Monday, November 25, 2013

Certified PROFINET Training in South Africa and migrating from PROFIBUS to PROFINET

Setting Up a PROFINET network
The popularity of PROFINET is growing in South Africa and so too is the requirement for training. One interesting topic is the migration from PROFIBUS to PROFINET. It is not realistic to expect a site to one day stop its production (on PROFIBUS), buy new PROFINET equipment and start up production again. The cost of the new equipment is a factor for sure, but the real cost is having a plant standing while an upgrade is happening. This topic is briefly covered in the Certified PROFINET Engineers Course run by the IDX Academy in Johannesburg under the Proxies Section. It is the only Certified PROFINET Course offered in South Africa and Africa as a whole. The course is accredited with ECSA and earns you 3 CPD points for attending. 

The Proxies Section of the course shows different ways of interfacing between different network protocols. One of the most common conversions would be converting between PROFIBUS and PROFINET, but it can also be a conversion between other fieldbuses such as MODBUS (See the blue Anybus Communicator in the picture above), ControlNet, DeviceNet, etc in which case one could easily use an Anybus X gateway from HMS. The Anybus Gateway can also come with a master built in, so there would for instance be no need for a PROFIBUS PLC on the PROFIBUS side.
The essentials for setting up and testing a PROFINET network including the PROFINET Cable Tester and Netilities from PROCENTEC

If the conversion is strictly between PROFIBUS and PROFINET, and there are PLCs on both networks, then the COMbricks PROFINET card and PROFIBUS slave card can be used together as an alternative (COMbricks is shown to the bottom left of the picture above). The PLC on the PROFIBUS side would write values to the COMbricks slave card which can then be mapped to the PROFINET card. As far as the PROFINET Controller is concerned, it just sees the PROFIBUS values appearing as values on PROFINET and vice versa. You would just set the cards up as IO devices in TIA portal or similar software.   

Of course, COMbricks then also offers its main feature which is permanent health monitoring of the network, but can also be extended to have some IO modules, so it is possible that it is a PROFINET IO device in its own right or even a PROFIBUS slave IO block. 

visit for more information. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Serial to Ethernet Converter (RS-232 / RS-485 to LAN)

What happened to the serial port on my laptop? Indeed it seems that our PCs are upgrading faster than the industrial devices we still use. Being an Industrial IT company, on a daily basis we still have to use HyperTerminal and other serial based software to configure devices and get information out of systems such as belt scales and gateways.  

So what if I need to get a device that speaks serial onto an industrial Ethernet based protocol such as PROFINET, MODBUS TCP, EtherCat or Ethernet/IP? Well for that we can use the Anybus Communicator, which we have spoken about before. That is a protocol converter. Incidentally, this device is easily configured using a serial port, but for that I need to have a serial port on my PC. (The new generations of these gateways are moving to USB, but what about all those thousands that are in the field already?)

One solution is too buy a USB to Serial Converter, but anyone that has used one of these will most likely agree that they can be quite troublesome.  So what’s my other option? My other option is to get an Serial to Ethernet converter such as the Anybus Serial Server. It can convert RS 232 to Ethernet or RS 485 to Ethernet. It’s also so easy to use:

Step 1) Power it up with 24V and connect it to your LAN or to your Ethernet port

Step 2) Install and run the free AnybusIP config tool. It scans by MAC address so you can use this to discover what the IP address of your serial server is. Here you can change the IP address and open up its web interface from your browser.

Step 3) Click on "Configuration" and configure the ports you are going to use. I used port 2000 for the RS-232 port, and port 2001 for the RS-485 port. The server is now ready to use.  

Step  4) Now we have to tell our computer where these virtual com ports are. Install and run the Serial/IP driver. You can find it in the Control Panel.

Step 5) Choose your COM port and fill in its IP address and port number.
Here’s a tip: Choose port numbers that are less than 10!

Now I’m ready to use my COM ports. In the below example I am now able to program my Anybus Communicator through a LAN with either COM7 or COM8. Since COM 8 is actually an RS485 port, I won’t be able to use that to program my Anybus communicator, but it is useful for other applications. In our Anybus Communicator and Modbus training, we use it to run a slave simulator through this port.

Making Serial COM ports available through a LAN, means that you are able to program devices that are located long distances away. We used the Serial Server to program an Anybus Communicator which was located on a distant conveyor belt, from the comfort of an air conditioned control room.  

PROFIBUS Testers / Troubleshooting Kits

We at IDX run the only PROFIBUS competence and training centre in Africa, and also develop solutions that get legacy and other non-PROFIBUS systems to talk PROFIBUS.
ProfiTrace is our go-to tool before we do any testing. It guarantees that our PROFIBUS network is up and running and if it is not, it helps us to quickly diagnose any errors on the network. This saves us valuable development time because it means that we know that once we’ve tested our PROFIBUS network with ProfiTrace, then we can focus my time on other areas of the system.
We do a lot of training and site visits and we have NEVER had to send one of our ProfiCores in for repairs. Despite all the hands that our units go though, the ProfiCores just keep working. This is a true testament to the reliability of the unit and the quality engineering that has gone into building it.

The software is easy to use and PROCENTEC keep introducing new features (for free!) which makes it even more user-friendly. The live list and statistics gives the user a great overview of the network, the scope and bargraphs is an indicator of the cable integrity, termination and noise situation and the reporting tool makes it easy to show the customer how the network looked before and how it look after network corrections have been made.

In summary:
  • Understand and troubleshoot your network in minutes
  • Built in oscilloscope to view signal shapes
  • Bar graphs show signal strengths
  • Message recording and analysis
  • Live list views
  • Statistics views
  • Topology scan
  • Generate detailed reports in seconds

When we're plugged in at site, everyone there crowds around the PROFIBUS Engineer and looks in awe at all the neat waveforms and graphics. 

This is definitely not a tool we ever leave for site without!

For the PROFIBUS installer, it is advised that they come on our Certified PROFIBUS Installer course and also get a hand held cable tester such as the COMSOFT NetTEST II to quickly check the cable’s integrity before commissioning.