Thursday, September 4, 2014

Netbiter Remote Access to ABB Analyzer

When delegates visit the IDX Academy in South Africa for training, they are always encouraged to bring their piece of equipment along with which they might be having trouble getting communications going with it - or even just understanding the data it produces. At the end of a grueling PROFIBUS Engineers Course, two delegates from ABB stayed behind to see how they could do a proof of concept to show that their AO2020 Ananlyze connects to and makes data available on PROFIBUS. They already had a PROFIBUS Master Simulator from HMS.
  •  Using the simulator, you can load the GSD file and connect to the PROFIBUS address of the Analyzer via a piece of PROFIBUS cable - easy!
  • The raw data is produced in hex and binary - this can be tricky to understand. We were reading 41 A8 CC CD (hexadecimal), but knowing that the data type is an IEEE Floating Point value from the manual and entering these values into an online IEEE float to Hex calculator gave us a value that made sense: 21.10!
  • They are now ready to do a proof of concept to any customer that is using PROFIBUS. 
Separate to this there is an Ethernet connection available that is able to connect a PC-based HMI simulator to the AO2020. Now the question was, could one use this this software on a PC in your office and connect to the AO2020 sitting at a remote site? The new EC350 with its remote access capabilities is able to do this. It's like having a really long Ethernet cable connecting your PC to the to the remote device!

The Netbiter EC350 has an Ethernet port to connect to a local LAN (the analyzer in this case) and WAN port to use the internet connection of an office LAN. After successfully connecting using this method, the WAN access was replaced with a 3G access by inserting a SIM card into the EC350. Success! This proved that the Netbiter EC350 could be used to create  secure Ethernet tunnel between a PC in an office and a ABB AO2020 analyzer in the field.  

Visit the new Netbiter website at to find out more!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PROFIBUS Pizza with a COMbricks topping!

What do pizza and PROFIBUS have in common with each other? Cheese! 

Bandini Cheese is a South African cheese manufacturer supplying their products to numerous pizza restaurants around South Africa. They are always striving to provide the highest quality products and this ethos can been seen in other aspects of their manufacturing process. For them, the up-time of their PROFIBUS network is critical - not only do they have expectant customers, but the very nature of the cheese making process means that batches cannot just sit around while technicians try to troubleshoot the PROFIBUS network.

Realizing this, the engineers and technicians working on the plant attended the certified PROFIBUS Engineers Course at the South African PROFIBUS Competence Centre (PCC). It was here that they heard of new innovative product called COMbricks and they became one of the first companies to implement the COMbricks solution. 

Solution to what? The problem is knowing the health of the PROFIBUS network. This can be determined by looking at how many corrupted, repeated, illegal or diagnosic messages are passing through the network and of course by looking at the signal itself. COMbricks can do all of this and report on any errors before they become failures. 

Bandini optimized their network by adopting a tree layout verses a linear layout. A PROFIBUS cable connects the PLC in the control room to a COMbricks Scope Repeater Module. 5 more Scope Repeater Modules are used to repeat the signal to 5 new PROFIBUS segments running to different areas of the plant, each of which loop back to a location near the COMbricks. Active terminators are used at the ends of these segments so that if a slave fails or needs to be replaced, the segment is unaffected by reflections caused by an un-powered termination. This layout makes troubleshooting much simpler. 

Being able to share the reports that the COMbricks produces with experts at the South African PCC, brings the expert to the site without him having to travel there. Even a screen shot in an email can be a much quicker way of trying to diagnose what the problem is. We can quickly narrow down the problem to the segment connected to slot 7 of the COMbricks - awesome! 

How about some Salt and Pepper with that Pizza?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Promoting the various Engineering Disciplines in South Africa

The Africa Engineering Week is running this week from 1-5 September 2014 at the Doornfontein Campus of the University of Johannesburg. The aim of the event is to showcase various disciplines of Engineering and encourage scholars to consider choosing a career in the Engineering and Science fields. 
IDX is a branch patron member of the SAIMC  (The Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Measurement and Control) and assisted at the SAIMC exhibition space. School children from various regions in South Africa were told about the FIRST Tech Challenge, where teams of learners can participate in a challenge by designing, building and programming robots that will compete with other teams using a sports model. The wining robot from 2014 is currently on display so make sure that you visit the stand!

At the same time, visitors can find out more about the SAIMC, its affiliation with ECSA (Engineering Council of South Africa) and its mission. Members of the SAIMC receive many benefits including invitations to technical seminars and events, recruitment opportunities, increased status with industry, professional networking and the opportunity to contribute to the development of technical standards and the development of control and instrumentation in Southern Africa. 

Some visitors are new members of the SAIMC and were inquiring about how they can earn CPD points to improve their professional status as registered professionals with ECSA. Being a member of the SAIMC, will mean that you will get notified about events where you can earn CPD points, but if you are in the field of Control and Instrumentation, the chances are that you will be encountering fieldbuses and industrial Ethernets. The IDX Academy offers the following Courses where you can receive ECSA CPD points:
  • Certified PROFIBUS Installer’s Course (1 point)
  • Certified PROFIBUS Installer with Troubleshooting Course (2 points)
  • Certified PROFIBUS Engineer’s Course (4 points)
  • Certified PROFIBUS PA Engineers Course (3 points)
  • Certified PROFINET Engineers Course (3 points)
  • Certified KNX Basic KNX Course (5 points)
  • MODBUS Concept and Implementation Course (1 point)
  • AS-I Concept and Implementation Course (1 point)
For more information about this training visit