Changing sounds of DAC hardware

Since its inception during the 1500's, the violin has undergone very little change. Strings and bow still work together to perform vital functions that allow a musician to keep the instrument strumming in tune. Like the strings of a violin, data acquisition (DAC) hardware devices perform vital functions in many industries.

By Antonia E. McBride, Assistant Editor June 1, 2000
Trends in Data Acquisition Hardware
  • Off-the-shelf

  • More functionality

  • Remote measurement

  • Web-enabled

Since its inception during the 1500’s, the violin has undergone very little change. Strings and bow still work together to perform vital functions that allow a musician to keep the instrument strumming in tune. Like the strings of a violin, data acquisition (DAC) hardware devices perform vital functions in many industries. The devices gather data, analyze it, and provide information for the user to act upon. Unlike the violin, DAC hardware has undergone change to keep up with the need to integrate a total system.

‘The ability to access, retrieve, analyze, and archive collected data from a network or Windows PC is critical, but the devices must be capable of communicating with programmable logic controllers (PLC) and other network devices,’ says Russ Graybill, Yokogawa Corporation of America (Newnan, Ga.) sales manager.

Control Engineering surveyed 1,500 readers in part to determine the ‘rhythmic movement’ DAC hardware devices are undergoing. Two hundred ninety-three completed the survey resulting in a 20% overall response rate. The study’s objectives were to qualify respondents’ involvement in recommending, specifying, and/or purchasing data acquisition and control hardware; examine what DAC hardware devices are used; and determine the importance of selected features in the purchase decision process.

Nearly all, 96%, of respondents recommend, specify, and/or purchase data acquisition and control hardware. Of those 96%, upon which the rest of the results are based, 83% recommend, specify, and/or buy data acquisition and control hardware for in-plant requirements; and 17% do so for OEMs (resale).

When asked what are the leading primary applications for data acquisition and control hardware, 33% responded test applications. Thirty-two percent of the respondents answered continuous processing only, while batch processing only, and discrete products manufacturing followed closely at 21% and 20%, respectively. (See graph.)

The virtual conductor

The violin octet, a family of strings in which the acoustic characteristics, and tonal qualities, of the viola, cello, and double bass contrast with the violin and with each other, can be compared to the integration of DAC hardware devices.

‘The integration and hybridization of PC and software technology into plant floor data acquisition systems have provided significant new ways for companies to access and manage plant floor information,’ says Jeff Meyers, Omron Electronics (Schaumburg, Ill.) product marketing manager.

‘Using database, networking and web based technologies, companies can provide critical plant floor information quickly and efficiently to be used in making business decisions,’ continues Mr. Meyers.

Sixty-four percent of the respondents said they use PLCs as the leading data acquisition and control hardware device. PC plug-in at 48%, and stand-alone instruments, 44%, were the next most often used DAC hardware devices.

More than seven of ten, 72% of respondents develop data acquisition applications using driver software that comes with DAC hardware. Nearly a third, 32%, indicated using Visual Basic. (See graph.)

‘Networking is an industry buzzword,’ says Yiannis Pavlou, data acquisition product manager for National Instruments (Austin, Tex.). There is a need for wireless measurement to remote locations, he says, and networking allows the user to access information worldwide to make a decision.

About 43% of the respondents make remote measurements using 4-20 mA. Serial, 32%, and Ethernet, 28%, are the next two leading remote measurement methods.

More than half, 53%, of the respondents felt having multi-functionality on a single device with digital, analog lines, and counter/ times was the most important feature.

Measurement and ease of use were ranked the leading criteria when selecting a data acquisition device. Price ranked third on average, but substantially lower than the top two factors.

Succession of players

Respondents most anticipate a continued decline in the use of customized data acquisition andcontrol hardware, to more off-the-shelf applications.

Mr. Pavlou states, flexibility and cost reduction allow companies, large and small, to buy instruments that look just like they want. Customers look to create their own unifying process for integration.

‘We are seeing two major trends in data acquisition and control in industrial process applications in customers’ plants,’ states Charles Piper, The Foxboro Company (Foxboro, Mass.) system product manager. ‘One is a dramatic increase in the percentage of customers who want to mount their I/O equipment remotely to field locations, close to the sensors and actuators; and two, customers are expecting increased microprocessor intelligence to bring more functionality and performance to the field-mounted I/O modules,’ he continues.

