Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for May 2002
In this issue:
- Praise to openness
- XML schemas available
- Do you know the answers?
- Web-based support services gaining in popularity
- Sanitary valve disassembles without tools
- Conferences, seminars, exhibitions, webcasts
- May in Control Engineering
Praise to openness
In the May 7, 2002, issue of PC Magazine (Ziff Davis Media), editor-in-chief Michael Miller wrote about key developments that changed the personal computer (PC) industry. Mr. Miller credits the move from a character-based to a graphical interface and the widespread adoption of the Internet for moving the PC from a novelty to a business tool.
However, the point of Mr. Miller's editorial is how these and similar other technology advancements are the result of 'openness.'
For example, Mr. Miller points out how the graphical user interface (GUI) became open by default. First developed by Xerox, lots of people saw the future, grabbed and held-on. By the time Xerox decided the GUI, including the concept of devices, bitmapped displays, and pull-down menus, might be proprietary and they should close the proverbial barn door, the horse was long gone. Apple Macintosh, DEC's X-windows, and Microsoft Windows were already in various stages of development and use.
Similarly, the Internet is open because the U.S. Defense Department needed a way to let disparate systems connect together, thus the creation of the Internet Protocol (IP). Likewise, the World Wide Web (WWW) was designed for use without anyone's permission in order to obtain widespread acceptance. Openness is why one web page links to another. But, did you know the WWW wasn't the first or even technically the best online community or hypertext system? However, that didn't make any difference. It was the most open, that's why it survived and thrived.
So what's the point?
The point is that in Mr. Miller's world of PCs and in our world of control, automation, and instrumentation, openness has and can continue to play a large role in further advancing technology as a productivity tool, a point many companies and industry groups seem to have forgotten.
For example, momentum is building to have the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develop and adopt proprietary standards that require usage fees. Until now, the W3C has promoted only free, open standards. Similarly, there are those debating the 'benefits' of open-versus-proprietary in web services and variations of XML (eXtensible Markup Language).
Already there are legal 'activities' that threaten much of what we have come to expect with open solutions. For example, British Telecommunications (BT, London, U.K.) continues to pursue a lawsuit against Prodigy Communications (White Plains, N.Y.). BT claims a patent on hyperlinking from one piece of information to another.
Within the control, automation, and instrumentation arena, Control Engineering senior editor, Gary Mintchell, and news editor, Jim Montague, have been reporting regularly on patent infringement claims and associated legal activities by Schneider Electric (North Andover, Mass.) and Solaia Technologies (Chicago, Ill.). Among all the legal banter, Schneider's infringement claims are all about coupling an Ethernet interface module with a web server on a PLC (programmable logic controller). Solaia purchased a second patent from Schneider that addresses moving data from a PCL to a spreadsheet. Solaia claims that using any means, including OPC, to accomplish this violates the patent, and therefore, Sloaia has sued four end-user companies for patent violations.
I'm hoping all industries leveraging the PC, the web, and the Internet decide to compete on differentiation of software, service, and product implementations... not on who has the best lawyers or the deepest pockets.
Have an opinion about this topic? Share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click the following links to read:
To learn more about the BT versus Prodigy law suites, conduct an Internet search for Prodigy+Communications+British+Telecommunications.
XML schemas available
Control Engineering has been writing about XML (eXtensible Markup Language) since 1999, mostly explaining what it is and how it works. If you've been following along, but not quite sure how XML schemas might fit into the control and automation industry, the World Batch Forum (WBF, Chandler, Ariz.) may provide at least a part of the missing element.
During the April 2002 World Batch Forum conference in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., WBF announced the availability of two sets of XML markup languages based on the ANSI/ISA S88 and S95 standards for batch control and business-to-manufacturing data exchange.
The WBF has made BatchML (Batch Markup Language) and B2MML (Business to Manufacturing Markup Language) available free to all vendors and users at www.wbf.org
Dave Emerson, chairman of WBF's XML working group, and senior systems architect with Yokogawa says, 'BatchML allows companies to standardize and simplify the design of recipes and control systems in multi-system environments.'
Dennis Brandl, president of BR&L Consulting and author of B2MML says, 'B2MML offers a standard way for Enterprise Resource Planning and Supply Chain Management systems to exchange information without manufacturing execution systems, laboratory information systems, and control systems.'
It's worth noting, that while some enterprise system vendors and end-user companies are developing their own markup languages, B2MML provides an independent technology implementation of the ANSI/ISA S95 standard.
Do you know the answers?
'Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought with ardor and attended to with diligence.' -Abigail Adams
A few months ago I began introducing a few basic instrumentation and control questions in this newsletter. From the feedback, several find them useful, so here's a few more.
1. The length of straight-run pipe needed to eliminate flow line disturbances is related to:
a. The type of flow element;
b. The beta factor;
c. The diameter of the pipe; or
d. Both a and c.
