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Process controllers aid plant diagnostics

21st February 2013


Page 1 of 7

The latest process controllers improve plant diagnostics, helping to speed up and simplify the plant automation experience. Sean Ottewell reports.

The new Allen-Bradley FLEX I/O dual-port EtherNet/IP adapters from Rockwell Automation achieve the goal of helping OEMs connect machines to their end customers' IT infrastructures using a single network. With the dual ports, users can also leverage the adapter to display diagnostics via a simple web browser, helping reduce troubleshooting and downtime (Fig. 1).

The new EtherNet/IP adapters support a device-level ring (DLR) topology, which provides robust network infrastructure and extremely fast recovery time, while keeping implementation cost down. DLR infrastructures are connected at the end device versus the switch. With no need for unnecessary switches and cabling, users can reduce design time and simplify implementation.

The ring also adds a measure of redundancy that is very effective when a connection fails - as a single network failure, such as a cable break, will not lead to the failure of the other devices in the ring. A DLR network can recover in less than 3mS for a 50-node system. During this time, the connection between the programmable automation controller and the I/O device is not interrupted. The adapters also support the daisy-chain topology for applications that involve devices located long distances from CPU subsystems.

Rockwell Automation has also introduced new high-speed input/output (I/O) modules for its ControlLogix programmable automation controller (PAC) platform that enable faster machine speeds in a wide range of discrete applications (Fig. 2).

The Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 24vdc I/O modules, used with the ControlLogix 5570 family of PACs, can significantly improve total system response time (SRT) through new hardware technology and peer-to-peer communication capabilities that significantly reduce the time it takes for modules to communicate with the controller. Since SRT equates to the time required for input module response, controller processing and output module response, reducing I/O latency results in higher machine speeds for increased parts production.

For even faster performance, the new modules also function in peer-to-peer mode, bypassing the controller entirely by establishing in-chassis connections that allow I/O modules to communicate directly with each other. Shifting task management to the I/O modules can relieve a controller of the overhead required to process and direct I/O modules, helping improve reliability in program execution and throughput. In peer-to-peer mode, input to output response time can be less than 100µS. The peer-to-peer capabilities are ideal for applications with fast detect-energise sequences, such as high-speed parts rejection.

Improved integration and performance

GE Intelligent Platforms has launched PACSystems RXi, the company's new control and computing platform designed for the needs of the Industrial Internet.

Based on leading-edge computing and network technology, and supported by an emerging ecosystem of cloud-based support tools, the RXi will help customers gain productivity benefits from machine-to-machine connections and the skill sets of a digital native workforce. The RXi platform builds on GE's deep expertise in the design of embedded control platforms as well as industry-standard open architecture technologies that deliver what companies in today's economy need - improved performance, integration into the industrial internet, and greater uptime and low total cost of ownership.

To provide the performance sophisticated control applications need today, the core of the product family is a COM Express architecture with multi-core CPUs, which will allow GE to offer a range of products that will be continually refreshed without impacting the user's application. The RXi platform offers a full complement of high speed interfaces, with multiple gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 ports. These high-performance features are coupled with GE's PACSystems control engine to deliver uncompromised performance and application flexibility.

The PACSystems RXi family of controllers has built-in redundant Profinet interfaces, delivering high performance, high uptime control solutions. RXi Industrial PC (IPC) configurations are unique in the industry, says GE, being able to run HMI, historian and analytics applications right at the machine, even in harsh environments. This facilitates better real time control of operations and improved integration into plant-wide and enterprise systems. The RXi platform fully supports GE's new cloud-based collaborative automation platform development and deployment paradigm.

From a design perspective, the RXi controller is a departure from traditional systems. First, it has no local I/O which creates the basis for future upgradeability. Second, it has built-in Profinet with ring redundancy to provide a simple to use, low installation cost, high performance redundant I/O network. With open standard PROFINET as the I/O network, users are free to choose best of breed I/O and other devices, like drives and vision systems, for use in their systems. Third, the ability to deploy the RXi architecture using both control and IPC modules interconnected provides a compact, high performance solution for applications requiring visualisation, data archiving, or other advanced computational tasks at the point of control. Fourth, since it is based on standard Intel architecture, GE can deliver control solutions with unique capabilities such as very large memory sizes and on-board storage capability.

