May We Have the Envelopes Please

"Control products just keep getting more advanced, yet simpler to use,"was the consensus among editors at Control Engineering when it was time for them to choose the best control products of 1997. For the 11th consecutive year, the editors chose the 50 best products based on three criteria: technological advancement, impact on the market, and service to the industry.

By Michael Drakulich and Henry Morris, Control Engineering March 1, 1998

“Control products just keep getting more advanced, yet simpler to use,”was the consensus among editors at Control Engineering when it was time for them to choose the best control products of 1997. For the 11th consecutive year, the editors chose the 50 best products based on three criteria: technological advancement, impact on the market, and service to the industry.When the final votes were tallied, 25 products received the Editors’ Choice award and 25 garnered Product Recognition awards. Following are brief summaries of the award winning products. Control Engineering editors will present these awards to the winners on the eve of this year’s National Industrial Automation Show, to be held here in Chicago March 16-20.

Software Solution for Hybrid Control

Phoenix, Ariz.— PlantScape has an advanced open architecture based on Microsoft’s Windows NT operating system and the ControlNet network. It also has a hybrid controller with a control processor that integrates regulatory, fast-logic, sequential, and batch control functions, or a logic processor for high-speed (submillisecond) machine control. Configuration tools ease the development of reusable object-oriented control strategies.

Honeywell IAC

Flowmeter Uses Helical Sonic Pattern

Alpharetta, Ga.— The Sitrans F flowmeter can measure both laminar and turbulent flow. A helix shaped ultrasonic guidance system provides higher accuracy than one or two dimensional signals. Measurement is based on a tracking principle where the difference between echo times is analyzed upstream and downstream. Reflectors integrated into the tube wall deflect the sound beam laterally, and after reflecting several times, send it to the receiving transducer. The sound conduction pattern produced covers the entire cross section area of the flowtube and is claimed to be largely independent of the Reynolds number. Accuracy of

Siemens Energy and Automation

Valve Actuator Goes Digital

Avon, Mass.— Smart Valve Interface (SVI) uses local PID control functionality and control valve positioning to move from manual to automated actuation. It optimizes control based on process variables and local or remote set points. Efficiency is achieved by placing the control function closer to the process.

Masoneilan, Div. of Dresser Valve & Controls

New Patented Technology for Measuring Differential Pressure

Grand Island, N.Y.— FerroCell is a patented technology for measuring differential pressure. Using Ferrofluid, the metal remains evenly distributed in the fluid until pressure is applied. These wet/wet products will function in harsh environments requiring corrosion resistant materials on both pressure ports, while withstanding high overload and static pressures. FerroCell products have a minimal number of machined parts, and a remarkably simple design for construction, decreasing the cost. The FerroCell offerings will include a unit for machine control, and two for the general process market, one of which offers the HART communications protocol.

Viatran Corp.

Applications PlatformBecomes Modular

Boulder, Colo.— The Altus applications platform was developed to be expandable, modular, and easy-to-use. With integrated transmitter, it runs up to three measurements of control applications, including fixed or custom density, viscosity, net energy, sum/subtractor, customer-specific measurements, along with discrete or analog batch, flow-rate batch, PID and ratio. Other features include enhanced process functions to measure multiple process variables; communications options such as Fieldbus Foundation protocol and Profibus PA; buttons with tactile feedback; and accessories, such as high-energy relays, user interface protective covers, and field-mount heaters.

Micro Motion

Fully Integrated Component Object Solution

Norwood, Mass.— FIX Dynamics is a fully integrated software system designed to address both plant-floor needs and business issues. Its i-Core open, component-based framework is said to provide seamless integration of Intellution automation applications and third-party components without slowing down the manufacturing process. Custom coding is avoided since FIX Dynamics employs open industry standards such as Microsoft Windows NT, OLE, ActiveX, Visual Basic for Applications, OPC (OLE for process control), and COM/DCOM. Navigating from part of a system to another is made easy by using the Intellution WorkSpace interface.

Intellution Inc.

