Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for January 2001


In this issue:


FDA 21CFR Part 11 awareness survey

Is your company involved in FDA's 21 CFR Part 11 Electronic Records and Signatures regulation? To help prepare for a future article, we want to understand your awareness of this regulation. Please click on this link to complete a 25-question survey.

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Fieldbus I/O simulation

In my former life of installing control systems for a living, we used I/O simulation software to test our control/application code. But that was in the days of 'dumb' I/O sub-systems; we didn't have the tools to even simulate functions of HART devices.

I recently learned that mimic v2.4 process simulation software, developed by Munger Product Development (St. Louis, Mo.), simulates HART transmitter values, FOUNDATION fieldbus function blocks, and AS-i bus devices. According to company spokespersons, when mimic v2.5 is released later this month, Profibus DP and DeviceNet support will be added along with fieldbus 'control-in-the-field,' simulation capabilities. The product is being sold through Emerson Process Management representatives.

I looked at the product bulletin posted on the mimic web site and learned mimic works with several controller brands including Allen-Bradley PLC3 and PLC5, DeltaV, GE Series Six and 9070, Modicon 984, Quantum 800 series, and Siemens TI 565. According to company spokespersons, activities are underway to expand the list of controller's mimic works with.

Mimic runs in a PC and connects directly to the controller(s) the same way real I/O connects. That makes mimic non-intrusive--meaning you don't need to change a single line of programming code in the controller to make it work. If you're working with a FDA-validated process, that means you can start validation activities before field wiring is complete. It also means mimic can be very useful in an operator training environment where instructor initiated process upsets, equipment failures, out-of-calibration alerts, etc., can be introduced during training.

For more information about mimic's capabilities, visit the mimic web site at


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Remote monitoring via the Internet

There must be at least a dozen companies offering Internet web-servers that allow remote monitoring instrumentation (i.e., flow, pressure, temperature, etc.), but Falcon, from RLE Technologies (Fort Collins, Colo.), caught my eye because it also makes IP addressable web cameras available over the Internet. The camera image is displayed on the main menu of the Falcon web interface, thus providing a live view of the remote site. Costs are low because Falcon hosts its own web pages and requires no additional software or host computer.

Besides web-camera input, Falcon interfaces include 0-5 V, 0-10 V, or 4-20 mA inputs from temperature, pressure, flow, current, and humidity sensors, and dry contacts. The Falcon notifies users of alarm conditions through e-mail messages, SNMP traps, phone, and e-mail paging.

A fully functional, web-enabled Falcon can be accessed at .

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New life for Moore's law

In the 1960's Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, predicted the computing power available on a given chip (or, in a variant, the power available for a given price) will double every eighteen months. This became known as Moore's Law. To imagine Moore's Law in any other context is to understand how remarkable it is: suppose that cars got doubled their mileage, or costs 50 percent less, every year and a half.

A recent article appeared in the Atlantic Monthly explaining how yet another technology breakthrough, 'extreme ultraviolet' light, or EUV, is about to breathe new life into the computer-chip technology slowdown and is likely to extend Moore's Law another ten years or so.

Read the full story at

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Applying Six Sigma to alarm management

It used to bug me to walk into a control room and see acknowledged alarms on an operator's screen that weren't being addressed. Often when I'd look at the log to see when the alarm went active and when it was acknowledged I'd find the alarm was three or four weeks old. Clearly that indicated a problem. In fact, lack of an effective alarm management has been identified as a contributing factor in many industrial accidents.

If you share my belief that alarms are supposed to cause action beyond hitting the acknowledge key, you might want to sign up for Plant Automation Services (Houston, Tex.) Alarm Management Workshop to be held in Galveston, Texas, February 28 through March 1, 2002.

The workshop will provide an approach for optimizing the alarm system of a process control system using the Six Sigma DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) process.

Through lecture and hands-on exercises, participants will understand the pervasiveness of the alarm problem and its negative impact on plant reliability and operator effectiveness, the steps to establishing an alarm-optimization project, and how to apply the Six Sigma process to alarm optimization.

More information about the Alarm Management Workshop can be found at .

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Conferences, seminars, and exhibitions

  • Learn from experts in fieldbus technology in a Jan. 31 Control Engineering Technology Webcast, at noon. Register now at /webcast/archives/fieldbus.htm for this free, sponsored webcast: 'FOUNDATION Fieldbus: An Open, Integrated Architecture for Information Integration.'

  • Log on to before Jan. 18, for your last chance to see SupplyChainLinkExpo, with 40 conference sessions, 85 speakers, and 120 exhibitors. It was co-produced by Control Engineering and the Cahners Supply Chain/OEM Group.

  • Control Engineering's website includes registration for eight topical e-mailed newsletters, access to exclusive coverage from Control Engineering Europe, site search, Online Control Engineering Buyer's Guide, and Automation Integrator Guide Online, with advanced search functions. Go to /

  • Control Engineering's website at includes links to upcoming conferences, trade shows, and exhibitions:

    • Mar 4-7, Comdex 2002, Chicago, Ill.

    • Mar 13-15, Embedded Systems, San Francisco, Calif.

    • Mar 18-21, National Industrial Automation, Chicago, Ill.

    • Apr 7-10, World Batch Forum Conference, Woodcliff Lakes, N.J.

    • Apr 8-11, Material Handling Show and Conference, Detroit, Mich.

    • Apr 15-20, Hannover Fair, Hannover Germany

    • Apr 15-17, Interphex, New York, N.Y.

    • May 21-23, Sensors Spring Expo, San Jose, Calif.

    • Jun 3-6, Embedded Systems, Rosemount, Ill.

    • Jun 4-5, ISPE Washington Conference, Arlington, Virg.

    • Jun 25-27, Integrated Manufacturing Solutions Conference, Cleveland, O.

    • Sep 8-12, Wonderware Showcase, Orlando, Fla.

    • Sep 24-26, Sensors Fall Expo, Boston, Mass.

    • Oct 8-11, Center for Chemical Process Safety Conference, Jacksonville, Fla.

    • Oct 21-24, ISA Expo, Chicago, Ill.

    • Nov 3-8, AIChE Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, Ind.

    • Nov 4-5, ISPE Annual Meeting, Orlando, Fla.

    • Nov 18-24, Embedded Systems, Boston, Mass.

    • Nov 19-23, BIAS, Milan, Italy

    • Nov 20-21, AB Automation Fair, Anaheim, Calif.

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January in Control Engineering

Cover: Special Report on controllers: survey and trends Special Report: Controllers: Part 1. This survey of industrial controllers examines and compares capabilities of the heartbeat of every control and automation system--the controller. This two-part feature is developed from a supplier-provided controller capability questionnaire. Results will be tabulated into an online controller capability matrix. Part 2 in February identifies trends.

XML/OPC programming: XML is rapidly becoming the universal programming language for information exchange over networks. It is open, and therefore not tied to any computer operating system or platform. OPC is the current standard for automation communication. These are essential technologies for today's control engineer to understand.

Product Focus: Networking: Original research from Control Engineering/Cahners Research examines trends and user issues in industrial networks. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers will be included, along with research survey results.

Technology Update: Observers improve resolver conversion: Resolvers are commonly used for motor feedback in motion control systems. Using an observer can improve the quality of feedback during the resolver-to-digital conversion process. An industry expert will discuss how to apply observer-based methods to resolver conversion and the motion system benefits that can be expected.

Back to Basics: Power conditioning and isolation: Here's a look at the basics that control engineers should know concerning power conditioning and isolation.

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