Finally, the integrated intelligent display module allows users to perform standard maintenance functions without the need for a separate computer running programing software and creates a bridge that integrates the control system with the industrial internet.

Factory automation

Ethernet technology is increasingly being utilised in the factory automation field to facilitate communications between computers and programmable controllers (PLCs). This has resulted in a growing need for Ethernet capability even in programmable controllers with 10-200 I/O points used in small-scale control applications. The demand for Ethernet as an interface for programmable controllers is also rapidly increasing in other fields such as in sewerage monitoring systems and building automation, in which scattered programmable controllers in remote locations are monitored by computers through wireless and ethernet networks.

The new CP1L-EL/EM-type CPU units released by Omron come with built-in Ethernet ports enabling low-cost Ethernet connection and designed to meet a wide variety of connectivity needs in a wide range of fields (Fig. 3).

The ability to send and receive messages means it is possible for a host computer to monitor the status of controllers and also receive feedback from the controllers about any onsite abnormalities they detect. The controllers also feature socket communications capability meaning it is possible to connect them with a wide variety of Ethernet-enabled control equipment.

The added function block memory (10K steps) improves reusability of user program assets and supports design standardisation. The function blocks aid efficient creation of reusable programs used in various devices such as ladder programs used for Ethernet communications.

The Oguz-Gabala-Baku water pipeline project dates back to plans from the 1970s. Baku's growth was historically driven by the booming oil industry and required the import of drinking water from outside of the city. Before the construction of the pipeline, some 60 per cent of the city's households received water for only a few hours daily. After completion of the project, 75 per cent of the two million Baku residents are now served around the clock with potable water, based on World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The 262 km pipeline requires no pumping station, but uses the altitude differences between the Caucasian mountains and the capital to supply 432,000m3/d to the Ceyranbatan water reservoir.

The project was realised in cooperation with CASPEL, a regional system integrator specialising in solutions for data transfer, software development and supply, and maintenance of state-of-the-art IT hardware and software from leading manufacturers. Siemens supplied the automation technology for the pipeline project.

For the comprehensive monitoring of water pipes and avoidance of potential emergencies, CASPEL installed a SIMATIC WinCC control and data management system

Thanks to the application of the SIMATIC automation technology that has been proven in numerous operations, Siemens provided increased functional reliability for the entire plant. Thanks to using decentralised SIMATIC S7-1200 and S7-300 with Telecontrol via GPRS, all components of the 262 km pipeline can be operated and monitored with WinCC. Existing components were easily integrated via OPC.

Milestone in smart substation automation

ABB has completed its first commercial substation automation system using IEC 61850-9-2 process bus technology. The new standard-compliant system, installed for the Australian utility Powerlink, provides advanced automation functions to enhance availability and reliability at Loganlea, a key substation serving south-east Queensland, a-fast growing region of Australia.

IEC 61850-9-2 process bus, based on the international substation automation standard IEC 61850, enables current and voltage measurements to be transmitted to protection and control devices via a fibre optic communication network, resulting in reduced copper cabling and increased safety.

The process bus also supports the standardised integration of non-conventional instrument transformers (NCITs), bringing performance improvements and further reductions in cost and space requirements. NCITs also improve safety because they eliminate the risk of voltage hazards, which can arise in conventional transformer circuits.

The refurbishment project at Loganlea substation has seen the replacement of the ABB proprietary communication to the existing NCITs with a smart substation automation protection and control system, featuring the world's first conformance-tested IEC 61850-9-2 merging units and ABB's protection and control intelligent electronic devices. These deliveries bring Loganlea substation into full compliance with the most advanced global standard for substation automation, maximising availability and grid reliability.

"With demand for electricity growing fast, Queensland needs to further build on long-term, cost-effective solutions for its power system," said Jens Birgersson, head of ABB's network management business unit. "By upgrading the substation with advanced automation and the latest communications standards, we will help Powerlink to fulfil its strategy well into the future."


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