Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for March 2000


In this issue:

Simulation and optimization software

If you've been wondering if using dynamic simulation and optimization software might help reduce variability in your process, the choices of which software to use have just increased. ABB Automation (Wickliffe, O.) and Process Systems Enterprise Ltd. (PSE, London, U.K.) have formed an alliance around PSE's gPROMS process modeling and simulation technology in what is being termed 'a new generation of model-based automation products.' According to company spokesmen, gPROMS is unique to the simulation and optimization marketplace because it allows process engineers to develop solver-independent models using a single graphical interface. ABB and PES claim users can begin using gPROMS during process design to create static models and then convert static models into dynamic models later in the process life cycle.

For more information on gPROMS, visit .


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Online education

Almost everyone has a desire to learn, but taking time away from work (if your boss would let you, and has budgeted the money) seems to be getting harder and harder.

Rittal (Springfield, O.)-yep, the enclosure manufacturer-is making it easier to improve your knowledge base in the area of enclosures by providing an interactive online training that mimics traditional college courses with quizzes, homework, final exams, etc.

The three 'colleges' provided at Rittal University are:

  • The College of Industrial Applications, covering wallmount and freestanding enclosures, operator interface enclosures, and power distribution;

  • The College of Electronics, covering 19 inch freestanding enclosures, wall mount enclosures, and subracks; and

  • The College of Climate Control, covering air conditioners, heat exchangers, fans, and heaters.

For more information about Rittal University, visit .


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A practical means of exchanging complex intellectual property

In this brave new world called e-commerce, how does a company with excess manufacturing capacity hookup with a product company looking for a way to accelerate product rollout or produce product nearer to the end user?

One of the savior solutions bantered around is XML (eXtensible Markup Language). XML provides to web page data fields what HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol) provides to web pages-the ability to share platform-independent information. The drawback to using pure XML is there is no agreement on the naming and content of data fields.

Microsoft is encouraging development of structured XML schemas using BizTalk. The idea behind BizTalk is for mutually interested parties to agree on the meaning of XML data fields. Sequencia (Phoenix, Ariz.) recently announced the release of two XML BizTalk schemas that enable Internet collaboration between process industry manufacturers.

Anticipating a continued increase in contract manufacturing, the two schemas are designed to allow accurate collaboration between companies with excess manufacturing capacity (equipment schema) and product owner companies (recipe definition schema) looking for accelerated product roll-out or 'close to use' product manufacturing.

For more information about Sequencia's BizTalk schemas, visit or .


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One intelligent control valve unit, multiple uses

Burkert Contromatic (Irvine, Calif.) recently introduced the Top Control Head, an intelligent valve controller that fits Burkert's complete line of 1/2-in. through 2-in. angle globe, 1/4 turn ball, and diaphragm valves. Users can enter their own curve or select from any of the seven built-in flow characteristics (three fast opening, one linear, and three equal percentages).

Burkert's intelligent valve controller can be directly wired to RTDs, 4-20 mA, and frequency based sensors to form a stand-alone control loop with local or remote setpoint interface, or it can be part of an ASI, Profibus, or DeviceNET network.

For more information about Top Control Head, visit .


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Dave's control valve characterization caution

If you're working with a really fast process (e.g. flow) and you use any of the available intelligent valve controllers to change valve characteristics, don't forget to take into account the valve stroke time. If you don't pay attention, the stroke time of the valve can become dominant and cause unwanted limit cycling in part of the flow range, but not in another. Mr. F. G. (Greg) Shinskey, a respected industry authority, will be addressing this in more depth in the July issue of Control Engineering .

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Automation management for PLCs

Have you ever tried to manage version control, provide an audit trail for software changes, establish a user security hierarchy, etc. to meet validation, safety, quality, or other regulatory requirements? It's not an easy or straightforward thing to achieve.

GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, Va.) and Total Control Products (Melrose Park, Ill.) recently introduced a new revision of fxManager automation management capable of doing exactly that for GE Fanuc, Allen-Bradley, and Modicon programmable logic controllers (PLCs). FxManager features a new HTML graphical interface capability that allows users to access programs and applications used throughout a plant by clicking on customized graphical representations.

GE Fanuc's Compare software is a similar product to fxManager, but with slightly fewer features, specifically for GE Fanuc Series 90 or Series 90-70 PLCs. Among the features of Compare are: choices of data types and ranges for comparing; simultaneous scans of data tables and documentation; 'smart logic compare' to ensure re-synchronization when rungs are inserted or deleted; and on-screen or HTML results.

For more information about fxManager or Compare visit .


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Free 2000 catalog of property loss prevention resources

If you're responsible for property loss prevention, you might want to obtain a free copy of Factory Mutual (FM) Global's (Norwood, Mass.) property loss prevention resources catalog. The contents include property loss prevention basics, boiler and machinery, business interruptions, emergency planning, construction and maintenance, facility and warehouse protection, fire prevention and natural hazards.

You can browse the catalog online at . To order your free copy, call FM Global at (877) 364-6726 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) or (781) 255-4681.


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International programmable safety system symposium

There's a certain risk inherent in automation systems of plant and machinery that, in the event of improper functioning, may endanger the life and health of persons and damage the plant and the environment.

If you're involved with programmable electronic safety (PES) systems designed to protect people and property, you might want make your way to Cologne, Germany, May 3 - 4 to attend the 4th International Symposium and Exhibition for Programmable Electronic Systems in Safety Related Applications, sponsored by TUV Rheinland.

For more information about this symposium, visit .


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Public service announcement

I do my best to be an informed voter, and I hope you do the same. Last year I came across a web site called Vote-Smart that tracks and reports on over 10,000 U.S. politicians. Vote-smart provides information on things like what politicians say in public, how they vote on various issues, some of their background information, how to contact them, and a lot more.

To learn more about your 'favorite' politician, visit .


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What you'll find in the March issue of Control Engineering magazine

Editors' Choice Awards Control Engineering 's editors select the best technologies of 1999 in all areas of coverage.

Weighing Technology Accurate weighing devices are key components in an efficient process scenario. The article includes recent technology improvements and unique applications for these often overlooked sensors.

How to Evaluate Data Mining
Discover meaningful correlations, patterns, and trends in large amounts of data using pattern recognition technologies and statistical and mathematical techniques.

Network Applications
Knowing how other users apply their networking know-how may help maximize results in your current or future application.

Hannover Fair Preview
Control Engineering continues its annual coverage of the 'World's Largest Industrial Fair,' March 20-25, in Hannover, Germany.

Product Focus: PLCs
Original Control Engineering research examines PLC trends, user issues, and leading suppliers.

Back to Basics: Direct Drives
When the motor or actuator is coupled directly to the driven load, various advantages and design efficiencies can be realized.


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