#WiFi for La Serenissima! ABB connects Venice!

High-performance wireless broadband solution provides free Internet access in one of the world’s most iconic cities

The high-performance wireless broadband network for the city of Venice (I) has been commissioned by ABB . The network provides free Internet access for residents and businesses and (for a small fee) the 22 million tourists who visit the city every year. The contract was awarded by the Municipality of Venice.

Canalside scene in Venice

Canalside scene in Venice

The Wi-Fi solution comprises a network of fixed and mobile nodes that can handle more than 200 gigabytes of data and 40,000 subscribers a day. It is equipped with 200 wireless mesh routers, that have been supplied by Tropos Networks, a company acquired by ABB in 2011, which now forms a part of ABB’s comprehensive communications offering. The routers are deployed in discrete enclosures that blend aesthetically with the city’s historical architecture.

Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its majestic buildings and narrow winding streets. Built on a group of 118 small islands, the city is separated by canals and linked together by bridges. Venice enjoys an unrivalled reputation as a romantic and beautiful city, which also makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

“Our solution provides reliable high-capacity Wi-Fi access and seamless Internet roaming in the challenging topography of this historic and beautiful city,” said Brice Koch, head of ABB’s Power Systems division . “The technology offers fast and easy deployment and blends well with the environment.”

Among the features that differentiate the solution is its ability to switch automatically between two frequencies (2.4 and 5 gigahertz). This ensures maximum signal strength and continuous connectivity, even in narrow and winding alleys where there is no line of sight. The onboard routers that provide reliable and seamless roaming for users on water buses that traffic the Grand Canal and other waterways of the city are another distinguishing feature. As Venice residents typically travel 30 minutes a day by boat, the ability to access the network is a welcome convenience. Scalability and ease of installation are other benefits offered by the solution.

The Venice Wi-Fi project is part of the ‘Free ItaliaWifi’ initiative, started by Rome, Venice and the island of Sardinia. Its objective is to create a national network of free wireless broadband networks. The initiative currently embraces 41 networks, 2,130 Wi-Fi hotspots and 427,000 members in Italy.

ABB & Zenith join forces for life sciences in China & India

Combined expertise to help customers in China and India meet new industry regulations

ABB and system integrator Zenith Technologies have announced that they will work together to develop and implement automation solutions that will help life science customers in China and India meet new regulatory and product safety requirements.

Headquartered in Cork (IRL), Zenith Technologies is a leading Global Automation and MES Engineering company which focuses exclusively on the life science industry.

ABB will collaborate with Zenith to implement solutions based on ABB’s market leading System 800xA and Freelance automation systems, for the growing life sciences industry in China and India. ABB and Zenith will also deliver solutions that use ABB’s PAT (Process Analytical Technology) and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) technology. Increasing governmental regulations, and new requirements that mandate compliance with Food & Drug Administration (FDA) standards and other food safety regulations have made it imperative for life sciences companies in China and India to be able to accurately track products at all points in the manufacturing process to ensure high quality and safety.

“ABB’s field-proven automation solutions, combined with Zenith’s expertise in implementing systems designed to meet these validation requirements, will help our mutual customers in this region improve their overall process and product quality, and meet current and future regulations,” said Tobias Becker, head of ABB Control Technologies. “Our collective knowledge can help our customers better understand how these requirements impact their manufacturing process and what steps are needed to comply with them.

#EFMExpo – an industrial event in Cork


Instrument Technology exhibit at EFM Exhibition in Cork

It is quite a number of years since the capital of Munster hosted an industrial exhibition so it was a great pleasure to reaquaint ourselves with many old and indeed new friends at the ENFMExpo held in the Silver Springs complex on the 27th and 28th of September.

The Exhibitors!
ABB Limited
ACE Control Systems
ADA Security Systems
ADI Ireland Ltd
Alpha Sign Nameplate & Decal
Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd
Apex Fire Ltd

Bord Gáis Networks
Business Safety
Butler Transtest

Camfil Irl Ltd
Clarke Energy Ireland

Clasit Beecher
Complete Alternative Energy
Cooper Industries
Cross Hire
CSC LTD Chemical Systems
Cylon Active Energy


Edina Ltd
EFT Control Systems
EMC Energy
Eurotech Calibration Services Ltd

Finning (Ireland) Ltd
Firebird Boilers
Focus Hygiene Supplies Limited
Frontline Energy & Environmental

