Failure is not an option!

18/10/2014

ProSoft Technology’s PROFIBUS Modules and Industrial Radios allow critical data to be transmitted from ControlLogix PACs at Flood Defense System.

Failure is not an option when upgrading a flood barrier’s control system. Should a flood barrier malfunction, thousands of homes and businesses could be severely impacted.

Upgrading a flood barrier isn’t a task that can be done overnight. It takes months and months of work. The barrier has to remain available for use throughout the upgrade, making it a considered and careful task. There has to be several fail safe measures and redundancies in place. Whoever said redundancies are a bad thing hasn’t taken a look at a flood barrier system.

dartford_scheme

Two concrete towers stand 20 meters above the ground on either side of the mouth of Dartford Creek. This is the UK Environment Agency’s Dartford Barrier Flood Defense System in Kent, South East England. The barrier is routinely closed, in conjunction with the bigger Thames Barrier upstream, to prevent high tide water levels in the River Thames Estuary flowing back up the creek and flooding Dartford and the surrounding area.

Two steel gates, each 30-metre across and weighing over 160 tons each, are suspended at high level between the two concrete towers. Like a huge guillotine at the creek mouth, one gate may be slowly lowered on its supporting chains onto the river bed to block the flow of water. Then the second gate may be slowly lowered to rest onto the top of the first gate. When closed together, the 160 ton steel gates can withstand up to 10.4 meters of water.

The gates are raised and lowered by direct drive oil hydraulic motors. The drive system comprises two 18.5kW pump and motor units, providing both duty and standby facilities, enabling a gate to be raised or lowered in 15-minutes. When not in use both gate structures are safely held in the fully raised position and latched using hydraulic latch mechanisms. This permits vessels to pass underneath the gates along the creek.

It is envisaged that due to climate change that the barrier may need to operate an average of 50 times per annum over the next 25 years.

“The system has to be highly available with many fallback systems in case of failures,” said Andrew Garwood, a Senior Contracts Manager in the Controls Division of Qualter Hall & Co Limited, Barnsley (GB).

Just a couple of years ago, the control system was starting to show its age. As part of a large upgrade to the barrier, its associated control system was overhauled. The original control system was a completely hardwired based relay system that was over 30 years old. Spare parts for the 30 year-old system were becoming scarce.

Qualter Hall provided the M&E contracted works on behalf of the principal contractor Birse Civils, who had engaged Qualter Hall as the Systems Integrator for the project and as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Contractor in charge of upgrading the control system; they had several goals in mind. Number one was safety and reliability. Flooding, should it occur, could cause extensive damage to the surrounding area.

instrument_inst_DartfordQualter Hall, who provides an attractive ‘one stop shop’ for a multitude of engineering solutions, decided to call ProSoft Technology. Qualter Hall selected this company, because it was a reliable, cost effective solution that was endorsed by Rockwell Automation. ProSoft Technology is a Rockwell Automation Encompass Partner.

Two Rockwell Automation ControlLogix redundant PACs are inside each of the 20-meter towers to control the opening and closing of the barrier, but much of the equipment the control system spoke to was PROFIBUS or Siemens based. Two PROFIBUS Master communication module (MVI56-PDPMV1) from ProSoft Technology were installed inside the ControlLogix PACs to facilitate communication from the Rockwell Automation processors.

“The ProSoft Technology modules were utilized to provide PROFIBUS DP into the ControlLogix rack and permitted four separate PROFIBUS DP segments for redundant operation,” Andrew Garwood said.
Fiber optic cables were installed between the two towers, as part of the control system overhaul. While the cable links were being constructed, ProSoft Technology 802.11 Industrial Hotspot radios served as the communication link.

“The wireless link was then used as an automatic fallback connection should fiber optic connection be lost. The ProSoft Technology equipment was selected for its flexibility and support of the spanning tree protocol (RSTP) “, Andrew Garwood said.

ProSoft Technology’s solutions helped ease the engineering work by making it possible for the ControlLogix system to communicate as one single protocol.

The system now allows data to be reviewed quickly, centrally and remotely, providing convenience when accessing diagnostic information.

Thousands of homes and businesses are now safely protected.


Remotely operated pneumatic water pumping system keeps Guernsey dry!

