Recorders Offer Something for Everybody

What functionality and/or features are today's recorder users seeking? How are they applying recorders? Are paperless recorders replacing traditional paper recorders? Are ink recorders more popular than thermal recorders? Do people order more single-channel than multichannel recorders?To find out the answers to these and other questions, Control Engineering conducted original market res...

By Staff March 1, 1998




Paper vs. Paperless

Multiple-channels replace single-channel models

What functionality and/or features are today’s recorder users seeking? How are they applying recorders? Are paperless recorders replacing traditional paper recorders? Are ink recorders more popular than thermal recorders? Do people order more single-channel than multichannel recorders?

To find out the answers to these and other questions, Control Engineering conducted original market research—a random sampling of 1,500 readers—about the today’s recorder marketplace. To balance these user survey responses, several recorder manufacturers were contacted, as well.

A total of 330 replied to the questionnaires, representing a 22% response rate. Due to the versatility and applicability of recorders, many respondents replied to more than one choice in a category, so, many percentages reported will exceed 100%.

Results: Ink ahead

Responses received show that ink recorders still comprise the majority of recorders in use, with circular recorders, once the dominant form of recorders, only 5% ahead of strip-chart recorders (see Figure 1).

“Strip chart recording systems have been used almost exclusively in the industrial and process control environment as long-term recorders,” said Mark Kerchenski, product marketing manager, Gould Instrument Systems (Valley View, O.). He adds, “The frequency response of the strip chart recorder is relatively slow. Maximum response is about 0.33 sec. at 99% full scale.”

“Circular chart recorders tend to be batch oriented. That is, users are interested in a process record over a specific period. This period may be the production of a batch of product or a specific time such as a shift, day, or week,” reports John Keenan, Measurement and Control Marketing Group, Honeywell IAC (Phoenix, Ariz.). He continues, “Circular chart recorders have been the most resistant to replacement by alternative technologies because of their relatively low cost and ability to produce a very specific record.”

Top signals: temperature, pressure

According to Gould’s Mr. Kerchenski, ‘Low-frequency process recorders cover the spectrum of dc to 5 Hz and use felt tip, thermal stylus, or ink jet writing techniques.” Respondents to CE ‘s survey reported that temperature is still the most-measured process variable; 24% ahead of pressure (Figure 2). Hence, it comes as no surprise CE ‘s survey respondents reported that the types of signals measured most often are from thermocouples and RTDs; in first and third places respectively; values well within Mr. Kerchenski’s previous definition.

Continuous and batch applications

Thirty-five percent of respondents said their primary applications involve continuous processing exclusively. Eighteen percent of primary applications are exclusively batch processes. Another 20.3% said that primary applications are split more or less equally between continuous and batch processes. Discrete applications accounted for only 7.3% of the replies (Figure 3).

Apparently, most signals received at a recorder are already conditioned prior to arrival—only 8.9% (of respondents expressing definite purchasing preferences) selected plug-in signal conditioners (Figure 4). This makes sense since most signals recorded are in some sort of engineering units, such as gallons per minute, °C, pounds per square inch, etc.

According to Scott Lynch, marketing communications manager at ABB Instrumentation Inc. (West Henrietta, N.Y.), “Complicated math functions ( e.g. , mass flow or relative humidity) and calculations can now be done within the recorder. Even when trying to measure a nonlinear vessel, recorders today can be set up with custom inputs, where X and Y coordinates can be plotted out so that the input can be correctly measured and recorded.”

Need for multichannel recorders

Richard Veit, vice president, Eurotherm Chessell (Newton, Pa.) notes, “Not too many years ago, one recorder was necessary to print each channel of data. That consumed not only miles of chart paper, but an incredible amount of control panel space. To meet this challenge, Chessell is producing multichannel and multifunction recorders that can handle nearly 100 data channels; eliminating a great deal of paper usage and panel area.” CE ‘s study bears this out. Of respondents voicing a preference for certain features, 40% indicated a need for recorders with five or more data input channels (Figure 4).

Paper vs. paperless

Mr. Veit points out, “During the last decade, we have seen an evolution—some may call it a revolution—in the amount and types of data needed to control today’s ever-more complex processes. Users need and want to do much more in managing, refining, and fine-tuning their production. In process control, we are seeing a tremendously increasing demand for more process information and data. Data need to be available upon demand—both in real time and retrospectively—but the need for printed documentation of all data has been changing. Because so many data are, or need to be, available, it is just too unwieldy to print them all.”

