Im not a big fan of how some OEMs do things...we took a mill that had pascal in it, had to add a robot interface-but it had some pascal compiled in it... (if theres pascal, without the source you cannot do anything with it- ANY changes will delete the pascal), we deleted all that stuff and wrote a 20-30 page ladder that was readable and functioned exactly as the original did, except the 1" high text called by the pascal was now called using standard operator messages, so it was smaller print...other than that functionally it was the same...IIRC that original ladder was 298 pages, didnt reuse a single line of it, under 30 pages was where it ended up.
I think youre right about pulling the chips/copying them, but theres copyright issues with that too...theres a reason they make this stuff inaccessible, and its not for the customer/end users benefit in my opinion...its to bend them over later. theres enough machines scrapped out lately,you might email your program number to a few service/repair shops, might be a few on the shelf somewhere that havent been erased.
that $5500 quote would make me shop for other makes from now on...theres quite a few brands that if we get them in, I just beg to be able to rewrite. theres probably a lot of guys that would come to your shop and spend a week to redesign the whole thing for that amount of money, yet all the OEM needs to do is burn the darn thing...its a pathetic business practice in my opinion