11/10/2014

Festo’s CPX platform – complete automation solution

Much like the mainland Britain, Guernsey has been ravaged by the forces of nature this year. But thanks to a remotely controlled, pneumatically operated pumping station that was completed last year, one area of the island has escaped damage from the resulting floods.

On February 3rd this year (2014) Guernsey faced one of its wettest and windiest days in recent memory. Heavy rain fell throughout much of the day and by the evening Guernsey Airport had recorded 32.5mm – more than an inch – of rainfall, flooding many of the island’s major roads, making several impassable and causing widespread disruptions.

Both local radio stations were forced off air as the FM transmitter was flooded, with TV signals being unavailable for part of the night. According to Guernsey Police more than 60 roads were flooded – which outpaced the number of closed signs available. Sandbags also ran short as authorities scrambled to contain the worst of the weather.

Guernsey_water

But thanks to improvements at the Marais Stream pumping station one area of the island emerged virtually unscathed from the onslaught. The pumping station, situated off les Banques not far from the capital of Guernsey, St Peter Port, is part of a network of facilities that form Guernsey Water’s infrastructure for the catchment, storage and transfer of raw water for the production of the island’s drinking water.

“Without a doubt we would have suffered big issues this winter with the heavy rainfall if we hadn’t undertaken the work there,” Andy Benstead, Water Production Manager, at Guernsey Water says. “I can guarantee that there would have been problems if we hadn’t upgraded it.

“We don’t actually have rivers in Guernsey they are all classified as streams; the Marais Stream has a fair catchment area and it includes a bank and an insurance company, and without this work they would have been flooded.”

 The work at the pumping station was an upgrade; the whole infrastructure was changed apart from an old tank that remained. “There were two reasons for the upgrade, part age and part because the area had suffered from a flooding problem,” Benstead adds. “The equipment is much bigger, more reliable, easier to control and we can now pump up to 1000 litres a second.”

Marais Stream pumping station was originally built in 1938 and required an upgrade to allow an increased volume of water to be collected and delivered to the nearby water treatment works with less going to waste.

Geomarine, a local civil engineering contractor, was contracted by Guernsey Water to carry out these improvement works as part of on-going works on the island’s infrastructure. Before the project was started all that was on site was a holding tank and pump house.

Marais Stream collects the run-off water from the local area and this is fed via the three inlet penstocks   through fine screens that remove debris that would damage the pumps in the pumping station. The water is then pumped either into the treatment works or, in the case of heavy rainfall such as earlier this year, can be diverted and discharged straight into the sea.

The entire system is run by Festo’s CPX remotely operated control system

The entire system is run by Festo’s CPX remotely operated control system

The pumping station is the first on the Island which could be considered ‘multifunctional’, as it incorporates three vital elements. Firstly, raw water (rainfall) is caught and transferred into Longue Hougue reservoir for conversion into drinking water. Secondly, stream water is used to maintain the cleanliness of the screens at the new Belle Greve Wastewater Treatment Centre. Finally, the new pumping station enables excess water to be pumped out to sea, which might otherwise overload the capacity of the Barker’s Quarry Reservoir and lead to localised flooding.

“Festo supplied three pneumatically operated penstocks, driven by linear actuators, to isolate the flow; these were located in the incoming channel,” Tony Gillard, Business Development Manager at Festo explains. “DNC cylinders with rod clamps are used to control the raising and lowering of the penstocks. These distribute the incoming water into the storage basins. From the storage basins, the water is distributed to various parts of the site by butterfly valves operated by pneumatic quarter-turn actuators.”

The entire system is run by Festo’s CPX remotely operated control system. The site itself is unmanned and is controlled via the SCADA system from the Guernsey Water Offices based five miles away. “The CPX platform is a complete automation solution that integrates a wide choice of pneumatic and electrical, analogue and digital I/O,” Gillard explains. “CPX systems configured for specific requirements are delivered pre-built, tested and ready for installation, enabling system integrators to meet tight deadlines and budgets. For additional flexibility, the CPX platform can operate as either a self-contained industrial PLC, or as a local unit on a Fieldbus or Industrial Ethernet-based distributed system. In addition, a wide choice of I/O and connector modules makes interfacing to process sensors and actuators easy.

“Remote operation is becoming more common; with pneumatic control you have the functionality to remotely operate the system,” Gillard adds.

