Control Engineering Process Control eNewsletter for June 2003


National Instruments —

A New Breed of Industrial Controller

National Instruments Compact FieldPoint is a new breed of embedded industrial controller. It combines the best features of a PC and mixes it with the reliability and ruggedness of a PLC. Compact FieldPoint provides the high level PC type features such as a floating point processor for custom calculations, an embedded interactive web server for easy control and monitoring, removable Compact Flash for data logging, and multiple serial ports for third party device communication in a small, industrially rugged form factor that easily withstands high shock and vibration environments.

Click here to download your free white paper .


Best practices for securing e-mail

While talking with the folks at Stelex-TVG recently, I learned they co-authored and have available on their website a white paper titled "Best Practices for Secure e-Mail using RSA Security Products for 21 CFR Part 11 Compliance."

Wait! Before you dismiss this white paper as not being relevant to your organization because it's targeted at U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated companies, consider that:

  • Everyone is (or should be) worried about the use of business e-mail systems to communicate highly sensitive information;

  • RSA Security's is one of the most trusted names in e-security; and

  • Stelex-TVG is an acknowledged leader in providing regulatory compliant solutions.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but FDA regulation or not, those sound like good enough reasons to spend a few minutes reading this white paper. After all, who's not interested in security and e-information integrity and reliability?

As I read the white paper, the thing that stood out was that it applies good software implementation practices and a risk-based, common sense approach to building corporate processes and standards.

Click here to read the 20-page white paper .

A different way to optimize processes

Recently a friend of mine introduced me to InSyst's Targeted Knowledge Outcomes (TKO) OnTarget process optimization software.

Originally developed in Israel as a way to optimize the production of semiconductor wafers, InSyst's has successfully applied TKO OnTarget to continuous and batch processes.

The initial step in applying TKO OnTarget is the creation of a knowledge tree (KT). Each KT is developed as a cause-and-effect relationship map using multiple, predefined goals. Applying plant domain expertise, the overall process is divided into smaller, simpler processes called KT cells. For each KT cell, a mathematical model is developed. Once all KT cell models are developed, the total process model is tested against historic data to verify and validate the model's prediction ability. The next step is to incorporate the KT model into a TKO OnTarget application and run it in an open-loop, advisory mode. In this mode, the model fine-tunes itself based on actual versus predicted results and recommends new setpoint values. When switched into closed-loop mode, TKO OnTarget continues to analyze the impact of process constraints and changing process dynamics and adjust setpoints accordingly.

Is control system migration all it's advertised to be?

For the past six or eight years, control system manufacturers have been spending considerable R&D resources to develop a way for users to migrate obsolete control system "A" to a new open control system "B". However, when you consider many control systems remain in place for 10 to 20 years (yes, there are some 1983 control systems still in place), there's got to be some serious tradeoffs to consider when deciding whether to migrate or start over. I have my own thoughts about what some of the tradeoffs are, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

What I'd like you to do is help me develop a questionnaire I can send to control system manufacturers so that when I write a future article about control system migration, I can provide information that helps you make informed decisions.

So, here's your chance. If you were trying to figure out if it's better to migrate or replace, what questions would you ask control system manufacturers?

Send your control system migration questionnaire submittals to

SkillsUSA champions make historic debut

For the first time ever, a two-man USA team of college students will compete in the "Mechatronics" category at the International Vocational Training Organization WorldSkills Competition in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

With sponsorship provided by Festo Corp., a manufacturer of industrial pneumatic components and systems, the Mechatronics team of Allen Stanzel and Casey Calouette will demonstrate their installation, operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting competencies in:

  • Three-phase electric motors and related components;

  • Mechanical power transmission systems and components;

  • Fluid power electropneumatic and electrohydraulic systems and components; and

  • Plant auxiliary systems, including steam, air, water, and wastewater systems and related components.

Additionally, the team will complete a 50-question general maintenance comprehension evaluation for the areas of lubrication, fasteners, welding and electronic symbols, blueprint reading, component fault analysis, math, physics, and metallurgy.

Click here to learn more about SkillsUSA .

To read more about Festo's SkillsUSA sponsorship, click here, then search for WorldSkills .

Do you know the answers?

"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought with ardor and attended to with diligence." —Abigail Adams

The correct answers are highlighted in red and shown at the end of each question.

1. Head is another way of expressing:

a. Gallons
b. Pressure
c. Length
d. Mass

The answer to Question 1 is b — Pressure.

2. Seventy-five percent output on a 4-20 milliamp transmitter is:

a. 12 milliamps
b. 15 milliamps
c. 16 milliamps
d. 20 milliamps

The answer to Question 2 is c — 16 milliamps.
Here's how it works. The instrument range is 4 to 20 milliamps with 4-mA = 0% reading and 20-mA = 100% reading. 20 minus 4 = 16. 75% of 16 = 12 but then you have to add back the live (eleveated zero) of 4 milliamps. Thus the correct answer is 16 milliamps.

3. A process is called ___________ if heat is produced by a reaction.

a. Endothermic
b. Continuous
c. Intermittent
d. Exothermic

The answer to Question 3 is d — Exothermic.

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