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PAC and DCS advances

25 February 2014

Suzanne Gill reports on some of the most recent industrial control solutions to come to market, and looks at their main features and benefits.

At SPS/IPC/Drives 2013, Mitsubishi Electric unveiled the latest version of its Q Series modular PLC automation concept, which will be available in mid 2014.

Explaining some of the innovative features of this next-generation MELSEC iQ-R process automation controller (PAC) concept Andre Hartkopf, European product manager HMI/PLC/Software, Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V., Factory Automation European Business Group, said: “The integrated GX Works3 programming software supports the user with dynamic and auto-created labels including drag & drop while function blocks save time by only requiring parameter settings, rather than actual programming.” Other features include additional onboard intelligence and functionality and the addition of advanced safety control functions onboard the same base rack as the sequence control CPU module. 

The iQ-R concept supports a wide range of applications. “It is especially suited, for example, to the food & beverage and life science industries due to its built-in database for storing recipes safely, compared to a PC solution. Its motion functionalities, with up to 192 synchronised axes, also support the needs of packaging, material handling and printing applications,” continued Hartkopf. “For the demanding automotive sector the system offers safety and sequence control CPU’s on the same base rack, while advanced diagnostic and troubleshooting functions can help reduce and prevent downtime.” A redundant system can offer a safe and functioning automation system to suit, for example, the needs of underground and tunnel systems. 

The process industry has, traditionally, worked mainly with DCS systems due to a lack of alternatives. However, with some recent developments, such as the iQ-R platform, this is changing. 

Mitsubishi is confident that, together with its sister company, ME-Automation Projects, it is now able to offer solutions to meet most process industry needs.
The PMSXpro (Process management system Linux professional), from ME-Automation Projects, is a PC-based process control system developed for the control, regulation and monitoring of large distributed continuously running processes. The product was brought onto the market in 1992 as the first version of Philips Automation Projects, and today is being used successfully in drinking water, waste water processing plants, incineration plants and industrial power station applications.

The distributed system architecture is said to make it particularly suitable for large, widely separated plants. One of the system’s strengths is that the topology can be adapted to the plant topology and that the distributed structure guarantees high inherent availability.

The system is also verified in accordance with VGB 170 by TÜV Nord, which means that it is certified as a power station control system, according to VGB guidelines, an independent technical association, representing the interests of power plant operators and manufacturers.

The continuous connection of the DCS solution to Mitsubishi’s MELSEC System Q automation family makes it possible to use tag names explicitly throughout the system. Again, this can help to reduce engineering costs and the updating and maintenance of the system is simplified.

Protect, enhance, adapt
“The three most important ways that a process automation vendor can help its customers secure their future is to protect the operational integrity of their plants, enhance the operational insight of its people and enable them to adapt easily and affordably to change,” said Gary Freburger, president of Invensys’ systems business. He believes that the new Foxboro Evo system ticks all these boxes. With more powerful processing capacity and a host of new applications, the system is said to enable users to uncover hidden value from their operations.

The Foxboro Evo process automation system has evolved from the Foxboro I/A Series and Triconex technology, extending this approach, through a component object-based platform, that can undergo major upgrades without halting operations. 

One happy customer is Michael McKenzie, distributed control systems specialist for BP in Brisbane, Australia. He said: “We needed to upgrade the majority of our DCS, but didn't have the luxury of a site-wide shutdown to make a full change possible. We were facing a substantial obsolescence issue, which we had ranked as a significant risk to ongoing operations, so we needed a solution that would allow us to upgrade components as we needed them, without sacrificing functionality or usability for operators. The new Invensys system allowed for a much easier upgrade of all components and will ensure that we can keep our system well away from obsolescence, so that we're not required to perform any additional large-scale upgrades.”

The Foxboro Evo system includes a new high-speed controller, field device management tools, a maintenance response center, an enterprise historian, 1-n redundancy and cyber security hardening. 

Current Foxboro I/A Series DCS users can migrate to the Foxboro Evo system with little or no downtime, depending on which version they are running. Users of competing process automation systems, whose wiring terminations are still functional, can also migrate to the Foxboro Evo system without ripping and replacing infrastructure, significantly reducing costs and downtime. 

Meeting small plant needs
Honeywell has been working on solving the control requirements of smaller plants, with the introduction of Experion LX, developed for plants of less than 5,000 I/O points, one engineering server and up to 15 operator stations, yet which still needs an easy-to-use control solution that is robust enough to handle complex control requirements. 

“Just like large refining plants, smaller industrial enterprises need to manage their processes safely and efficiently,” said Don Maness, vice president of Honeywell Process Solutions. “With Experion LX, we have made Honeywell’s DCS technology available to a more diverse group of manufacturing plants. It provides a purpose-built system that is flexible enough to meet their specific needs now and in the future.  It is also easy to implement and use, which allows our customers to go to market faster and to be more agile in responding to product changes.”

Experion LX provides users of mid-size process plants with a control system with no single point of failure and a user interface designed to help operators and engineers be more efficient.  For end-users with batch processes, the batch execution software operates in a redundant controller instead of a computer, eliminating the need for extra hardware and reducing the communication load and time for execution of each batch phase.

Ethernet enabled PAC modules
GE Intelligent Platforms has recently introduced three new PAC modules, designed to provide infrastructure OEMs and systems integrators with communication protocols as ‘in rack’ solutions. The RX3i modules add to the PACSystems family of automation controllers, standardised on the PROFINET industrial network are said to offer high performance, reliable, yet simple to configure and install distributed I/O network.

 The Ethernet modules align with a growing industry trend regarding the adoption of Ethernet-based communications and work in environments where downtime is not an option. They enable connection at the device level to the software level of infrastructure organisations using object-oriented programming for greater access to actionable data.

“By replacing proprietary networks with an Ethernet LAN and modern automation systems, industrial companies can improve device-level connectivity, network reliability, simplify deployment and leverage data from their machines to improve operations,” said Mark Reitzel, mission critical segment leader for GE Intelligent Platforms. “Electrical subsystems have a rich heritage of communication standards, and the PACSystems platform now integrates with them.”


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