Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Your path to becoming a PROFIBUS expert in South Africa

The PROFIBUS Competence and Training Centre of Southern Africa (PCC) has been providing internationally certified PROFIBUS training since 2004. The centre is operated by Industrial Data Xchange. The courses are conducted by lecturers that have real on-site experience and have an in-depth knowledge of the content developments of the technology by attending PI Training Centre meetings across the globe. We believe that hands-on training is key and by the end of the course you will feel confident in creating your own network!

We've mapped out the path for you below: 

The entry level stage is for individuals who have no experience with PROFIBUS. If someone has been tasked with installing or maintaining a PROFIBUS network, they should at least have the PROFIBUS Installer certification. This should give the end user some level of confidence that the installation will work reliably. 

Which course is for me?
Installer Course
Engineer Course
PA Engineer Course
Start from the basics and learn how to properly build PROFIBUS networks according to the specification. Most faults can be prevented by building and installing PROFIBUS cable correctly and with care in the first place. Make sure only Certified Installers touch your network!

If you have already obtained the Installer Certification and want to learn more about how PROFIBUS works from first principals, then this course is for you. Network configuration, decoding diagnostic messages, optimizing timing settings, system debugging and troubleshooting are all topics that are packed into this course. 
Once you have the Engineer Certification, learn about PA network design and implementation. Doing the right calculations before commissioning can save a great deal of time and money. We also configure devices using common engineering tools. 
Installer with Troubleshooting Course
Installer with Engineer

System Designer

Identical to the Installer course but with an extra half day of learning how to use test equipment effectively to troubleshoot common PROFIBUS faults. This is where your installer knowledge really gets put to the test! Easily our most popular course!
Fast-track your way to an Engineer certification by doing the Installer Certification on the first day and continuing with the Engineer Certification over the rest of the course. An intensive course, but also the best value for the time and money that is committed to it.
We look at the control system life cycle, the consideration of maintenance, choosing the right technology and components, network layout and design, high availability, redundancy, control system and network timing, safety and documentation and drawing standards. 
What else do you need to know? 

  • There is an exam at the end of each course to help attendees practise what they learnt.
  • There is no need to bring anything! Lunch, equipment and training materials are provided.
  • All scheduled courses are held at the IDX offices in Fourways, Johannesburg, but contact us if you need us to do special onsite training.
Bookings are essential. Please contact us to book your next course or if you need any more information. We look forward to seeing you in the next course!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Changing a device's PROFIBUS address using the Nettest II handheld PROFIBUS tester

NetTEST II Diagnostic Tool for PROFIBUSThe Nettest II is one of those tools that our PROFIBUS Engineers ensure that they have with them when going on a PROFIBUS callout. It's particularly useful as a pre-commissioning device to quickly test a section of newly assembled PROFIBUS cable before using it. It's amazing how easily installers can swap the A and B line, leave off a termination, create a short between the lines or shield or forget to attach the shield in a connector. If the cable passes the Nettest II Line Tests, you can be confident that the cable will work reliably in your installation. You can also view signal strengths, view a live list and monitor statistics, but did you know that you can change the address of a device? 
We occasionally get asked: "How can one change the address of the device that has no rotary dials or dip switches?" 
The answer would be to use a Class 2 Master. However, a technician on a night shift might need to replace a piece of equipment, and can't, because they do not have access to a computer running software with Class 2 Master functionality.  
With a Nettest II, it's possible to do it by using the following steps: 

On the main menu select 
“Line Test” 
> Select “Profibus Master mode” 
> Select “Extended Master” 
> Select “Master Parameters” and set these up so to match the segment to which you are attached. (i.e. baud rate = 45.45kb if connecting through a Siemens coupler) press “Enter” when done. 
> Select “Config. with livelist” and press “Enter” to delete Slave Definitions 
Once all of the device have been found press enter to terminate and enter again to begin the ident number capture. 
> Once this is complete press enter to return to the Extended Master Menu 
> Select “Slave Menu” 
> Select “Process Slave” 
> Select the device whose address you wish to change. 
> Select Single DP Services 
> Scroll to and select “SET_SLAVE_ADD_REQ” 

> Scroll to the new address and press “Enter”

Good luck! Let us know if you need any help with test tool advice, training or troubleshooting a PROFIBUS network.  