32-Bit ‘Container’

Foxborough, Mass.— GraphWorx32 from Iconics is a virtual ActiveX container for HMI/

SCADA applications. The scalable software is a fully compliant OLE for Process Control (OPC) application, developed to use Microsoft technology. GraphWorX32 uses Visual Basic for Applications 5.0 scripting language to create reports, recipes, and perform calculations based upon event-driven requests. The software can interact directly with Microsoft Office, BackOffice, and other Iconics products. Users can embed Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and Access databases directly into GraphWorx32 operator displays without having to import or export separately created screens.

Iconics Inc.

Web-Based HMI/SCADA Software

Braintree, Mass.— Wizcon for Internet is said to be the first HMI/SCADA software designed to take full advantage of the latest Java technologies so plant personnel can interact with their processes from any remote location. Operating from a standard web browser, users deploy web-based SCADA stations, and all of their displays and alarms become accessible from any authorized station in the world, allowing plant personnel to interact with the process in real time. Wizcon for Internet is platform and computer system independent, provides full monitoring and control capability along with full Internet protocol and password security, and allows direct interface with most PLCs and controllers.

PCSoft International

HMI Software First to Use Visual Basic

Milwaukee, Wis.— RSView32 VBA Scripting is the first human-machine interface software to use Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). RSView32 VBA Scripting takes advantage of VBA, the same programming and macro language built into the Microsoft Office97 software products. With VBA Scripting, RSView32 can interact directly with Microsoft Office, BackOffice, and Rockwell Software applications. The user can embed Microsoft Excel worksheets, Word documents, and ActiveX control into RSView32 graphics without having to import or export files, or run separate screens.

Rockwell Software

New Version of Software Expands Functionality

Charlottesville, Va.— Cimplicity monitoring and control software has been expanded to add increased functionality for users. Cimplicity HMI version 3.1 now has a historical data analyzer option which provides continuous data calculations, eliminating the need for users to program solutions. Cimplicity HMI data can now be accessed over the Internet or the user’s company intranet through the gateway option. Users can also link Cimplicity to an Oracle database. Other options include a statistical process control option, drivers for additional device communication, and alarm logging to a network printer.

GE Fanuc Automation North America Inc.

New Network Computing Workstation

Ann Arbor, Mich.— WebLink is billed as the first industrial network computer (NC). It includes a 13.8 in. active-matrix flat-panel display with touchscreen, and is powered by a microSPARC IIe processor, which is comparable in power to a 75 MHz Pentium. WebLink also comes with Java OS, a Hot Java browser, and an Ethernet connection. Because the OI software doesn’t reside on the WebLink NC itself, but is downloaded in the form of applets over the network, only 16 MB of RAM (and no hard drive) are required.

Ann Arbor Tech.

OPC-Compliant HMI Software Package

Moraga, Calif.— AIMAX for Enterprise is a human-machine interface (HMI) software package that follows Microsoft’s recent Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW) guidelines. Added to the package now is OLE for Process Control (OPC)-compliant applications. AIMAX is based in Win32 API and Windows NT Server BackOffice. Users can remotely log in their plants’ system for off-site management and run-time control, or download data to components in hazardous areas. AIMAX is Windows NT-based and can work with any soft logic provider to perform flexible manufacturing.

TA Engineering

Documenting Process Calibrators Minimize Errors

Everett, Wa.— Multifunction models 741 and 743 document-ing process calibrators are intended for use in the mainte-nance and calibration of process control instrumentation. Embedded software, including “User-Entered Values” for both source and measure, makes it possible to document calibration of readout-only devices such as panel meters. The “Custom Units” feature allows the 740 Series to work with millivolt-output accessories and to document tests using units such as ppm, gpm, and more. Other software enhancements include user-defined lists, a square-root function (for DP flow), and a built-in calculator with source value setting.

Fluke Corp.

‘Open’ I/O System

LaGrange, Ill.— The OpenLine I/O and controller system networks with personal computers and “open” industrial network protocols. The system allows users to extend control over an extensive range of integrated applications while avoiding process information bottlenecks. Grayhill has integrated its next generation I/O system with PC-based controller technology and industry-standard networks. OpenLine system consists of five snap-together, self-configuring components. These include power supplies, controllers, I/O bases, I/O bricks, and dual-point I/O modules that share information over the high-speed parallel data bus. The intelligent I/O base constantly scans and stores each I/O type and its status. The OpenLine controller relies on an 80386 CPU and ROM DOS operating system.

