Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MODBUS to PROFIBUS Converter (Serial to PROFIBUS)

Not only is it possible with IDX but simple, quick and cost effective.
Anybus is your ideal solution, dominant when it comes to converting between Fieldbus, Ethernet and serial protocols. Integrate your RS232,422 & 485 equipment to a PROFIBUS/PROFINET control system without any changes to your device.
Simply connect, configure and you're done! Simply IDX it! 

Some of the features and benefits you can expect from the Anybus Communicator include:
  • Save time and unnecessary development when integrating your device into PROFIBUS/PROFINET
  • MODBUS RTU configuration wizard
  • Ability to configure ASCII or vendor specific protocols
  • Multi language support
  • Handy save and load function allows for a completed configuration to be utilised on alternate installations
  • Serial line listener and built in checksum calculator for diagnostics and troubleshooting
  • No high level programming skills are needed to set up the Anybus communicator. the Anybus device is configured utilising included user friendly windows software (Anybus Configuration Manager)
  • 3 year guarantee

Case Study: 
Using the Anybus Communicator to get NMEA GPS data from an Industrial GPS antenna into PROFIBUS

Recently IDX was contacted by a client that wished to get NMEA data strings from a Garmin industrial GPS receiver into the plants PROFIBUS SCADA system.

It was quickly identified that an AB7000 - Anybus Communicator would be the most effective device for the job. 

Within the NMEA protocol, various messages are pushed along the data line, each ASCII strings provides new information. 

An Example of one of these strings could be a RMC (Recommended Minimum Data), this will look similar to:


     RMC            Recommended Minimum GPS Data
     123319          Fix taken at 12:33:19 UTC
     A                  Status A=active or V=Void.
     4807.038,N    Latitude 48 deg 07.038' N
     01131.000,E  Longitude 11 deg 31.000' E
     022.4            Speed over the ground in knots
     084.4            Track angle in degrees True
     230394          Date - 23rd of March 1994
     003.1,W        Magnetic Variation
     *6A              The checksum data, always begins with *

After sniffing the ASCII string using software included with the Anybus communicator, we were able to truncate and map relevant values through to the Profibus driver. The main interest of the plant was to know the location of their rail equipment at all times, in order to prevent a collision. Thus the only relevant info would be the latitude and longitude, in addition we also mapped a few status bytes and integrated a checksum to confirm the data being read as accurate. 

This application has bee
n repeated in thousands of separate installations, ranging though various applications, from weigh scales, to scanners, to VSD's and now GPS systems...

Whats your requirement?

Contact IDX technical sales now:
Contact: +27 11 548 9960

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