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Remote Monitoring of HVAC Systems

What are HVAC Systems?
Automated systems that incorporate Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) apparatus to perform heating and/or cooling for residential, commercial or industrial buildings. A fundamental function of the system is to providing fresh outdoor air to decrease and dilute interior airborne contaminants such as odors from occupants, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) emitted from interior furnishings, chemicals used for cleaning, etc. These HVAC systems can be customized in an energy-efficient design to suit your specific needs and provide a consistent and comfortable indoor environment suitable for all.

Fig 1: HVAC Automated Closed Loop System

Remote Monitoring of HVAC Systems
With structures of this nature, remote monitoring is a vital feature that will assist with visualization of measurable primary element variables. By using the Netbiter Remote Monitoring Solution, we were able to achieve remote monitoring on medical laboratory facilities. Since the labs were located at remote sites to assist with medical treatment and aid, there was a lack of technical support in these regions. The installation needed to operate with minimal maintenance. 

The Netbiter EC350 gateway and extension IO cards are designed with robust internal electronics and high tension screw terminals that can withstand vibration and frequent movement
Fig 2: Netbiter Installation Panel
The extension IO cards are purposed to poll information from the field instrument sensors (eg: temperature probes, pressure sensors, digital relay contacts or switches). These cards come in a variety of combinations to suit all IO signals. Alternatively the Netbiter EC 350 can communicate directly with field instruments and controllers that are enabled with a Modbus interface.
From the cards the information is then transferred via Modbus RS485 serial communication to the Netbiter EC 350 gateway. The information is then transmitted via 3G to the Netbiter Argos Cloud server. The information in the cloud service can then be managed, analysed and presented in a SCADA dashboard format. 
This real time data is now accessible from anywhere in the world via a secure log in portal. You are also able to set up reports and extract historical data. The system allows for data logging, alarm functionality and GPS tracking. A profile was created for the first Lab and exported to the rest, helping to maintain uniformity and reduce engineering time spent on repetitive configurations.
The dashboards can be created in various stages, eg: profile, project or system dashboards. They can be modified, renamed and customized to represent specific and detailed information required. Here is a simple example of a dashboard.
Fig 3: Netbiter Argos Dashboard

If you would like to find out more information contact IDX technical solutions:

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

PROFINET Installation Tips & Tricks On Guidelines


Are your PROFINET assets installed within specification? How do you ensure high network availability?

Profinet is a very widely utilised Industrial Ethernet technology and is respected for its advanced diagnostics, simple commissioning, and robustness within various industrial environments. Within the installation and implementation of a Profinet network, various precautions should be taken, and standards put in place that should be adhered to. Without such adherence to the guidelines, communication issues may arise.

Minimizing Interference and Noise

Cable clearance guidelines
Profinet cables running in close proximity to high voltage machinery and unshielded high voltage cables can cause severe EMC interference and disruption of the networks communications.
  • Always maintain a minimum 20cm separation distance between Profinet cables and un-shielded supply cables (>400V)
  • Fiber optics should be considered when running though an area with substantial risk of EMC interference 
  • Utilise earthed metallic cable trays or conduit to protect cabling from interference when running between cabinets.
Proper Grounding Techniques Implemented
Proper grounding is crucial for all Profinet Installations, Cables should be earthed at each device, and as the cable enters and exits cabinets to the functional earthing system.
Why is this important? Profinet cables have a shield that surrounds the cores, to protect the signal from noise and EMC injection. The shield carries any pickup to earth, the path from where the noise is picked up, to where  it is drained to earth should be as short as possible.

Utilise the right network components for your PROFINET Network

Bad connectors = Bad communications!

