Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for July 2000


In this issue:

Open system promises: reality or hype?

Open-, hybrid-, transparent-, scalable-systems, call them what you want--they have been around for about five years now and I'm thinking that's long enough to find out what users like and don't like about these control and automation systems. Are they living up to the hype? Are they as open and easy to connect as users hoped? Are they easier or harder to configure, program, and maintain? Have they really reduced life-cycle cost? What's been their biggest benefit and greatest disappointment? What capabilities are still missing? Users (no vendors please) send your thoughts, opinions, and war-stories to .

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EPA Clean Air Act guidelines

Developed to assist inspectors, auditors, and investigators, EPA guidelines have been developed around the general duty clause in Section 112(r)(1) of the Clean Air Act. The guidelines provide examples of means to conduct and evaluate accident prevention programs and suggest ways to increase compliance. Because facility owners and operators have primary responsibility in preventing chemical accidents, Chapter 3 of the guidelines may be useful. Go to to download the guideline in PDF format.

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Intellectual property symposium of the Americas

September 11-12, 2000, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will bring together high-ranking government intellectual property officials and members of the business and intellectual property communities in the Western Hemisphere to discuss and formulate an agenda for cooperation in the critical area of intellectual property enforcement. If you want to attend you need to hurry--registration ends July 31, 2000. For more information, visit .

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Microsoft non-disclosure technology briefing

Each year, Microsoft hosts a technology briefing specifically for OPC members. At these meetings, Microsoft developers and marketers give advance previews of new software products that are planned for release in the coming year. For some of these products, Microsoft distributes beta versions of software toolkits for those developers planning products using new Microsoft technologies. If your company has been undecided about joining the OPC Foundation, the invitation to attend this briefing is seen by many as the single most valuable OPC membership benefit. For more information, visit .

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Free e-mail virus protection software

Responding to the recent rash of computer viruses spread through Microsoft Outlook e-mail, Reliable Software Technology (Dulles, Va.) has made available for free their 'JustBeFriend.dll' software. JustBeFriends is a 300KB, easy-to-download program that provides an alternative to Microsoft's Outlook update. Both are designed to prevent e-mail viruses from propagating to new machines. JustBeFriends does this by controlling the ability of other applications to access Outlook and Outlook Express. For more information, visit .

While we're talking about reliable software, have you every wondered how control and automation system suppliers ensure the software they sell is robust, safe, and reliable? I'm not sure about others, but Foxboro (Foxboro, Mass.) recently selected Reliable Software Technology to help ensure I/A software is designed with safety and reliability in mind. For more information, visit .

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Software tools

I may be the only one who doesn't know about Software Toolbox (Matthews, N.C.), but just in case there are one or two others out there, Software Toolbox is both a control and automation software developer as well as a one-stop shop for software from Fisher-Rosemount, GE Fanuc, Honeywell, Iconics, Intellution, Siemens, Symbol Factory, Think & Do, Westinghouse, Wonderware, Yokogawa, and more. When I recently visited Software Toolbox's web site, I found 72 OPC Client/Server toolkits, 84 ActiveX & DLL toolkits, 60 Iconics Genesis toolkits, 111 Intellution Fix toolkits, 107 Wonderware InTouch toolkits, and 67 GE Fanuc Cimplicity toolkits available. And that was just a quick look. For more information, visit

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July's Control Engineering

Cover: Process Sensing for Hazardous Areas
Process sensing (temperature, pressure, level, and flow) in hazardous areas demands special attention. The technology used for dealing with hazardous media at the instrumentation level will be covered, and specific applications will be featured.

Three Faces of Control Valves

The three most important control valve considerations are: characteristics, deadband, and velocity limiting. Characteristic must be chosen to linearize the loop; deadband causes limit-cycling in some loops; and after a severe upset, velocity limiting can cause an expanding cycle. Graphical simulation results will help readers recognize symptoms. Remedies will emphasize smart valve-positioners.

Waveform Signature Analysis for Quality, Productivity
New software tools make it easier to use advanced math to analyze waveforms captured by a variety of sensors from pressure to force measurement. Communication tools enable fast, efficient interface to both automation and quality.

Web Technologies and Human Machine Interfaces
Suddenly, technologies propelled by the World Wide Web are enhancing both operator interface and information transfer. This article will look at how technologies like HTML, XML, and browsers are increasingly crucial to an automation strategy.

ISA Expo/2000 Preview
ISA Expo/2000 is expected to introduce a wide array of technologies to users. The event, Aug. 21-24, in New Orleans, aims to connect users and manufacturers in a discussion of related technology issues. This article previews the event.

Technology Update: Pipeless Batch Processing
Traditional processing thinking places raw materials in a vessel where the material is processed followed by a transfer of the material to another vessel. Another way of thinking about how to process products is to design and build batch plants that use automatic guided vehicles to move containers from one processing station to another in order to produce a product, eliminating all the transfer piping and headaches of routing and cleaning management.

Product Focus: Control Valves
Original Control Engineering research examines control valve trends and user issues. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers will be included, along with research results.

Back to Basics: Encoders
Available in several types, encoders still comprise the most common feedback device used in motion control systems. Here's a look at encoder principles, styles, and capabilities available to users.

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Dave's Public Service Announcement

Sometimes the best things are free. That's the case with a neat little 'freeware' program developed by Josh Madison that easily converts one unit of measurement to another. Josh's 'Convert' software contains 16 tabs for units such as Force, Light, Mass, Power, Area, Flow, Volume, etc. There is a 17th tab that allows you to create your own custom unit conversions. For more information, visit .

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