Grayhill Inc.

Distributed System is Intrinsically Safe

Hampton, N.H.— MTL 8000 handles process I/O and signal conditioning needs in the entire spectrum of plant environments, especially for intrinsically safe and harsh applications, providing a cost-effective solution for field-mounted I/O. It installs with a single connection to the I/O system. The system works in a temperature range of–40 to 70 °C.

MTL Inc.

Fiber-Optic PhotoelectricSensor Detects Luster

Schaumburg, Ill.— E3X-NL photoelectric fiber-optic sensor enables the detection of subtle changes in luster that have traditionally been very difficult to detect, such as circuit vs. noncircuit side of silicon wafers, glossy labels on paperboard, and grease on parts. The luster sensor heads feature two sensing ranges, 10 mming head and an amplifier.

Omron Electronics

Signal Conditioning and PLC I/O Modules Have Wide Choice of Signal

South Easton, Mass.— Open I/O PLC I/O modules and OpenSignal signal conditioning modules offer terminal block shape and a wide mix of analog signal types for PLC I/O, networked PCs, and specialized signal conditioners. These modules provide three-way power isolation at 1,500 V, 0.1% accuracy, and channel-to-channel isolation, adding inputs and outputs to any PLC. The units can be factory configured by sensor type, range, and output type, with extended part numbers. Users may also configure the modules with Microsoft Windows and Windows CE-based Configuration Utility Software and a communications cable. OpenSignal signal conditioning modules come in six models; Open I/O PLC I/O modules come in seven models.


PXI ExtendsCompact PCI Spec

Austin, Tex.— PCI eXtensions Instrumentation (PXI) extends the functionality of PCI and CompactPCI buses. PXI adds mandatory environmental testing and active cooling (use of fans) to the CompactPCI mechanical specification. Other differences include a hardware definition for Microsoft Windows NT and 95 as standard software frameworks; an integrated trigger bus and reference clock for multiboard synchronization; a star trigger bus for precise timing; and local buses for sideband communication among adjacent peripherals. PXI products available from National Instruments include chassis, controller, data acquisition, image acquisition, instruments, and other interface products.

National Instruments

Flexible Motor Supply Cable

Detroit, Mi.— Olflex Cable has introduced a flexible motor supply cable for variable-frequency drives (VFDs) that withstands severe voltage spikes generated by harmonic distortions. This cable interconnects an ac VFD or control system to an ac motor. The cable is rated for use in both indoor and outdoor applications, and can operate in 90 °C dry/60 °C wet or oily environments.

Olflex Cable

Modules to Make Sensors ‘Smart’

Columbia, Md.— The Smart Transducer Interface Module is designed to eliminate problems when connecting transducers to Network Capable Application Processors (NCAPs) compliant with IEEE P1451.2 standard. It combines signal conditioning and analog-to-digital conversion with a programmable microprocessor and enough memory to store the Transducer Data Sheets. The same device will also solve similar interfacing problems for the emerging IEEE P1451.3 interface standard for connecting analog transducers to NCAPs compliant with the IEEE P1451.2 standard.

CogniSense Div. of Electronics Development Corp.

Hot Metal Detector is Multifunctional

Highland Heights, O.— The HotSpot multisetpoint hot metal detector (HMD) is said to be the first sensor of its type to offer field-selectable temperature setpoints. It simplifies stocking requirements because its adjustability makes it a “one-sensor-fits-all” product. The HotSpot is forgiving in certain applications where factors, such as background temperatures, are not as warm or cool as originally envisioned. The Hotspot claims to be the first static HMD that is PLC compatible. Its low leakage current of &1.7 mA eliminates the need for shunt resistors during installation or operation. The sensor’s maker, Namco Controls, says the sensor is the first of its type that can be serviced.

Namco Controls

MicroPLC Incorporates Many Motion-Control Features

New Providence, N.J.— FP0 microPLCs are available with 10 or 14 I/O points (relay output), or with 16 or 32 I/O points (transistor output). Up to three expansion modules can be attached to the base unit. Other features include floating point math; two-axis positioning with pulse or pulse width modulation output to 10 kHz; four high-speed (910 kHz) counters; trapezoidal motion profile; 5K words of program memory; and seven hardware interrupts. Aromat provides a Microsoft Windows-based software package called FP soft to program the FP0. The two FP soft languages are relay ladder logic and instruction list.