Always use Profinet connectors, standard RJ45 connectors are not acceptable for industrial environments:
  • Industrial RJ45 connectors have an steel housing that earth the cables shield within the device
  • Connector offers cable strain relief, connectors clamp onto the cables sheath to ensure the cores do not slip loose under movement device or cable movement
  • Rugged industrialised design
When building up cables, be sure to utilise an appropriate Profinet stripping tool, in order to reduce accidental wiring faults and ensure a consistent connection at each device.

Managed Switches
Although utilising managed switches is not a prerequisite for a Profinet network, it is extremely useful, and crucial for consistent up time, high network availability and ease of maintenance and troubleshooting. An un-managed switch has no built in intelligence, except to send incoming Ethernet frames out to the right port (Port the destination device is connected to). 
Managed switches add intelligence, supporting a number of useful IT protocols. Some of the features that a managed switch will offer you over an un-managed switch:
  • Integrated SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) and LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol), specialised protocols allowing users to retrieve data and statistics saved within switches, such as retries, real-time bandwidth utiilisation, network topology
  • Mirror port, a managed switch will allow you set up a mirror port that channels all the switches data to a single configured port. This is extremely useful if you want to run diagnostics on your Profinet network without interrupting transmission. You can utilise Profinet Engineering tools such as Procentec Netilities to monitor all network traffic on a mirror port and provide valuable diagnostic information to user.
  • Certain managed switches can be utilised for the creation of redundant network structures
  • Advanced features, may include: Loop protection, advanced VLAN functionality, More precise diagnostics and control of network traffic

Precise Commissioning, Maintenance and Diagnostic Tools

With any industrial automation technology, specialized tools, software and network components can assist you with various tasks, from: Network commission, upgrade and to run diagnostics. There are plenty of great tools available on the market. Some of the more popular tools imperative for your installation are listed below:

Dedicated PROFINET diagnostics engineering tool. Generating a live list and providing various crucial statistics about the network. Netilities is crucial when commissioning Profinet networks, providing maintenance tasks and troubleshooting problems. You can interface Netilities with you network using a standard Ethernet/WLAN port on a PC, or the ProfiTap for a secure connection.

If you don't have a mirror port available on a managed switch by the PLC, you may require a dedicated tap device, that allows you to monitor traffic and information running through the network. A tap device can also be a more secure way to connect you PC to your industrial network, allowing only one way traffic for monitoring.

Permanent diagnostics monitoring, trending and network overview. The Atlas will assist you managing and maintaining large factory networks by providing you with insight and knowledge of the networks health, state and performance. The Atlas offers a unique Quality Factor rating, that takes a weighted algorithm of the networks performance and risk and displays this in a user friendly and interpret-able manner.

Internationally certified training ensuring site competence 

One of the first steps all organisations should take to ensure a successful Profinet Integration is ensure all stakeholders involved with the implementation have the necessary training, foundation understanding and certification.

The PROFINET / PROFIBUS Competence Center of Southern Africa runs the Certified PROFINET Engineers Course periodically on our scheduled course at our offices, alternatively at a sites convenience. 

Why should I attend training?
Certified PROFINET Engineers course provides the foundation for a clear site competence, knowledge and know how. Training is crucial for any installers, designers and C&I Maintenance staff. 

What will be covered?
The PROFINET Engineers Course combines in-depth theoretical knowledge along with hands-on practical exposure. 

How long is the course?
The Certified PROFINET Engineers Course spans over 2.5 days, with an written and practical examination to be completed on the last day. Lunch will be provided each day.

How do i sign up?
Contact the IDX Academy to obtain additional information, booking forms and pricing  |  (+27) 11-548-9960  |  WEBSITE

For more information please feel free to contact the PROFIBUS / PROFINET Competence Centre  |  +27 11 548 9960  |

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bridging SQL to Profibus


A client came to us with a situation where he required some data on his SQL database to be sent to his PLC. In his case, he has a couple of sensors inserting data directly to his SQL database and he needed these data to be processed by his Profibus PLC controller so that the correct actions could be taken.

