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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

IDX exhibiting in Nairobi at the 2016 East Africa Power Industry Convention (EAPIC)

      Come visit us at stand 108Contact If you would like to book some time for a meeting, or find out more information on this event. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

IEC61850 to Modbus TCP/IP, EtherNet/IP, M-bus, PROFINET or PROFIBUS

The SG-gateway family is a current leading Smart Grid application solution, acting as a remote terminal unit for the energy market.

The SG-gateway enables the remote control and management of electrical equipment in power grids, controlling and monitoring assets, processes and installations in the field.
Networking and interfacing between various fieldbuses and Industrial Ethernet protocols is where this gateway shines, allowing cross interfacing between:
  • IEC61850 (Client/Server)
  • IEC60870-5-104 (Client/Server)
  • Modbus TCP (Client/Server)
  • Modbus RTU (Master/Slave)
  • Various Serial RS232, RS485 and RS232
  • EtherNet/IP
Here are some application examples:

Transmission can also be made available via Ethernet or 3G VPN connection into your server.
The SG-Gateways sports an easy web based configuration tool using a standard browser, configuring with a simple drag and drop method.

Choose the right SG-gateway to suit your requirement, here are the options below:

With the flexibility and multi protocol support of the SG-gateway range, its possible to support any application and customize to your site requirement with little effort.

For more information on the SG-gateway range contact us:

Phone:  +27 11 548 9960

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The New Certified PROFIBUS System Design Course comes to Johannesburg

NEW! Certified PROFIBUS System Design Course
25 to 28 July 2016
PROFIBUS Installers are certified, the devices are certified, but what about the system design itself?  

Join us on this 3½-day course covering the Certified PROFIBUS Installer and optimal design of PROFIBUS automation and control systems.

Run by Verwer Training and Consultancy Ltd and hosted by IDX

IDX, who operate the PROFIBUS Competence in South Africa, will be hosting the brand new PROFIBUS System Design Course presented by Andy Verwer from Verwer Training and Consultancy Ltd in the UK. It is your chance to be amongst the first in the world to earn this PROFIBUS International accredited certification during his short visit to South Africa.  
Who is this Course for? 
This course is aimed at anyone who is dealing with the design, specification or procurement of modern automation and control systems at the engineering or technical level. The course is also suitable for device manufacturers, system integrators and technical sales/marketing people who want to know the best way to put systems together.
The Certified PROFIBUS Installer certification is a prerequisite and will be included in this course and can be considered as a refresher for those who have already obtained the certification. 

IDX Offices, 1 Weaver Street, Fourways, South Africa 

What does the course cover?
Presented by Andy Verwer from Training and Consultancy Ltd in the UK, the course provides a top-down approach to designing a modern automation and control system and helps managers and designers to make the correct decisions from the project beginning. The course is applicable to all sectors of industry from factory automation to process control.  Examples and case-studies used on the course are from a wide range of industries including manufacturing, process plant water-treatment, materials handling and automated part sorting storage and retrieval. One of the aims of the course is to cover the design of modern control systems that are maintainable and which minimise the impact of control system and network failures which will inevitably occur during the life time of the plant.  The aim is to minimise the footprint of failures in terms of restricting the extent of the effects of failures and also the time to locate and repair faults. The course also covers the use of some of the latest and most important developments to appear on the market, including new devices which provide permanent monitoring of networks and notification in the case of degradation or failure. More on the course content:

-General system design requirements
The control system life cycle, consideration of maintenance, health checking and fault finding features.  Characteristics of communication and transmission technologies. Environmental considerations and choice of appropriate devices, cables and connectors.
-PROFIBUS network layout and design
PROFIBUS network architectures and their relative advantages in terms of performance, maintenance and reliability.  Integrating operation, supervision and engineering information into the control system.
-PROFIBUS profiles
How profiles can simplify system design, maintenance and give vendor independence.  Use of profile GSD files and DTMs.
-Hazardous areas
Essential requirements for hazardous areas and available design options.  Design of Intrinsically safe RS485 and MBP segments.
-High availability systems and redundancy
Basics of component and system reliability and application of basic reliability modelling techniques.  Overview and evaluation of practical solutions for high availability PROFIBUS systems, limitations and essential needs.
-Fibre optic, infra-red and wireless transmission
Basics of fibre optic transmission.  Connector and cable types. Design and application of various topologies, solutions for redundant fibre optic systems.  Basics and design considerations for infra-red and wireless communication.
-Modern solutions for network monitoring
-Safety related systems
Essential requirements and design options for safety related systems.
-Control system and network timing
Control system sampling and timing considerations.  DP and PA cycle time and jitter estimation.  The effect of gateways and couplers.
Basic characteristics and applications of isochronous cycle timing.
-Documentation and drawing standards

The course includes case study material and practical examples on how the techniques are applied. A theory test at the end of the course ensures that the attendees understand and can apply the material covered. Successful candidates will be awarded the Certified PROFIBUS System Designer Certificate issued by PISA.

Space is very limited! To book your spot and get a quote, please send an email to academy[at] or call IDX on +27 11 548 9960. 

Content adapted from For training outside of Southern Africa, please visit the