Friday, March 3, 2017

Remotely Monitor Tank Levels Part 1/2- Installing Tank Sensor

Utilizing the following components, IDX was quickly able to monitor the irrigation supply tank at our offices in Fourways. 

To complete this task we would be using the Netbiter Remote tank monitoring solution with the following components.
  • eWON Netbiter - EC Range, Remote Monitoring GSM controller
  • eWON Netbiter - Ultrasonic Tank Sensor
The first step was installing the ultrasonic sensor on the storage tank

Step 1 - Measure
The Netbiter Ultrasonic Tank Sensor comes with an included metal washer, this acts as a perfect stencil to outline the required holes. The center hole required is 30 mm, however we utilised a 32 mm drill mounted hole cutter. Ensure the sensor is mounted on the top surface of the tank, as horizontal as possible, with a clear view down to the contents of the tank and not a side wall or obstacle.

Step 2 - Drill
Using a 32 mm drill mounted hole cutter, this task was made effortless. However it is important to use a file or course sanding paper afterwards to clean off rough edges and loose bits, in order to ensure a water tight seal. We used a 4 mm drill bit for the screw holes. 

Step 3 - Mount

It is recommended that on uneven or non-rigid surfaces, the supplied rubber gasket and metal washer be utilised to create an IP65 seal between the sensor and the tank, especially in the cases of fuel tanks that could be contaminated by water.
We utilised large washers below the surface to ensure a rugged connection.

Step 4 - Sensor Cover (Sun protection)

you should avoid leaving the sensor in direct sun light, we decided to re-purpose a plastic container to shade the sensor. This will prevent any inaccurate readings that may be caused by direct sunlight, in addition it will protect the sensor from the external elements, taken into consideration that the sensor has an IP65 rating and can be utilised in wet and harsh environments.

Step 5 - Wiring
The Netbiter Ultrasonic Sensor comes with 10 meter power and data supply cable. The M12 connector screws with a water tight connection onto the back of the sensor. We ran the cable into our office ceiling, and then into a distribution cabinet with our Netbiter EC250 and power supply.

The supplied cable has four cores, and should be wired as follows:

  • Black - RS-485 Line A
  • White - RS-485 Line B
  • Blue - 0 V DC
  • Brown - 24V DC 

If the tank sensor is your only device on the network, it is standard practice to terminate on both ends of the segment (at both the sensor and EC250 - GSM controller). The sensor has a built in terminating resistor that can be turned on and off via the RS485 bus, therefor placing a 120 Ohm resistor between line A and B on the Netbiter is required.

For more information on how you can monitor your tank levels and assets remotely contact the IDX team: info[at]

The next step is configuration of the online server (Netbiter Argos), we will cover these steps in a following blog, to view:
click here

Thursday, February 2, 2017

PROFIBUS Multi-colour Connectors

Finally, an out of the box cable solution for the ever evolving PROFIBUS network.

Device connections are sometimes considered among the least of our concerns on a Profibus network, but if poorly executed, they can prove to be the largest of our problems. As we know Profibus networks can get rather big and busy, especially with the use of repeaters and hubs. Segments begin to look similar and when performing an inspection, one soon begins to ask the question, Have I checked this segment/device cable or not?

Procentec have found a way to simplify the complexity of a PROFIBUS network, with the ProfiConnector Multi-coloured Plug. You will now be able to highlight your devices and segments, bringing more definition to your network. The creative colour scheme will allow you to maintain uniformity and neatness, thus assisting with speeding up diagnostics and reducing downtime on troubleshooting. There are four combinations of these highly durable and robust plugs: Cage clamp and screw type, with or without PG (Piggy Back) connection.

Not only do these plugs form an awareness to differentiate field devices and segment layouts in a PROFIBUS network, they are also perfect for network segregation, ideally on networks with more than one master controller. This original, innovative plug will allow you to get creative with your network.

It is highly resilient and able to bare the unforgiving environments that industries have to offer.
some amazing features about these plugs include:
  • Shock and UV resistant
  • Temp range: -25˚C to 70˚C
  • Built-in strain relief for incoming and outgoing cable
  • 90˚ angle
  • DB9 connector 
  • Max baud rate: 12Mbps
  • Integrated and switchable termination
  • Available colours: green, orange, purple, red, white
With all these benefits compressed into one compatible and easy to use plug, it makes decision-making quite straightforward when it comes to selecting the best choice for your PROFIBUS network.