The solution accepted by the client was a SQL to Profibus bridge. IDX offered to provide a custom software that would extract the SQL data in real-time and expose the extracted data as a Modbus TCP slave device. The data could then be converted to a Profibus protocol using a gateway such as the Anybus X-Gateway AB9001, and sent directly to the PLC controller.

We provided the client with a custom software called IDX 8. IDX 8 is a customised software offered by IDX, it contains a suite of different functionalities which includes tag management, remote monitoring, historian, alarms and events, data exchange, etc. The function of interest here is its data exchange component which allows for real-time data to be shared with various different systems.
After the client installed IDX 8 on his test server that he brought over for a demonstration of our proposed solution. We continued to setup IDX 8 to extract the SQL data and expose it as a Modbus slave, the steps for the setup are as follows:
  • Setup Data Exchange service
  • Setup SQL interface
  • Setup Modbus Slave interface
After the setup we demonstrated to the client that the data was indeed being extracted from the SQL database, this is shown below using the “Live Tag View” function that IDX 8 supplies:
The ANYBUS X-Gateway AB9001
To configure the AB9001, all that is required is an “IPConfig.exe” tool supplied by HMS and a web browser. We used the “IPConfig.exe” tool to setup the IP address of the AB9001 gateway then configured the Modbus settings using a web browser by accessing the device’s web interface using the assigned IP address.
The hardest part in this process was the mapping of the Modbus transactions to instruct the Modbus master to read the correct values from the correct Modbus slave registers. Once that was done, we used the “Transaction Monitor” function that is provided by the device through its web server to demonstrate to the client that the values read by IDX 8 was indeed being exposed as a Modbus slave device. This is shown in the image below:
Setting up the Anybus X as a PROFIBUS slave
Setting up the Profibus DP slave on the Anybus X-Gateway was done by just assigning a slave address to the device on its “Profibus DP V-1” menu in its web server. After that we then checked the mapping of the Modbus Master registers to the Profibus DP Slave device using the “Mapping Overview” page provided by the web server.
To confirm that the gateway was indeed ready for Profibus communication, we setup a Profibus Master simulation using a tool called Profitrace from Procentec. We demonstrated to the client that the Profibus Master was indeed in data communications with the gateway and that data from that was originally from the SQL was indeed being sent through to the simulated master, this is shown in the image below:

Author: Jackson Kao

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to Remotely Monitor a Power Meter using a Netbiter EC350

Netbiter makes it simple to view your power meter data from a remote location.
This week I had the task of setting up a power meter and monitoring this device remotely, via a Netbiter EC350. I found it quick and easy to do.

Figure: 1
The Netbiter EC350 shown in figure:1, is the hardware component of the Netbiter remote monitoring solution. The gateway(EC350) can connect to a measuring device/field sensor via the following connection methods: Serial RS232 or RS485, Modbus RTU or TCP, or EtherNet/IP.

In my setup I have used RS485, which is what both devices use. Both devices also needed a 24Vdc power supply shown in Figure:2 below.
The Netbiter uses a cloud service called the Argos to store data that may be remotely accessed later on.
The gateway automatically performs data exchange via an Internet enabled Ethernet connection (WAN) or local cellular networks to the Argos cloud service.
In my setup, I have used the Ethernet port to perform data exchange to the Argos cloud.
The method of using a cloud service data eliminates the use of public or fixed IP addresses and removes the complexity of VPN tunneling.
Apart from this, the Argos service also features an authentication login process. It's possible as the main administrator to grant rights and privileges accordingly to specific user profiles.