Unusually for the water treatment sector is the selection of pneumatically controlled valves rather than electric. “On Great Britain it is more usual to have electric actuators but the advantages of pneumatics are beginning to sway the market,” Gillard says. “In most other applications, such as petro chemical and industrial applications, pneumatics are the preferred solution, but for some reason in water treatment and sewage plants electric actuation is still predominant for now.”

Pneumatic automation presents an extremely reliable alternative to electrical automation systems and reduces the costs of investment, installation and operation compared with conventional electrical installations.”

Guernsey Water has gone down the path of changing electric actuators to pneumatic and is reaping the benefits. Pneumatic control delivers energy saving, ease of installation, safety and reliability, because of less moving parts, as well as being faster to operate and easier to control.


Telemetry Lift Link Load Cells Tip the Scales for Plaxton Bus.

06/10/2014

The Challenge – To Measure the Centre of Mass of a Coach or a Bus.

Applied Measurements were recently commissioned by bus and coach manufacturer Plaxton, (part of the Alexander Dennis group), to design and manufacture a system for measuring the centre of mass of a bus. Determining this factor is a critical part of vehicle design and engineering, ensuring that buses and coaches have the ultimate levels of stability while in motion.

PA020026-with-zoom-area-2-168x300

Zoom-in on sensor!

The Solution – the ET24 Wireless Telemetry Load Cell.
The ET24 telemetry load cell is designed for under hook and lifting gear weighing applications and can be used with any standard lifting shackles. These wireless telemetry systems can be used as a single-channel set-up, using one sensor and display, or for multiple load cells in a single application.

In the case of Plaxton, a multi-channel system was set up using two ET24-5T and two ET24-12T telemetry lift link load cells, two inclinometers (angle sensors) and a T24-BSu base station. ET24 telemetry load cells were attached to each corner of the bus to monitor the load and the two inclinometers were used to measure the incline. Once the bus was lifted, instantaneous measurements were picked-up by a T24-BSu wireless telemetry base station and the data was transmitted straight to the PC or laptop.

The T24-BSu USB Base Station
The T24-BSu USB base station receives the data from the telemetry load cells and relays it to a PC or laptop via the USB port. This simple USB connection means no additional wires are required as the power supply is drawn directly from the USB port. The T24-BSu base station configures the telemetry system using the free user-friendly downloadable T24 Toolkit software, which offers basic logging to excel.

As Plaxton required readings from multiple telemetry load cells, their system was configured using T24Log24 software. The T24Log24 software enabled engineers to view and log up to 24 channels of data simultaneously throughout the test and made it possible for Plaxton to analyse the information later.

Multiple ET24 telemetry load cells can be used in a single application.

Multiple ET24 telemetry load cells can be used in a single application.

Benefits of Using the ET24 Wireless Telemetry System

  • Wireless transmission up to 200 metres – no cables required
  • Use multiple load cells in a single application
  • Immediate simultaneous readings
  • High accuracy outputs +/- 0.3% of reading
  • Free user-friendly T24 software allows the user to view, log and download the data to csv file for manipulation in excel
  • Easy USB connection from the T24-BSu base station to the PC or Laptop

The ET24 telemetry load cell can be supplied on short delivery (2/3 weeks) and can be pre-calibrated with various receivers.


Conveying and sorting in one!

27/09/2014

Festo has developed a new pneumatic conveyor concept – the WaveHandler – for the transportation and simultaneous sorting of delicate objects.

“Delicate FMCG products, like fruit and vegetables, require particular care in their handling and transportation if they are to make a timely arrival to market with minimum damage losses,” says Steve Sands, Product Manager, Festo. “Their limited shelf-life means that time is of the essence. In such cases, it’s believed that industry can learn a lot from natural principles and wave technology is one such principle. The new WaveHandler pneumatic conveyor concept could help the food & packaging industry make huge cost savings.”

WaveHandler – transporting and sorting in one.

The flexible polyamide bellows structure with the integrated electronics and valve technology in the substructure

Individual modules can be connected as required and are self-configuring to guarantee the rapid networking of the entire system.

Individual modules can be connected as required and are self-configuring to guarantee the rapid networking of the entire system.

