Monday, September 13, 2010

We Need Your Help!

Due to the fact that we are mainly left brain thinkers at IDX (what else can you expect from a bunch of electrical and IT engineers) we are having a slight dilemma finding a name for our new solution. Currently it got the name “IDX Brick” but we think it needs a lot more pizzazz. Hence this request for help...

Basic the IDX Brick consist of our Industrial Data Xchange (IDX) software running on an embedded platform happily translating data from an OPC Server to the site’s PROFIBUS network. Pretty neat!

So we would like to extend the invitation to you for you to submit a name that we can label this device with.

Please add your comments to the end of this blog.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

IDX successfully hosts its first Anybus breakfast

IDX recently hosted our first breakfast targeted at the upcoming range of Anybus products available as well as some of current products that are offered by HMS.

Kristina Johansson (Area Sales Manager) and Henrik Arleving (NetBiter Product Manager) from HMS (in Sweden) spent a week with us and enjoyed the good and the bad of South Africa (only bad were taxis). It was with the greatest of pleasure for us to have them and enjoy their stories about Sweden(and there were a lot of them) which they are very proud of!

Probably the most popular topic, of the breakfast, was the remote communication interface devices. The NetBiter module allows you to read analogs/digitals or even Modbus messages into the unit and the information is sent via a GSM/GPRS modem to the server where the information is stored and can be displayed using a very user friendly web interface. (click here for more info).

We would like to thank everyone for their support and we look forward to more of these events in the future.

Brendan Gunn

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Anybus Communicator

So what is it?
The ABC (Anybus Communicator) is a device that translates from serial communication to different fieldbus languages. By default, it is a Modbus master on one end and converts this serial communication to one of the numerous fieldbus options (Profibus, DeviceNet, ControlNet,...etc)

How does it work?
Very simply, the Modbus master requests information from the slave/s that it is connected to and stores that information in its own memory area. That memory area can then be read from the fieldbus in its native language. I.E. Profibus will be able to read the data in the format that it understands. The same applies when the fieldbus writes data to the ABC, the information is stored in a memory area and the Modbus master will then take that information and send it to the Modbus slave.

Is it easy to setup?
The ABC software is very user friendly. You need to have a basic idea of the Modbus protocol and setup the commands and addresses of where you would like to read and write the information. The fieldbus translation is all done automatically. All you need to concern yourself with is the Modbus setup and if you need any help you are more than willing to ask us.

There are 2 versions that you can get. The first is the standard type, this is used for normal Modbus communication and simple serial communication. The second type is a java unit for more advanced applications where programming the unit for uncommon/ user specific protocols/ languages are needed.

Recently a customer asked if the ABC would be able to communicate with his scale. The scale had its own custom ascii (text is represented by numbers using an ascii table, ie “M” = 77 decimal) language. The device didn’t require complex communication but they wanted to get this device to communicate on a Profibus network. I used a standard ABC and built the message structure (which you can do with the configuration software) according the specification given to me. In this case they were using RS232 that they usually connected to their computer and set the values using hyperterminal, now this company can sell their unit to people who want to control the unit over Profibus and almost any other commercial fieldbus.

The ABC is a device that converts from Modbus (serial communication RS232/ RS422/ RS485) to any of the following fieldbusses: CANopen, CC-Link, ControlNet, DeviceNet, FIPIO, Interbus, Modbus Plus, Modbus-RTU, Profibus.

Send us an email or call us if you are interested.

Brendan Gunn
011 548 9960

Monday, September 6, 2010

IDX introduces OPC to Profibus (Profibus to OPC ) device

So I have been bugged by my colleagues to get this post out into the world. Now as an engineer the last thing on my to-do list (as most engineers) is documentation and I'll be honest, blogging wasn’t even on my list, so this is a big step for me...

I trust and hope that it will answer some of your questions, and even present a possible solution to some of the problems you may have. (Although I also realise the success of this blog is coupled to the frequency of future blogs I may be forced to write...)

Anyway at IDX we excel at solving problems, and we were faced with a problem which begged our attention. Long story short we created a product that exposes your required OPC tags onto your Profibus Network as a Profibus Slave, or vice versa if you like (Profibus to OPC). (Now I would like to end my blogging career right here, but I know if I don’t give more details I will just have to edit this later... so I will continue. )

The Background
We were approached by Sandvik South Africa to solve one of their clients’ connection issues. Sandvik was supplying a ASRi crusher controller to them and they wanted the data from the ASRi available on their Fieldbus network. The data was already exposed as an OPC server, but that was not the solution the client wanted. They argued that they had already spent money on creating a Profibus infrastructure, and they therefore wanted to use what they already had. So the age old mantra of “The customer is always right” prevailed and Sandvik had no choice but to provide what the client wanted. Sandvik then followed the yellow brick road, and found their way to IDX, and the developing fun began...

The Solution
One of our strategies at IDX is to make long term, maintainable solutions that are not locked into any one specific vendor. We also leveraged the power of our software which has been running in industries all over the world since 1995, so what we ended up with is a highly configurable, highly maintainable solution which guarantees a long life time to its users. With an initial setup to configure the relationship between the OPC tags and the Profibus memory mapping, we now have a fairly simple way of exposing any OPC data onto a Profibus network.

We were also able to expose the Profibus acyclic data as well as the cyclic data on the device so you are able to put pretty much all the data you would ever need onto the profibus network.

But wait...

The Exciting Part
Because we used off-the-shelf products and used the HMS Anybus PCI card to provide the Profibus interface, with a few minor changes we can include any of the HMS interface cards and use the same idea of OPC to Anybus... This means if you want OPC on DeviceNet, Modbus, ControlNet, CanBus, pretty much anything you have, we can now bridge the gap. (I suppose this is why they wanted me to write this message... )

And then it was done...
I am really excited about this new product we are offering and I really had fun playing with all the technologies. If you have any questions or any comments or ideas you would like to chat about please feel free to contact me. I spent a lot of time digging through the different protocols so if there is something you need or would like to know, give me an email. I would love to know what you are doing and would love to help! (...I like problem solving a whole lot more than blogging!)

Friday, September 3, 2010

OPC End User Training course in South Africa

IDX now has a 1 day End user training course for the end user who wants to become competent in OPC.

The course starts by covering the basics of OPC, then moves on to the details of the different types of OPC, how they differ, how to use them and where they fit in on the plant.

There is also a practical section where the users are taught about security and how to set up the dreaded DCOM.
After this course, DCOM will become child's play.

The user is left empowered with the knowledge of OPC in it's entirety.

Contact idxonline for more information on these and other courses.