Figure: 2
I have connected up my devices using the following steps:

  1. Both my Netbiter EC350 and power meter are powered in parallel using the 24Vdc power supply. The power supply is powered by 220Vac. Take note of the polarity of the device terminals as DC voltage will not work in the reverse polarity.
  2. The gateway is then linked via the RS485 com port, to the power meter. Note that the cable needs to be serial specific, and the connection points (A & B) need to be like for like and not inverted. if multiple slaves are used then the com ports will be series to each other.
  3. My Ethernet cable is connected to the WAN port of my Netbiter and the other end is connected into an Internet enabled data port.
  4. Based on the manual - the input terminals may be wired according to their specific measuring point. In my example I chose to measure voltage which was wired into the available polarity conscious input terminal on the power meter. 

Once my wiring was complete, I then logged into my Argos profile and add the Modbus registers as parameters in a template. The information needed for adding these registers are found in the power meter's manual. By using a template, I can install more units and export/import the same template to other various common applications. Eliminating redundant work, and making commissioning easier.
Since the Netbiter EC350 acts as a Modbus Master in this network, I needed to add the power meter as a slave device onto the Netbiter EC350 under the configuration tab. In this step, I also specified that the template needs to be allocated to this device.
Now that the device is added, I check the communication settings (baud rate, parity, etc) and make sure they correspond to the default of the manual, or I could edit the system parameters on the meter and customize them to what I need for my network.

After my system checks are done, I download my configuration to the Netbiter and I am now able to browse the device parameters (an option available by the Argos service to present data without configuring a dashboard). Once I see data coming through I compare this to the power meter shown in figure:2. Since the meter provides a local display, I could verify that my readings were accurate.

Now that the device has been confirmed, I then added the parameters to the visualization tab and created a simple dashboard, to present the data in a customized format. I also set up a logging graph and alarm list, to track the behavior of my measured values. I could also extract historical data and reports if needed.
The power meter has functionality to read and write registers, so apart from only reading input values, I could remotely access the writable registers, for example: system parameters like the baud rate or device password can be changed remotely.

If you would like to find out more information contact IDX technical solutions:

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Basic PID Control Course

IDX will again be hosting Andy Verwer from the UK to present the Three-Term or PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) Basic Course in Johannesburg, South Africa. The training is aimed at technicians, engineers and programmers who are involved in the operation, implementation and tuning of feedback controllers in a wide variety of applications and industries. Many different aspects of feedback control systems are covered so that the training will benefit a wide range of needs. For example, if you need to:
  • Apply quantitative feedback control to real processes and machinery,
  • Improve the performance or tune controllers in their plant,
  • Implement three-term controllers in their programmable control systems (PLCs and DCS systems),
  • Identify problems and the causes of poor control performance.
The training will run over the course of two days and is for those who have little or no previous experience with feedback control. This module takes the trainee up to the stage where they can tune a simple feedback control system and identify the basic reasons for poor control performance.

There will be a practical component which is delivered in hands-on manner using a combination of simulation software and real processes. The material in the basic and advanced courses are delivered in a manufacturer independent way.

The basic PID control course introduces to control system terminology and technology and introduces three-term (PID) control using a practical, hands-on approach. The basic PID course teaches how the controller terms operate and interact and how to use simple but practical techniques to select and adjust a controller for a range of applications. The training also covers the various causes of poor performance, which are often not concerned with controller tuning. The content will include:
  • Feedback control system architecture and terminology. Features of real controllers. Typical control systems for level, pressure, temperature and flow control. Hands-on practical operation of a control system.
  • Common control actions. Simple process dynamics. Common problems associated with feedback control. Hands-on simulation exercises System load performance, reset windup. Control performance measures. Modelling of process dynamics and nonlinearities. Control valve characteristics and problems.
  • Simple controller tuning methods. Practical tuning exercises for flow, level and pressure control.
The course cost will be R8 550 including VAT and will be held at the IDX offices at 1 Weaver Street, Fourways from the 29th to the 30th of May 2017. Lunch will be included. 

Seats are limited and booking is essential. Please send your booking requests to 

We look forward to seeing you there!

If you are outside of South Africa and are interested in this course, please follow this link: above content is derived from this original information page.