The conveyor consists of numerous bellows modules that deform the surface creating a wave motion that transports the objects in a targeted manner. Inspiration for this principle was provided by monitoring natural waves. The movement of wind over the smooth surface of the water produces small ripples, which grow as the wind pushes against them. However, it is energy being moved by the waves, not water. The water molecules within a wave move up and down in a circular motion, but remain in roughly the same place. Yet the energy produced causes the wave to roll over the surface of the sea. The WaveHandler system behaves in a similar way: while each individual bellow advances and retracts in the same spot, a wave moves over the surface of the conveyor.

The system display utilises forward thinking technologies based around Web4.0 concepts. Autonomous actuators, comprising 216 connected pneumatic bellows modules, are attached underneath the covering that forms the surface of the conveyor. Each module consists of bellows kinematics on top, an integrated standard valve MHA1 from Festo and the appropriate electronics for actuating the valve. The bellows structure is pneumatically driven and can expand and contract by around 1 to 2 cm. The conveyor is supplied with power and control commands, via a CAN bus, by a compressed air channel and an electrical cable running through all the modules. Each identical module recognises its position in the network and is programmed to understand its role.

Mounted above the WaveHandler system is a camera system that senses the objects on the conveyor. The camera transmits the images to a computer that processes them and actuates the conveyor via software developed specifically for this purpose. In the bellow modules, each microcontroller receives commands via the CAN bus and forwards them to the valve. The respective bellows structure expands when the valve is switched, which causes the surface to arch at this point. The end result is a control network that moves objects on the surface in a targeted manner, enabling it to take over the sorting and moving action in the process.

Modular in design, the WaveHandler system could be positioned in the centre of a conveying unit to distribute the goods to the next conveyors on the left or right. The time and effort needed for installing the conveyor is reduced since an additional handling unit is no longer required for the sorting process. Individual modules can be connected as required and are self-configuring, which opens up new opportunities in applications where subsystems need to be quickly and flexibly integrated into production sequence.

“Whether it is decentralised intelligence, high transformability or plug and produce, the principles of the factory of tomorrow are already playing an important role in today’s products,” concludes Sands.


Viva España! A look at manufacturing in Spain!

19/09/2014

The Spanish saying “a grandes males, grandes remedios” is the equivalent of “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Even as the recession was taking a heavy toll on the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone, the Spaniards remained optimistic. And it seems their hard work and energy is finally starting to pay off, because Spanish manufacturing has significantly picked up in recent months.

An_SpainnEuropean Automation provides industrial automation spare parts to many Spanish companies from across industry sectors. In recent years, they have seen a dip in demand from the area, but the good news is that since the middle of last year, the number of orders from Spain has been on the rise. Regions like Catalonia and the Basque Country and industries like automotive and metal processing, have taken the lead in this slow, but steady recovery process.

Let’s talk economics
The fact that Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 1.2 per cent in 2013 is not particularly encouraging. However, this year’s predictions show a rise of one per cent. While it’s hardly an impressive figure, it is good news, especially in the context of falling labour costs and increased private investment in capital equipment across industries.

Historically, Spain is one of Europe’s largest manufacturers. It is still the second largest auto manufacturer in Europe, a leader in the production of canned goods and fourth in the production and exports of machinery and tools.

In February 2014, manufacturing production in Spain increased by 4.3 per cent compared to February 2013. In March 2014, the good news flow continued, as manufacturing activity in the country of the great Miguel de Cervantes expanded at its fastest pace since April 2010.

According to the Markit research group, the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) of Spain has grown again in March, from 52.5 in February, to 52.8. Any score above 50 on the PMI index suggests that the industry is expanding, which is excellent news, because it reflects a slow, but stable strengthening of business conditions.

Industry heroes
Although the Spanish market is extremely varied and – some might say – painfully fragmented, certain regions and sectors are showing obvious signs of recovery. Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country in particular, have had excellent trajectories.

Catalonia is the most important region in the Spanish economy, providing around 20 per cent of the country’s GDP. Its most prolific sectors are life sciences, with biotechnology and research and development projects leading the industry, alongside the automotive, chemical and food and beverage industries. International trade shows like the Mobile World Congress, the Smart City World Congress and the third largest food show in Europe – Alimentaria – attract powerful investors to the region, confirming it as a vibrant hub for manufacturing and innovation.