Aromat Corp.

All-In-One Approach to Logic, Drive, and Motion Control

Mayfield Heights, O.— ControlLogix family of PLCs employs a high-speed, multimaster ControlBus backplane based on the ControlNet network, which allows multiple processors and other devices to communicate simultaneously. Network communication has been decoupled from the controller, and gateways for new networks can be added by simply plugging them into the common backplane. The controller’s memory is modular, and a multitasking operating system handles up to 32 tasks that can be prioritized on 16 levels. Motion control no longer needs a dedicated processor. The system’s Axis Interface modules fit into the ControlLogix chassis like other I/O modules.

Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley

Internet-Capable PLC

North Andover, Mass.— Schneider Automation boasts the first PLC-based web server that demonstrates the direct link of a PLC to the Internet. Users can now access multiple remote sites through the Internet with a Quantum PLC. The server provides PLC Configuration (register types and ranges), PLC 4X Register Values, and Ethernet Statistics from a live Modicon TSX Quantum automation controller operating online in a company development laboratory. The PLC, a Quantum NOE 211 Ethernet TCP/IP module, can be the web server; it embeds an Intel 386 processor and reads configuration and register information from the Quantum CPU memory.

Schneider Automation

Totally Integrated Automation

Nuremburg, Germany— Totally Integrated Automation is a new class of automation products and systems for the manufacturing and process industries. It consists of controllers, operating and monitoring devices, communication devices, and process control systems. Totally Integrated Automation brings the benefits of both PC-based and PLC-based systems, and enables the complete integration of an organization’s entire automation setup; from goods inward to the packing machine, from the human-machine interface to the fieldbus. Siemens

Automation Group

Smart Pneumatic Valve Manifolds Embedded with Controller Technology

Hauppauge, N.Y.— Festo’s new line of smart pneumatic valve manifolds incorporates the full processing and control functionality of an A-B SLC 5/02 programmable logic controller in a modular pneumatic valve manifold. This makes them a self-contained control solution for stand-alone or networked systems, using either Allen-Bradley DH-485 or the DeviceNet protocol. A-B SLC-5/02 control logic is at the core of the SLC embedded pneumatic manifold, enabling users to apply their existing knowledge and experience with Allen-Bradley software to program the valve manifolds.

Festo Corp.

Model-Predictive Control for Multivariable Processes

Houston, Tex.— DMCplus accounts for interactions among multiple variables, overcomes process disturbances, and predicts future performance using a mathematical model of the process’ behavior. DMCplus can collect input/output data from the plant, build a multivariable model of the overall process, simulate the plant’s behavior, and control all of the process variables in real time. The online components of DMCplus run on a standalone computer connected to a distributed control system that collects measurements from the plant’s sensors and sends control commands to the actuators. DMCplus also uses a linear-programming-based optimizer to identify where setpoints should be in order to run a process most profitably.

Aspen Technology

Software Departs fromTraditional MV Control

Natick, Mass.— Mantra software for multivariable control (MV) provides a graphical programming environment for creating customized control systems on a PC. Designed to be modular and decentralized, Mantra can reside on a DCS module or a PC. Modularity is achieved by interconnecting several single-variable controllers, each with multiple actuators, working to decouple the process so that each process variable can be manipulated independently. Mantra’s Modular Multivariable Control algorithm decoupling feature allows the user to establish independent performance criteria for each process variable. Selected process variables can be put on manual control without affecting the performance of the others.


Software for Direct Machine Control

Ann Arbor, Mich.— OpenControl is a 32-bit application that leverages the full range of Microsoft technology to grant enterprise access to the plant floor. Its open architecture allows users to take advantage of flowchart-based logic, real-time deterministic processing speeds, and the convenience of off-the-shelf PC hardware. OpenControl’s Hypershare feature allows users to share OpenControl databases with any Windows application or network. It also integrates with all popular SCADA/HMI packages such as InTouch, Paragon, and Citect, or uses Microsoft’s Visual Basic. Nemasoft says OpenControl reduces manufacturing costs by lowering control hardware costs, and shortening programming times and machine downtime.