Bruce Zavodny, business support manager, Recorders and Data Acquisition Instruments at Yokogawa Industrial Automation (Newnan, Ga.) reports, “The long-predicted switch from paper-based strip chart recording to nonpaper means of gathering and presenting process information is well underway. While paper-based recording has not disappeared, the last few years have seen significant movement toward videographic ‘recording’ and PC- or monitor-based data acquisition.” He attributes this change to the fact that, “Process users have become more trusting of computer-oriented control, monitoring, and display capabilities. Now, many users want much of the same information they previously captured on recorder paper viewable on an operator display. The information often is not only to be viewable locally by the operator, but is also increasingly being distributed over Ethernet-based networks.

“Additionally,” Mr. Zavodny says, “Users also want to be able to readily view historical information, and be able to simultaneously display both the present and historical information.”

So the need for up-to-the-minute and historical process information is driving recorder manufacturers to produce models that can accept several inputs, record and process the signals, and store the values on some sort of media other than just paper. While regulatory agencies currently drive the need for companies to keep paper records, here, too, things are expected to change as regulatory agencies learn to trust electronic storage media. Paper recorders may never go away. After all, typewriters are still made

Videographic ‘Strip Chart’ Recorder

Indianapolis, Ind.— The VideoGraphic Recorder (VGR) product line comes in two different models (display width and case size), and can accommodate from 4 to 96 signal measurements. Angus claims that an unlimited number of VGRs can be connected and controlled with Angus’ VGRNet for Windows PC software. VGRNet lets the instruments share data on any Microsoft Windows-compatible network operating system.

Angus Electronics Co.

Networking Videographic Recorder

Newnan, Ga.— The display of the VR Series of videographic recorder has been configured to emulate the Yokogawa mR1000 strip chart recorder. Features include easy-to-read digital display plus analog trend; easy-to-read videographic chart with numeric printing of critical information; English prompted programming and setup; color traces, automatic data-to-floppy transfer; multiple password protection; and others.

Yokogawa Industrial Automation

Paperless Recorder

Stamford, Conn.— Omega VR100 paperless recorder series offers real-time display of data on a color LCD and data storage on a standard 3.5-in. floppy disk. For enhanced reliability and performance, flash memory holds data for a single download when the floppy is inserted. The unit measures four or six channels from V dc, RTD, or thermocouple sources.

Omega Engineering

Input Up to 32 Channels

West Warwick, R.I.— K2 can record up to 32 channels of data from a variety of inputs, display waveforms in real-time, acquire data to RAM, internal or external hard drives, or floppy drive, and analyze captured data. All recorder functions can be controlled remotely as well as a variety of interfaces including RS-233, GPIB, SCSI, and high-speed parallel communication protocols.

Astro-Med Inc.

Microprocessor-Based Circular Recorder

Kingwood, Tex.— The microprocessor-based CCR6000 circular chart recorder is available in one- or two-pen configurations. Both models trace on a 10-in. dia. chart and indicate process variables on a digital display.


Recorder with Optical Disk Storage

San Fernando, Calif.— Model TA220-3424 digital oscillographic recorder comes with a phase change optical disk recorder offering 650 Mbytes of read-write operation on removable memory media. The disks can be redistributed, edited, or rewritten as needed. Up to 24 channels can be accommodated from a variety of signal sources.

Soltec Corp.

Recorder has Pens and Thermal Print Head

Michigan City, Ind.— The Series 1600R 100 mm strip chart indicating recorder includes a large 20-character fluorescent display showing the input value of each of the four channels and user-friendly prompts for ease of programming. In addition to the four color-coded analog pens, the 1600R features a thermal print head that prints the time, date, and other vital information right on the chart. An RS-232 port is standard and accessible from the front panel. Programming may also be accomplished via the serial port. Optional features include a backlit color LCD bargraph display showing the status of all four channels at a glance, and RS-422/485 ports. Programmed parameters are stored in EEPROM to prevent loss during power failures.

Love Controls Div., Dwyer Instruments

Preconfigured Trend-Style Displays

Spring House, Pa.— Model 363 ViewPac recorder combines trend-style displays and data acquisition functions in one instrument for real-time local trending at reduced maintenance and configuration costs. To reduce configuration time, ViewPac uses preconfigured function blocks for control strategy configuration. Front-panel pushbuttons eliminate the need for separate, hand-held or PC-based devices. Features include local data storage, calculation, characterization, split-screen trend windows, zooming, alarm summaries, and others.

Moore Products Co.

Circular Controller/Recorder

Rochester, N.Y.— Commander 1900 circular chart controller/recorder features NEMA 4X protection, 0.1% input and output accuracy, retransmission, up to four pens and two controllers, transmitter power supply, fully isolated I/O points, two digital inputs, one alarm relay per channel, and up to 12 relay outputs.

ABB Instrumentation

100-mm Recorder Has CE Marking

Newnan, Ga.— The SR1000 line features CE marking, an oversized LED display, date and time printing on the chart and a different color for each channel. These recorders are available in one-, two-, and three-pen versions, or in a 6-point dot matrix printing model.

Yokogawa Corp. of America