Much like Catalonia, the Basque Country is a very different entity from the rest of Spain, both culturally and economically. The number of technical clusters in an area the size of Scotland is truly impressive, with the main priorities being renewable energy, advanced engineering, life sciences and ICT.

Strong Spanish growth estimates are just one of the many indicators that the struggling Eurozone state is finally stepping away from the recession. However, it’s not quite time to “para baillar la bamba,” just yet. Now is the moment for strategic investments and innovative solutions – a time to seize growth opportunities and leave the recession behind.


Automation survey results announced.

09/09/2014
Professionals express positive outlook for automation in Ireland now and in the future!

The Automation Market Survey,organised by Irish company SimoTechnology, specialists Manufacturing Information Systems for regulated industries such as life sciences and food & beverage, has been published. The survey ran from 10th June through 5th August 2014 and Pat Desmond, Managing Director, expressed himself satisfied with the number of responses received.

Request your copy!

    Request your copy!

The survey incorporates a wide representation among the automation community of practice, primarily in Ireland, with participation from a good variety of employers, employees, and contractors at different levels across the main industry sectors.

“Significantly, the survey results would indicate an overall positive outlook in the industry at present with industry professionals and engineers expecting this outlook to continue for the foreseeable future or to improve further,” says Pat Desmond.

Among the results of note are:

  • Job security or prospects are reported as improved among Staff (46.15%) and Contractors (46.15%) and Employers/Owners/Directors (53.33%).
  • Job satisfaction is reported as generally high with 74.36% of Staff and 69.23% of Contractors being Satisfied with their current roles
  • For those considering a move the key motivators are
      - Contractors: Remuneration and Location
      - Senior Mangers: Career Progression and Remuneration
      - Staff: Job Security, Location and Career/Technical
  • The Most Challenging Aspects of working in the automation field are reported as Excessive Workload/Unrealistic Demands by 60.26% of Staff and 46.15% of Contractors. Among Employers/Owner/Directors Travel Away From Home is reported as the most challenging aspect of their roles by 46.15% of respondents.
  • In the technical skills required in the industry the areas of most shortage are reported as Process Automation, Data Historian/Reporting and MES with long delays (1-4 months) in sourcing candidates or no suitable candidates being reported by some Employers/Owner/Directors in these fields.

Request your own copy of the Automation Market Survey 2014


Demand for valves to soar as political and economic conditions stabilise in emerging economies!

08/09/2014
Emerging Regions Prove Increasingly Profitable for the Industrial Valves and Actuators Market

The increase in oil exploration activities, investments in new refineries, and modernisation of existing facilities will spur the uptake of valves and actuators, particularly in emerging markets such as Africa and Latin America. Demand from the offshore oil and gas industry in Latin America, in particular, is expected to fuel the valves and actuators market. In addition to the demand from the emerging economies, control valve manufacturers will find growth opportunities in North America and Europe due to end-user preference for greater process automation.

1024px-ValveNew analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of the Global Industrial Valves and Actuators Market, finds that the market earned revenues of €14.86 billion (US$19.51 billion) in 2013 and estimates this to reach €19.76 billion (US$25.95 billion) in 2018. The study covers the oil and gas, power generation, chemical processing, mining and metallurgy, and water and wastewater end-user industries.

“The water and wastewater industry will offer significant growth potential for valve and actuator manufacturers in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation and Process Control Research Analyst Niranjan Paul. “Due to the burgeoning population and rapid urbanisation in these regions, water scarcity and the need to provide purified and portable water for human consumption have led to the setting up of desalination plants, boosting the use of valves and actuators.”

Despite this demand, valve and actuator manufacturers are likely to witness a loss of potential revenues due to the political situation in countries such as Iran, Sudan and Syria. In addition, the global financial downturn has compelled end users to defer projects and focus on the maintenance of existing equipment rather than the purchase of new valves and actuators.

The adoption of aggressive pricing strategies in Asia-Pacific too will reduce the sale of new valves. Vendors must enhance their aftermarket capability to sustain profits as well as meet wide-ranging consumer requirements.

“Valve and actuator manufacturers need to invest in R&D to deliver a comprehensive solution complete with wireless monitoring and advanced valve-condition monitoring capabilities,” recommended Paul. “With subsea exploration in Europe and Latin America projected to rise, widening product portfolios to include double-expanding gate valves will help vendors appeal to a larger consumer base in this high-potential market.”


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