For more information contact IDX technical solutions:

Email:     info[at]
Contact: +27 11 548 9960

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MODBUS to PROFIBUS Converter (Serial to PROFIBUS)

Not only is it possible with IDX but simple, quick and cost effective.
Anybus is your ideal solution, dominant when it comes to converting between Fieldbus, Ethernet and serial protocols. Integrate your RS232,422 & 485 equipment to a PROFIBUS/PROFINET control system without any changes to your device.
Simply connect, configure and you're done! Simply IDX it! 

Some of the features and benefits you can expect from the Anybus Communicator include:
  • Save time and unnecessary development when integrating your device into PROFIBUS/PROFINET
  • MODBUS RTU configuration wizard
  • Ability to configure ASCII or vendor specific protocols
  • Multi language support
  • Handy save and load function allows for a completed configuration to be utilised on alternate installations
  • Serial line listener and built in checksum calculator for diagnostics and troubleshooting
  • No high level programming skills are needed to set up the Anybus communicator. the Anybus device is configured utilising included user friendly windows software (Anybus Configuration Manager)
  • 3 year guarantee

Case Study: 
Using the Anybus Communicator to get NMEA GPS data from an Industrial GPS antenna into PROFIBUS

Recently IDX was contacted by a client that wished to get NMEA data strings from a Garmin industrial GPS receiver into the plants PROFIBUS SCADA system.

It was quickly identified that an AB7000 - Anybus Communicator would be the most effective device for the job. 

Within the NMEA protocol, various messages are pushed along the data line, each ASCII strings provides new information. 

An Example of one of these strings could be a RMC (Recommended Minimum Data), this will look similar to:


     RMC            Recommended Minimum GPS Data
     123319          Fix taken at 12:33:19 UTC
     A                  Status A=active or V=Void.
     4807.038,N    Latitude 48 deg 07.038' N
     01131.000,E  Longitude 11 deg 31.000' E
     022.4            Speed over the ground in knots
     084.4            Track angle in degrees True
     230394          Date - 23rd of March 1994
     003.1,W        Magnetic Variation
     *6A              The checksum data, always begins with *

After sniffing the ASCII string using software included with the Anybus communicator, we were able to truncate and map relevant values through to the Profibus driver. The main interest of the plant was to know the location of their rail equipment at all times, in order to prevent a collision. Thus the only relevant info would be the latitude and longitude, in addition we also mapped a few status bytes and integrated a checksum to confirm the data being read as accurate. 

This application has bee
n repeated in thousands of separate installations, ranging though various applications, from weigh scales, to scanners, to VSD's and now GPS systems...

Whats your requirement?

Contact IDX technical sales now:
Email:     info[at]
Contact: +27 11 548 9960

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

StarNET HDLC Master Gateway solves legacy migration challenge

In August 2016, IDX successfully completed the commissioning of its latest StarNET HDLC gateway development implementation which saw the addition of StarNET HDLC Master functionality being added to the gateway.
The application involved the legacy migration of a GEM 80 PLC controlling three GEM Micro drives operating in a redundant setup for operating the brakes of a mine winder operating on the deepest single drop shaft in the world, near Klerksdorp in South Africa. As only the PLC was being replaced with a modern software-based PLC, a solution to interface with the existing GEM Micro drives was required. Due to the safety critical nature of the system, the solution needed to be reliable and offer quick data turnaround to prevent safe lock-outs of the brake controller, and thus shutting down the winder and of course the shaft.

