General on Modbus protocol

Modbus is a serial communications protocol published by Modicon in 1979, according to It is often used to communicate with industrial electronic devices.

There are several types of Modbus protocols:

Modbus RTU
A serial protocol that uses binary representation of the data. Supported by this software.
Modbus ASCII
A serial protocol that uses ASCII representation of the data. Supported by this software.
Modbus TCP, and variants
A protocol for communication over TCP/IP networks. Not supported by this software, consider donating some Modbus TCP equipment.

For full documentation on the Modbus protocol, see

Two important documents are:

Note that the computer (master) actually is a client, and the instruments (slaves) are servers.

Typical hardware

The application for which I wrote this software is to read and write data from Eurotherm process controllers. These come with different types of communication protocols, but the controllers I prefer use the Modbus RTU protocol. MinimalModbus is intended for general communication using the Modbus RTU protocol (using a serial link), so there should be lots of applications.

As an example on the usage of MinimialModbus, the driver I use for an Eurotherm 3504 process controller is included. It uses the MinimalModbus Python module for its communication. Also a driver for Omega CN7500 is included. For hardware details on these process controllers, see Eurotherm 3500 and Omega CN7500.

There can be several instruments (slaves, nodes) on a single bus, and the slaves have addresses in the range 1 to 247. In the Modbus RTU protocol, only the master can initiate communication. The physical layer is most often the serial bus RS485, which is described at

To connect your computer to the RS485 bus, a serial port is required. There are direct USB-to-RS485 converters, but I use a USB-to-RS232 converter together with an industrial RS232-to-RS485 converter (Westermo MDW-45). This has the advantage that the latter is galvanically isolated using opto-couplers, and has transient supression.

Typical usage

The instrument is typically connected via a serial port, and a USB-to-serial adaptor should be used on most modern computers. How to configure such a serial port is described on the pySerial page:

For example, consider an instrument (slave) with Modbus RTU mode and address number 1 to which we are to communicate via a serial port with the name /dev/ttyUSB1. The instrument stores the measured temperature in register 289. For this instrument a temperature of 77.2 C is stored as (the integer) 772, why we use 1 decimal. To read this data from the instrument:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import minimalmodbus

instrument = minimalmodbus.Instrument('/dev/ttyUSB1', 1) # port name, slave address (in decimal)

## Read temperature (PV = ProcessValue) ##
temperature = instrument.read_register(289, 1) # Registernumber, number of decimals
print temperature

## Change temperature setpoint (SP) ##
instrument.write_register(24, NEW_TEMPERATURE, 1) # Registernumber, value, number of decimals for storage

The full API for MinimalModbus is available in API for MinimalModbus.

Correspondingly for Modbus ASCII mode:

instrument = minimalmodbus.Instrument('/dev/ttyUSB1', 1, minimalmodbus.MODE_ASCII)


It is better to put the details in a driver for the specific instrument. An example driver for Eurotherm3500 is included in this library, and it is recommended to have a look at its source code. To get the process value (PV from loop1):

#!/usr/bin/env python
import eurotherm3500

heatercontroller = eurotherm3500.Eurotherm3500('/dev/ttyUSB1', 1)  # port name, slave address

## Read temperature (PV) ##
temperature = heatercontroller.get_pv_loop1()
print temperature

## Change temperature setpoint (SP) ##

Correspondingly, to use the driver for Omega CN7500:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import omegacn7500

instrument = omegacn7500.OmegaCN7500('/dev/ttyUSB1', 1) # port name, slave address

print instrument.get_pv() # print temperature

More on the usage of MinimalModbus is found in Detailed usage documentation.

Default values

Most of the serial port parameters have the default values defined in the Modbus standard (19200 8N1):

instrument.serial.port          # this is the serial port name
instrument.serial.baudrate = 19200   # Baud
instrument.serial.bytesize = 8
instrument.serial.parity   = serial.PARITY_NONE
instrument.serial.stopbits = 1
instrument.serial.timeout  = 0.05   # seconds

instrument.address     # this is the slave address number
instrument.mode = minimalmodbus.MODE_RTU   # rtu or ascii mode

These can be overridden:

instrument.serial.timeout = 0.2

To see which settings you actually are using:

print instrument

For details on the allowed parity values, see

To change the parity setting, use:

import serial
instrument.serial.parity = serial.PARITY_EVEN

or alternatively (to avoid import of serial):

instrument.serial.parity = minimalmodbus.serial.PARITY_EVEN

Using multiple instruments

Use a single script for talking to all your instruments (if connected via the same serial port). Create several instrument objects like:

instrumentA = minimalmodbus.Instrument('/dev/ttyUSB1', 1)
instrumentB = minimalmodbus.Instrument('/dev/ttyUSB1', 2)

Running several scripts using the same port will give problems.

Handling communication errors

Your top-level code should be able to handle communication errors. This is typically done with try-except.

Instead of running:



except IOError:
    print("Failed to read from instrument")

Different types of errors should be handled separately.