Hard Real-Time Control Solution

Naperville, Ill.— Paradym-31, Version 4.0 SoftLogic control software comes embedded with VenturCom’s RTX real-time extensions to Microsoft Windows NT. Paradym-31 provides hard real-time, deterministic control capability within Windows NT without the need to run another operating system. It can be applied to all plant-floor control applications up to 100 msec scan frequencies.

Intellution Inc. (formerly Wizdom Controls)

Software Allows Combined Relay Ladder Logic and Flowchart

Ann Arbor, Mich.— Visual Logic Controller (VLC) version 3.0’s flowchart programming achieves faster design cycles, lower downtime by using integrated diagnostics, and continuous process improvement not practical with traditional programming languages. With its Ladder Logic capabilities, VLC Version 3.0 provides an easy migration path to flowchart programming. Users are allowed to mix and match ladder logic and flowcharts in a single control project. A ladder logic editor, based on the IEC 1131 standard, allows the use of existing ladder logic programs and combines them with flowcharts. Ladder logic has been enhanced by allowing “action” and “decision” flowchart elements to be used in a VLC ladder program. Two new language constructs, IF-THEN-ELSE and WHILE, have been added and are said to be essential in applications requiring extensive data manipulation and allow more efficient control of the program’s operation. VLC can run on Microsoft Windows 3.1 or NT.

Steeplechase Software Inc.

PC-based Software Control Engine

Mayfield Heights, O.— SoftLogix 5 is the first member of a new family of software-based control engines. A Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 application, SoftLogix 5 delivers the same control functions as Allen-Bradley’s PLC-5 system, but on a PC-compatible platform. It can work with a number of different Rockwell Automation products for programming, human-machine interface, hardware, I/O systems, and networking. SoftLogix can run on either Allen-Bradley’s industrial workstations, 1747-OC controller, or any Pentium-class personal computer, and works with Allen-Bradley 1746, 1771, or Flex I/O running on either remote I/O or ODVA’s DeviceNet.

Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley

PC-Based Control Package is Multifunctional

Ann Arbor, Mich.— Think & Do PC control software combines flowchart programming, an online de-bugging facility, and a built-in operator interface into one software control package. Flowchart development follows a top-down approach, and control actions are chosen from a standard menu of control blocks, including discrete operations like TURN ON BIT, and continuous operations like EXECUTE PID CONTROL. The available control blocks cover a broad spectrum of operations required for machine control and process automation. It runs under Microsoft Windows NT on a Pentium 133 MHz processor or better, equipped with 32 Mbyte of RAM and a CD-ROM drive.

Think & Do Software

Simulation Software Aids Trial-and-Error Control Designs

Natick, Mass.— Simulink 2.0 provides a graphical environment for modeling and simulating a variety of dynamic systems including linear, nonlinear, discrete-time, continuous-time, hybrid, and conditionally executed systems. Users can create block diagrams of their processes and observe what happens when simulated inputs are applied. Simulink is built upon the MathWorks Matlab technical computing software. Users can choose block diagrams from a standard palette, drag and drop them onto a blank screen, then connect the blocks’ inputs and outputs with lines representing the flow of data. Simulink runs with Matlab in a Macintosh or Windows environment.

The MathWorks

Analytical Tool Produces Numerical, Symbolical Results

Champaign, Ill.— Control System Professional (CSP) solves process control problems by using the notation and terminology control engineers are accustomed to. CSP can handle single-and multivariable control systems in the state space, frequency domain, or the time domain. It includes classical analysis tools, root loci, Nyquist chart, and step response simulations,as well as Kalman filters, and similarity transformations. Users can access these tools either interactively or in batch mode.

Wolfram Research

Asset Management has HART

Austin, Tex.— Asset Management Solutions (AMS) takes advantage of two-way field communications (HART) to provide a single platform for integrated data and application management, operator interface, and vendor independent communication support. The AMS Performance software is a family of snap-on modules, such as Field Manager, that works with the Field Server (system interface) to manage plant assets. Typical configurations would include the Field Manager to configure, troubleshoot, and test connected devices, and run with Microsoft Windows 95 or NT workstation, communicating through a HART interchange to HART-enabled devices.

