Automated instrumentation cuts process design engineering costs

Move over Picasso. Though PCs already aid many instrumentation design and control applications, some engineers are drafting software to take on more creative tasks—such as producing original work in technical drawings—to save time and money.For instance, Optimation Technology Inc. (OTI, Rush, N.


Move over Picasso. Though PCs already aid many instrumentation design and control applications, some engineers are drafting software to take on more creative tasks—such as producing original work in technical drawings—to save time and money.

For instance, Optimation Technology Inc. (OTI, Rush, N.Y.) recently cut $220,000 off the documentation of a new film-making process—about one third of the project's estimated cost. "The company used software that automatically produces loop, cable, and termination drawings from information in piping and instrumentation drawings (P&IDs)," says Judy Jeffers, Optimation's senior designer.

Documenting the film-making process required OTI to produce P&IDs, instrument index list, termination drawings, loop drawings, I/O drawings, and PLC drawings. The customer had specified the use of AutoPlant Instrumentation System (AIS) from Rebis (Walnut Creek, Calif.), an AutoCAD add-on suite of applications for instrumentation system design and management.

Smart P&IDs

To document the film-making process, OTI used Rebis' P&ID program to produce "intelligent P&IDs." Unlike CAD systems that only draw geometry to indicate process lines and equipment, P&ID also maintains a textual database with detailed specifications on all equipment and lines. AIS and OTI's former software, P&ID Plus, share common databases, so once a P&ID is produced, all other required documentation such as loop, cable, and termination drawings are generated automatically.

For the new project, OTI engineers created many P&IDs as always. However, rather than drawing equipment and lines and adding bubbles with text as they did with plain CAD software, the engineers inserted equipment blocks that were pre-defined by Rebis' software into the drawings. Ms. Jeffers says being able to automatically create the equipment index database as the P&IDs are produced is a key difference between the film-making assignment and previous projects.

Once the P&IDs were finished, OTI's designers used an AIS module called Cable Scheduler to define cables between the field devices and the terminal strips. Cable Scheduler allows the designers to define cable types automatically from a catalog. It includes data on colors, wires per cable, and shielding status on the drawings.

Ms. Jeffers says the greatest improvement the new software's intelligent P&IDs brought to OTI was in creating loop drawings. With another AIS module, Loops, only four steps were required to automatically generate and plot all loop diagrams. Detailed instrument wiring and termination data were transferred from the cable schedule database to automatically annotate the loop diagram, while other information came from the master instrument database.

Ms. Jeffers adds the resulting loop diagrams were highly accurate, which eliminated a former problem of forgotten loops. In addition, checking by cross-referencing drawings to the instrument list was no longer necessary because all data were transferred between modules. She reports this improvement alone saved hundreds of hours.

OTI's designers also used Loops to assign termination cabling, title block, and other data to a series of loop numbers by editing input screens. This reduced transcription errors, increased drawing revision speed, and improved control over the drafting process. Because so much of the documentation was produced automatically with AIS, the instrument list created for this process was more detailed than others OTI made in the past.

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