IDX provided a MODBUS UDP Slave to StarNET HDLC Master interface in the form of an IDX StarNET gateway allowing the new Beckhoff PLC to read and write to the GEM micro drives via MODBUS UDP. We are pleased to report the gateway has worked flawlessly since commissioning despite this being a rather challenging project. This was primarily due to the unexpected GEM micro HDLC communication handling and multi-drop behaviour – let’s just say it is somewhat ‘special’ and a little mysterious but not enough to stop us from making it work!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

eWon Netbiter Argos Exporting and Importing Profiles

Sometimes you've built a great looking dashboard associated with a Modbus device template that you are now ready to role this out to other accounts, only to realise that you have to start the entire configuration from scratch when using another Argos account (well almost, you can probably reuse the device template you created at least). 
This is usually the case for a system integrator that did a proof of concept on their own account, but need to recreate the configuration in their customers' accounts. This obviously is a waste of time and there is a better way to go about it. 
We always suggest to our customers to work using a profile from the beginning (so get the M&A subscription upfront!). We show this in our training too. A profile combines templates, visualization, log and alarm parameters and even the customized dashboard (make sure you use profile dashboards). This profile is easily reused for multiple Netbiter systems in the same account, but it is also possible to reuse the profile in other accounts. 
Note: This will only work if you have the Manage and Analyse (M&A) subscription which enables the use of profiles
First you need to "export" the Netbiter Argos Profile:
  1. Under Account->External Data Access -> Published Profiles, add a publish profile by selecting the profile you want to publish
  2. Copy the generated key to your clipboard
  3. Log out of the original account
Then you need to "import" the Netbiter Argos Profile:
  1. Log into the new account
  2. Copy the key that is produced and append it to this link:
  3. So for example: (this is not a real link)
  4. Copy the entire URL into the browser address bar and hit enter:

When you add a device, choose "Use Configuration from Profile":

The template, profile and dashboard with linked parameters should be imported now. The Dashboard will be located under All Dashboards->Profile Dashboards.
For more information on the eWON Netbiter Remote Monitoring solution visit or

Friday, January 13, 2017

What you need to know about PROFIBUS Analysers

If you have an existing network, you are responsible for the installation and commissioning of new networks or conduct testing on Profibus systems you most certainly require a high performance bus analyser. 
Although Certified Profibus Training is one of the most fundamentally important steps required, even with this training it is almost impossible to diagnose, commission and analyse Profibus systems blind. Certified Profibus Engineers utilise modern engineering tools like the ProfiTrace Ultra kit to assist them on each project.

What features should I expect from my PROFIBUS analyser?

Based on the ProfiTrace Ultra Pro Kit:
  • Live list overview, showing an overall health of each Profibus node
  • Message recording and reporting functionality
  • High performance bus statistics with a summary view
  • Advanced oscilloscope with differential and combined signal view
  • Bar graph showing all driver voltages, including a varying high low view
  • Network topology detection, cable length measurement
  • Profibus master simulator - allowing active network configuration utilising its built in GSD file database

How will these features assist me in troubleshooting a plant trip?
Lets start off with discussing the main causes of failure in Profibus networks. In my experience Profibus networks give trouble when one or more of the following issues is prevalent (not limited to):
  • Terminations
    • Terminations are solely responsible for 90% of the Profibus network issues we experience day to day.
    • With a quick analysis of the oscilloscope waveform and the Profibus driver voltage levels, the Profibus Engineer can quickly identify whether the network has a missing termination, over termination or termination in the incorrect place.
  • Duplicate address
    • Duplicate addresses most commonly occur during plant commissioning, upgrades and when replacing a Profibus node. Network trips and failures with a duplicate address are inevitable.
    • An analysis of the driver voltages, bus statistics (Illegal messages, Syncs) as well as a view of the network live list will help to identify the culprit.
  • EMC and incorrect grounding
    • EMC is very commonly found within the industry and often results in network trips and sub-optimal network performance. EMC often occurs when the bus cable runs in close vicinity to high voltage cables and machinery, this causes corrupted Profibus messages by distorting the Profibus signal waveform.
    • The level of impact EMC causes is identified by an analysis the oscilloscope wave form of each device, within multiple segments. An identification of various bus statistics is also very useful.
  • Exceeding Profibus cable length specifications
    • Within the Profibus specification, various maximum and minimum cable lengths are identified, violation of these segment lengths will more often then not result in network failure. The minimum cable distance between any two devices is 1 meter, the maximum depends on the baud rate which you are running your network at, for example at 1.5 mbps you can run a maximum of 200 meters of cable before you require a repeater.
    • Often it is difficult to identify if there are exceeding cable lengths due to the cable running in and out of cabinets and spanning across the various levels of the plant. ProfiTrace will assist you in measuring the exact cable length during diagnostics. Certified Profibus Engineers will also be able to identify the symptoms of attenuation, such as decreasing driver voltage levels and noticeable 'riding' of the signal waveform.