GARO Electric Irl
Gem Utilities
General Electronic Access Ltd
GSH Group Ireland

HSG Zander Ireland Ltd

In’Flector Ireland Ltd
Instrument Technology – ABB
Irish Cooling Towers
Irish Industrial Coatings
Irish Power & Process Ltd

Kellihers Electrical

Moloney & Associates

Newbridge Metal Products Ltd

O Neill Industrial Ltd

Phoenix Contact (Irl) Ltd
powerPerfector Ireland Ltd
Premium Power

Radio & Security Products Ltd
Rittal Ltd
RPS Group

Sartorius Mechatronics Ireland Ltd
Sartorius Stedim Ireland
Screenguard Ltd
Sirus Engineering Systems

Traka KMS Ltd


The event promised the  latest developments in Energy Management, Facilities Management along with Safety Health & Security. It was an opportunity too to meet industry experts at the concurrent seminars discussing the latest ideas, technology and services capable of helping plants to increase efficiency.

Over 60 companies exhibited and some of these provided speakers for the almost 20 different seminar talks given throughout the period of the show.

Of course our principal interest was the area of automation and there were a number of instrument companies and system providers among these. We provide a short impression of some of these here.

Manotherm is a company which hardly needs an introduction in Ireland. They have, since time immemorial it seems, been supplying Irish industry with control and instrumentation products, the basics of all process, manufacturing and construction industry automation requirements. They have been called the Instrumentation Supermarket and many times they have come to the rescue in solving a knotty problem with an instrument, sensor or valve, from their extensive stock.

John Watts

JS Watts of Schubert & Salzer

One of their principals, Schubert & Salzer gave one of the seminars on control valves in reducing energy consumption, handling and maintenace costs. John Watts discussed their GS 3 valve – a handy light and highly accurate valve based on principles discussed many centuries by Leonardo da Vinci. Known as a sliding gate valve, the GS3 seat design features a non turbulent, straight through flow path.  The flow is broken apart into multiple streams creating a reduced field of energy.  The result is greater service life, quieter operation and a control valve that performs at the highest levels possible within extreme conditions.

Instrument Technology, who are now  associates for marketing the line of ABB process instruments, had a large selection of flow, pressure and temperature instruments from this range. They marketed the Fisher & Porter range for many years and after the takeover of F&P by ABB their association with the larger entity is a logical development.

A new company to us was Eurotech Calibration Services (ECSL) where Kevin Davis showed the New Zealand based Temprecord range of temperature mapping and monitoring instrumentation. Aplications included the transportaion of blood for transfusions a truly critical application. This company provides calibration to the pharma, medical device, food and beverage industries as well as to other sectors.

Representing the Yokogawa interest, Irish Power & Process  displayed field instrumentation and calibration equipment. These cover, data acquisition, analytical, pressure, flow, wired and wireless – using ISA 100 standard. This company also represents Fluke test and measurement equipment and Camille Bauer.

Phoenix Contact are leading edge manufacturers of industrial control and automation solutions. They have an enviable reputation in the energy industry as suppliers of terminal blocks, DC UPS and Power Supplies surge protection devices, HMIs, IPCs and Wireless communications.

The very active Ireland Section of the International Society of Automation (ISA) also had a stand under the watchful eye of Douglas Control & Automation’s Declan Lordan.

The event was organised by SDL Exhibitions with their usual flair an  professionalism and hopefully this successful show will see a return of industrial events as the ecnomic situation improves in the years to come.

The busy Manotherm Stand at EFM

Resurrection at conference says Nick Denbow


An about turn as ABB resurrects Symphony, after seven years telling customers to move to 800xA

by Nick Denbow in Industrial Automation Insider May 2011.

A news release from ABB coinciding with their Automation and Power World conference in Orlando last month announced the launch of the ‘ABB Symphony Plus distributed control system’, to be sold by the ABB power generation business. Symphony Plus is described as the latest generation of ABB’s highly successful Symphony family of control systems: these originated from original Elsag Bailey designs, and were superceeded by the 800xA in 2004.

However, the head of the power business, Franz-Joseph Mengede, comments that “With the launch of Symphony Plus, we take the Symphony success story to the next level, ushering in a new era of total plant automation that is simple, scalable, seamless and secure.”  The press release advises that “With more than 6,000 systems installed worldwide, over the past 30 years, Symphony has represented one of the largest installed bases of distributed control systems (DCS) in the world, with many of them operating in the power generation and water sectors.” Key customer benefits are quoted to include improved plant productivity and energy efficiency, as well as enhanced operational security, plant safety, and a lower total cost of ownership” – presumably compared to the Industrial IT System 800xA control system.