Fisher-Rosemount Systems

Software Package Integrates Multiple Application Modules

Irvine, Calif.— FactorySuite software packages integrate seven different Wonderware products for deploying a wide range of manufacturing automation systems. The basic FactorySuite offering provides core technology modules for process visualization, PC-based machine and process control, a real-time plant data manager, Internet/intranet data viewing capabilities, and Wonderware’s library of input/output servers to interface to factory equipment. FactorySuite Plus adds application modules for production management and work-in-process tracking, as well as flexible batch management. Both bundles run on the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 operating system.

Wonderware Corp.

Smart Motors CombineMotor-Control Integration

Santa Clara, Calif.— The SmartMotor family of programmable servos for position and velocity control applications combines a brushless dc servo motor with a system controller, amplifier, PLC (for programming and handling embedded functions and peripherals), encoder, and power supplies into one package. SmartMotors’ low parts count—25% of typical servo systems—is made possible by the high level of integration. It results in higher reliability and lower manufacturing costs by eliminating cables, connectors, line drivers/receivers, and analog circuitry. A fully digital system with high efficiency power MOSFETS and IGBTs helps hold down heat effects from the controls.

Animatics Corp.

MW Power Switches Energize Medium-Voltage Apps

Milwaukee, Wis.— The Integrated Gate- Commutated Thyristor (IGCT) combines the advantages of the thyristor and insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) into one package for efficient power switching up to 10 MW at medium voltages (2.3-6.9 kV). IGCTs improve on the size and complexity of GTO (gate turn-off) thyristors, and on the reliability and cost of IGBTs. Advancements cited for the new semiconductors include 50% fewer parts—versus the latest comparable IGBTs—and selectable switching speeds up to 1,000 Hz to suit specific applications. The IGCTs “transparent anode” design permits charges to flow in and out of the device more rapidly. Four levels of packaging are available to designers of medium voltage power control systems.

ABB Semiconductors

Intelligent Monitoring Motors with Predictive Alerts

Cleveland, O.— IQ PreAlert Intelligent Motor can monitor itself in real time by analyzing operating data and identifying potential problems. It uses an onboard integrated system processor and sensors tailored to specific motor applications. The processor and sensors monitor, log, and communicate motor and related process conditions, and consequently analyze up/downstream processes. Users can select parameters for IQ PreAlert’s sensors to detect winding and bearing temperature, vibration, and varying load and power conditions. Communication protocols available are RS-232C and DeviceNet. It is offered in 2 through 5 hp (1.5-3.75 kw), 230 or 460 v models.

Rockwell Automation/Reliance Electric

Series of Mini-Servo Motors

Northbrook, Ill.— Yaskawa Electric America has expanded its product line to include what the company says are the world’s smallest ac servo motors. Available in 10 and 20 W models, both come with gear or brake options. A maximum speed of 5,000 rpm can be achieved when used with a high-resolution encoder. Rated torque for the 10 W model is 4.5 oz-in. The 20 W model’s rated torque is 9.02 oz-in.

Yaskawa Electric America

Soft-Start Controller

Raleigh, N.C.— Altistart 46 is said to be the first “soft start” motor starter that bases the acceleration and deceleration ramp on torque rather than current or voltage control. It’s designed to provide reduced current and torque for starting squirrel cage motors, as well as deceleration control and solid-state motor protection. Altistart 46 features adjustable overload, digital keypad for accurate set-up, and monitoring and serial communications options. Unique to the device are solid-state protection and deceleration options even when a shorting contactor is used to bypass the controller after start up.

Square D Co.

Subminiature Brushless DC Motor

Ringwood, N.J.— RMB Miniature Bearings has developed a 3 mm OD bidirectional brushless dc motor, nicknamed the Smoovy. This permanent magnet motor uses a rare-earth rotor structure, in combination with a three phase slotless stator winding, to achieve what the company says are the lowest eddy current and hysteresis losses possible in a brushless motor. When coupled with two of the company’s ball bearings, Smoovy develops 6 milli-oz-in. continuous stall torque and a 7.3 milli-oz-in. peak stall torque at 25 °C ambient temp.

RMB Miniature Bearings Inc.