If you would like more information on Profibus / Profinet analysis, certified training and testing tools, feel free to contact us:

Industrial Data Xchange – Industrial Communications Specialists

Phone: +27 11 548 9967

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


We’ve been receiving numerous requests for converting PROFIBUS PA to fibre optics lately.  I believe that really what the request is that there is an existing PROFIBUS DP master with DP (and possible existing PA) infrastructure and the requirement is to add some PA devices that are out in the field. PROCENTEC have a range of COMbricks modules that are able to meet almost ant type of network configuration. In this article we'll investigate some of the configuration options and which components should be used in each configuration. Your network layout might look something like the picture below: 

Being able to run fibre to these field areas has the following advantages:

  • Fibre can be run over longer distances, PROCENTEC offer up to 30km on single-mode fibre. Typically, 2km on multi-mode. 
  • Fibre can run through areas that are susceptible to EMC interference without being affected
  • The inherent electrical isolation means that the complicated story of earthing on PA systems is simplified to just the field area. In other words, the complication of Earth loop current over long distance is avoided.

Before going ahead with the design, one needs to answer some questions:

  • Will multi-mode or single-mode fibre be used? Or is there a mixture? 
  • What connector types will be used on the fibre? 
  • Is a fibre redundant ring required? 

These are the options using the COMbricks solution:

1) Multi-mode off one COMbricks fibre module in the substation (1 is spare):

COMbricks components used in above implementation:
  • x3 Head Station Type 1B (101-20011B)
  • x3 PROFIBUS Fiber Optic Module (101-201510)
  • x2 PROFIBUS PA link/coupler Module (101-201610)
  • x2 SCOPE Repeater (101-201210) for connection the DP devices in the substation 

2) Multi-mode off one COMbricks fibre module in the substation (1 is spare), redundant ring:

COMbricks components used in above implementation:
  • x3 Head Station Type 1B (101-20011B)
  • x3 PROFIBUS Multi-Mode Fiber Optic Ring Module (101-201530)
  • x2 PROFIBUS PA link/coupler Module (101-201610)
  • x2 SCOPE Repeater (101-201210) for connection the DP devices in the substation 

3) Multi-mode off one COMbricks fibre module in the substation, redundant ring for each field area:
COMbricks components used in above implementation:
  •      x3 Head Station Type 1B (101-20011B)
  •      x4 PROFIBUS Multi-Mode Fiber Optic Ring Module (101-201530)
  •      x2 PROFIBUS PA link/coupler Module (101-201610)
  •      x2 SCOPE Repeater (101-201210) for connection the DP devices in the substation

3) All of the above implementations could be implemented using single mode fibre. Simply replace the multimode fibre module with the Single-Mode Fiber Optic Ring (101-201531). 

4) It is possible to mix multi-mode and single-mode using the PROFIBUS Multi-Mode and Single-Mode Fiber Optic Ring module (101-201532):
COMbricks components used in above implementation:
  • x3 Head Station Type 1B (101-20011B)
  • x1 Multi-Mode and Single-Mode Fiber Optic Ring module (101-201532) in substation 
  • x1 PROFIBUS Multi-Mode Fiber Optic Ring Module (101-201530) for area 3
  • x1 Single-Mode Fiber Optic Ring (101-201531) for area 2
  • x2 PROFIBUS PA link/coupler Module (101-201610)
  • x2 SCOPE Repeater (101-201210) for connection the DP devices in the substation 

COMbricks is a modular network component solution with flexibility to meet almost any type of network architecture. All COMbricks head stations can be connected to the local LAN and be used to remotely access and view the health of the segments the COMbricks modules are attached to. They can even be configured to issue email alerts if a PROFIBUS error has been detected on the segment so that it can be addressed before it causes a failure. This is part of your pre-emptive maintenance strategy. 

Michael Garnham 
PROFIBUS/PROFINET Competence and Training Centre Manager - Industrial Data Xchange cc