to 16 signals can be recorded per device in a Project Trace.

In this demo, I have included two signals from PLC_1 in the Project Trace.

Project Trace — Signal Configuration

As well as defining the signals to be recorded, we have to define the trigger that is used to start the recording. The trigger mode and conditions are specified in Configuration > Recording conditions > Trigger.

As of TIA Portal version 16, there are three Trigger Modes to choose from:

  • Record immediately: Recording starts as soon as the trace is activated in the device
  • Trigger on tag: Recording starts when a tag transitions to a certain value
  • Trigger from another device: Recording starts when a trigger is received from another device participating in the Project Trace
Project Trace — Trigger Modes

For PLC_1, I use the Trigger Mode "Trigger on tag". The trace recording starts when the tag “trigger” transitions to TRUE.

Project Trace — PLC_1 Trigger

In PLC_2, define the tags to be recorded and define the trigger mode as "Trigger from another device".

Project Trace — PLC_2 Trigger

Working with the Project Trace

Once the Project Trace is set up, you can transfer the trace to the participating devices. To do this, click on the “Apply trace configuration to the devices” button in the Trace Editor’s Toolbar.

Trace Editor — Apply Trace

Follow the prompts to download the Project Trace to all of the participating devices. After loading, an online connection to the participating devices is established and the Trace Editor automatically switches to the Diagram view.

An overview window shows the status of the participating devices in the Project Trace. In this window, you can see if participating devices have an online connection and if they are actively recording data.

You can show and hide this window at any time by clicking the button on the Trace Editor Toolbar.

Trace Editor — Show Status Overview

To activate and deactivate the recording, you can use the buttons on the Trace Editor Toolbar. When recording is active and a trigger is detected, then the signals from the participating devices are recorded.

You can see the values of these signals in the Diagram view.

Trace Editor - Diagram view

Just like a traditional trace, if a recording is restarted, then the previously recorded data is lost.

If you want to save the data from a trace, click on the Save Measurement button.

Trace Editor - Save Measurement

The data from the trace is saved in the project as a Measurement.

Measurements are saved in the project

If required, the data from a measurement file can be exported to a CSV file for further analysis in other tools like Microsoft Excel.

Project Traces in Single PLCs

A Project Trace is downloaded into each device participating in the trace.

When you go online with any device that’s participating in a Project Trace, you can open the trace in that individual device. When you open a Project Trace from an individual device, you can only see the configuration for that device.

You can also see that the online and offline traces don’t match. That’s because the Project Trace isn’t part of the offline device, it's part of the project.

Project trace in a participating device

When working with a Project Trace in an individual device, limited functions are available. You can’t modify the trace configuration or save the trace as a measurement. However, you can delete the trace from the online device.

If you delete a cross-project trace from a participating device, the overview is updated to show that the trace has been deleted from a participating device.

Trace removed from the individual devices

Conclusion

Project Traces are a powerful way to troubleshoot across multiple devices in a project.

Project Traces are configured and managed in the Cross-device functions section of the project tree in TIA Portal.

Project Traces are triggered by a single trigger that can originate with any participating device. Once a cross-device trace is triggered, data is collected from all of the participating devices and displayed in a common diagram.

Personally, I really like working with the Project Traces function. I think it's a powerful way to test interfaces between devices in a project and to understand the timing of complex communication sequences.

I think it's a bit confusing that traces can now be managed from individual devices and from the Cross-device functions section of the project but I also understand why Siemens implemented the functionality in this way. If you want to manage your traces in a single location, you can always create a cross-device trace with one participating device so that all of your traces are listed in the Cross-device functions folder of the project tree.

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