According to National Instrument’s Mr. Pavlou, other trends users can expect are: more Ethernet supported boxes, boxes plugged in and controlled via the Internet, and higher speed products with more functionality.

Data acquisition hardware

For more information on data acquisition hardware, visit . For a broader listing of data acquisition hardware manufacturers, go to the Control Engineering Buyer’s Guide at .

Industrial digital assistant

Minnetonka, Minn. -DataMyte 4000 Industrial Digital Assistant provides portable computing for industrial and commercial applications that require field data collection, inspection, auditing, system monitoring, remote programming, work tracking, and inventory control. Targeted industrial and commercial applications include manufacturing, heavy construction, public safety, military, and others. DataMyte 4000 is said to feature a Microsoft Windows CE operating system and uses graphics and navigational aides for a visual and easy-to-use system.

Rockwell Automation

Flexible, scable integrated system

Austin, Tex. -National Instruments’ PXI instrumentation platform is said to offer an ideal solution for integrating a custom industrial data acquisition system that meets specific CompactPCI application needs. PXI-1011 chassis enables the user to embed data acquisition (vibration, position, isolated analog input, and frequency-to-voltage conversion) image acquisition, motion control, industrial communication cards, and connect to distributed I/O points with a single chassis.

National Instruments

Control family comprises analog modules

Charlottesville, Va. -The Analog Input, Analog Output, and Analog Mixed Modules are said to extend the reach of the VersaMax family by offering more solutions designed for open, affordable control in applications such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), packaging, material handling, and remote terminal units. The Analog Output Module, in turn, provides additional software-configurable features. The Analog Input Module provides the same software-configurable features, but has an additional selectable input filter to reject normal mode ac pick up noise. The Analog Mixed Module features four differential inputs and two single-ended outputs, support for 4-20 mA, and 12-bit converter resolution.

GE Fanuc

High speed, low cost remote modules

Foxboro, Mass. -The Foxboro Company’s DIN-rail mount Fieldbus Modules are said to provide reduced data acquisition and control installation costs through remote field mounting (with a digital home run bus). They use Ethernet physical layer and media for communications back to the rest of the automation system. The I/O modules handle outdoor mounting in climates ranging from -20 to 70 ° C. The electronics are offered with NEMA 4 and NEMA 4X enclosures for corrosive and wet environments.

The Foxboro Co.

Open network controller

Schaumburg, Ill. -Open Network Controller is a compact industrial computer used to integrate industrial control systems. The Open Network Controller is said to provide users and integrators with a platform for integrating all types of manufacturers’ automation networks into ERP/MES and SCADA systems. One of its functions is that of an industrial real-time data server to enterprise applications. Combining Omron’s middleware (FINS Gateway) and a real-time QNX operating system, the Open Network Controller can serve as a communications gateway for the plant floor to other information systems.

Omron Electronics Inc.

Control, test, and monitoring system

Middleboro, Mass. -MetraBus family combines a personal computer, MetraBus driver board, cable, and one or more I/O board(s) to form a complete system that expands data acquisition, test, monitoring and control solutions. The MetraBus product line is said to give designers and engineers a source for industrial I/O interfaces for ISA, PCI, cPCI, and PC/104 computers. The MetraBus offers multiple packaging and mounting options for DIN-rail, NEMA enclosures, and 19-in. racks.

Computerboards Inc.

DAQ cards upgrades

Akron, O. -Quatech announced an upgrade of its PCMCIA data acquisition product line. PCMCIA DAQ cards now come standard with 4K Data FIFOs (first in, first out). It is said these FIFOs will increase the speed and efficiency of data transfer over what was achievable with the 2K FIFOs previously used on the cards. The PCMCIA data acquisition line is comprised of the DAQP-308 providing eight single-ended or four differential 16-bit analog inputs and two 12-bit analog outputs. All cards deliver 100 kS/sec sampling, provide eight digital I/O channels, and are expandable to 128 channels.

Quatech Inc.

Long-range ID

Twinsburg, O. -Pepperl+Fuchs installed long-range identification systems at an international automobile manufacturer in South Carolina to track car location in the final assembly stages. Ethernet-enabled ID points continuously scan for tags attached to the cars and transmits tracking data to a network server application. The application inserts read events into a database table enabling isolation of the visualization process for data collection. Additional integrated error check and point-to-point or multi-drop interfaces provide maximum system performance.