The answer to #1 is: d. Both a and c.
2. The results of installing an orifice plate backwards is:
a. Damage to the plate;
b. Erratic flowmeter readings;
c. Higher than actual flowmeter readings; or
d. Lower than actual flowmeter readings.
The answer to #2 is: d. Lower than actual flowmeter readings.
3. A 3-15 psi pneumatic transmitter has a 50-350 deg. C (122-662 deg. F) range. What is the output signal value, in psi, at 198 deg. C (389 deg. F)?
The answer to #3 is: b. 8.9
Web-based support services gaining in popularity
Compared to other industries, it surprises me how slow control, automation, and instrumentation suppliers have been in developing their web sites into problem-resolution repositories designed to efficiently solve customer problems and thus improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
For example, on-going control, automation, and instrumentation supplier customer-satisfaction polls, conducted by AFAB Group (Avon, Ind.), ask responders about specific supplier web site usefulness in the areas of product specification and problem resolution.
Poll responders indicate 19% of specific supplier sites are excellent at providing information related to product specification (sales), but only 9% indicate those same sites are excellent in providing complete and useful information to resolving a product-related problem.
A slightly deeper look at the poll results, comparing the quality of web site product versus problem resolution information reveals:
Product versus Problem Resolution information
19% versus 9%
50% versus 57%
25% versus 23%
6% versus 11%
Two companies recently announcing enhanced web-based product support are ABB and Westinghouse Process.
ABB recently introduced SoftCare, a web-based software management program for ABB's IndustrialIT control solutions. SoftCare subscription supports all new ABB software deliveries and provides several web-based software support features to subscribers, including on-line license administration, automatically e-mailed upgrade and renewal notices, new field notices, release notes and other relevant documents. Registered users can download the latest software revisions, and make use of online reference capabilities including the latest release of user documentation.
More information is available by going to www.abb.com and searching for SoftCare.
Westinghouse Process recently added SureNet, a web-based service module, designed to reduce operations and maintenance costs of power plants and water and wastewater treatment facilities, to the SureService customer service offerings. Modules included in Westinghouse Processes' SureNet are system diagnostics, online tutoring, software archiving, application enhancement, and software updating.
More information is available at www.westinghousepc.com/service/SureService.cfm
Sanitary valve disassembles without tools
End-users in the pharmaceutical, food, beverage, and consumer health-care industries (about 10% of all Control Engineering subscribers) are aware of sanitary valves.
For those unfamiliar with sanitary valves, these are valves designed to eliminate threads, crevices, and other places where residual product can 'avoid' being removed during clean-in-place (CIP) and steam-in-place (SIP) operations.
Recently GemcoValve (Middlesex, N.J.) introduced the K Valve series of sanitary valves in sizes from 3-in. to 8-in. (75 to 200 mm).
What makes the K Valve unique is the split-body design. Held together by quick clamps, the K Valve can be disassembled in-line for maintenance, inspection, and cleanliness swab testing.
More information is available at www.gemcovalve.com
Conferences, seminars, and exhibitions
Learn from experts in fieldbus technology in a Control Engineering Technology Webcast. Visit www.controleng.com/webcast/archives/fieldbus.htm for this free, sponsored webcast: 'FOUNDATION Fieldbus: An Open, Integrated Architecture for Information Integration.'
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:
May 21-23, Sensors Spring Expo, San Jose, Calif.
Jun 3-6, Embedded Systems, Rosemount, Ill.
Jun 4-5, ISPE Washington Conference, Arlington, Va.
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.
May in Control Engineering
Cover: Justify investments for fieldbus
Sure field networks reduce hard-wiring costs. Start-up can be easier because of remote configuration capabilities. Over time, reduced maintenance, easier troubleshooting, greater reliability, and better business intelligence all contribute mightily to the life-cycle value of fieldbus communications. How do you convey these collective benefits within your organization?
Course aggregate bulk level sensing
Coarse aggregate materials pose a real challenge to level sensing instrumentation. Although these applications rarely require extreme accuracy, the harsh environment created by the heavy, rough, and dusty materials work to thwart the instrument's function. This article looks at the technologies that work and the applications that prove they do.
Handheld and wireless operator interface's
Handheld computers and wireless capability will be big news in operator interface (actually maintenance and engineering interface). These technologies are maturing and more companies are introducing products. The article will survey what is available, what to look for, and what this means to work on the factory floor.
Embedded Systems Show
Embedded Systems Conference, June 5-7, in Chicago, offers new technologies for use in embedded control and other areas of industrial automation.
Product Focus: Power Supplies
Original Control Engineering/Cahners Research examines trends and user issues with industrial power supplies. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers will be included, along with research results.
Back to Basics: Slip rings/rotary joints
Slip rings provide the important function of transmitting power and data from a stationary device to a rotating device (or vice versa) in an automation system. Basics of this often-overlooked electromechanical interface will be discussed.