The 800xA migration plan


Joe Hogan - The integration of Elsag Bailey and its Symphony products into ABB was not handled well.

The 800xA is currently sold by ABB Instrumentation and Automation, and was launched early in 2004 (INSIDER, February 2004 Page 1). Then, System 800xA was quoted to be designed to allow for implementation with the entire family of ABB control and I/O products, including Symphony and Symphony Harmony, which had emerged from the acquired Elsag Bailey Infi90 system. It was then stated that these systems would have a migration plan, moving customers to the new 800xA by 2010.

The interesting aspect now is that Joe Hogan, ABB Group ceo, conceded that the integration of Elsag Bailey and its Symphony products into ABB was not handled well. Hogan admitted to being stunned by what ABB did to the Elsag-Bailey Harmony and Melody platforms “because we thought we’d have a universal process automation platform that would take care of everything.”

So, said Hogan, ABB came to realize it needed to rescue the Symphony product line and bring it back as an integral piece of the ABB offering. “Now, we’re not looking for another platform. We have enough, and we can apply it to certain markets, and we can optimise what we have. I’m not a ‘grand unification’ theorist about process automation platforms. Nothing can do everything.”

The future for Symphony
Current management has decided that it is time to reinvigorate Symphony, and the first action is to move the team of development people, that presumably still exists as a discrete Elsag-Bailey group within ABB, even after seven years of working to migrate over to 800xA, from process automation to the power group. Then ABB is going to invest in further development of the platform.

The problem for Symphony Plus is that the installed base has been a happy hunting ground for all the normal control system competitors to provide their own products, with well thought out migration strategies and integration offerings for Symphony users, presented for the last seven years. One of the main beneficiaries in this is said to have been the DeltaV automation systems from Emerson.

Emerson may have shown ABB how to handle an acquired specific industry product, in the way that the Ovation power and water targeted control system obtained from Westinghouse has been developed and maintained separately and in parallel with the DeltaV digital automation systems, from the outset.

Converging automation and power

Peter Terwiesch

Also at Automation and Power World, Peter Terwiesch, ABB chief technology officer, repeated the ABB mantra at the press briefing, that “The convergence of automation and power creates more value than each separately. For industry we create energy efficiency and productivity; for utilities, we make a stronger and smarter grid.”  With the Symphony products moving from Automation to Power Divisions, and with the comment that  “We are going to revive and enhance our Symphony system offering so we can produce an integrated and more robust smart grid from producer to consumer”, it would seem that there is a slight divergence developing between some aspects of automation and power at the same time. Maybe this started last year with Freelance, the latest version of the Hartmann & Braun small to medium scale DCS (INSIDER, June 2010 page 11).

So, with Freelance and Symphony now re-emerging from under the 800xA banner, what is the future for some of the other acquired control systems, such as SattLine for the pharmaceutical industry, the Compact 800, a smaller version of 800xA with up to 1000 tags, and the Advant OCS, which was planned to be absorbed into 800xA, but is reported as still being sold?

Humility was the theme
There was much more at Automation and Power World, but the tone was perhaps set by the frequent references to the Baldor acquisition, where Hogan said one key was humbleness. In other words, ABB didn’t come in and tell everyone to change the way they did business, wipe out management and subsume the company’s image. ABB will maintain the brands, and not smother them. Greg Livelli, marketing vp for ABB’s Instrumentation Business Unit, perhaps followed this line in mentioning the many legendary brands contained within his product lines: like Fischer & Porter, Bailey, Taylor, Hartmann & Braun, etc.

This article appears in the May 2011 issue of Industrial Automation Insider by kind permission.

• See also: ABB resurrects Bailey DCS – CEO Joe Hogan admits mistake (Jim Pinto – 20 May 2011)

Automation and power highlighted at conference


Record attendance at ABB conference

Automation & Power World 2011 was held in Orlando,(FL US) in April. This is now an annual event showcasing the products and expertise of the huge multinational group ABB.

ABB Automation & Power World
18-21 April 2011, Orlando, (FL US)

APWorld YouTube and
ABB’s own Blog from the Event: Automation & Power World. Also the ABB YouTube site which includes video snippits from the event!

Show News – produced by Contr0lGlobal
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3Gary Mintchell’s Feed Forward!:
ABB A Technology Company Converging Power and Automation (19 Apl)
Part II (21 Apl)
Further reports from Automation World on #APWorld

Bill Lydon, InTech & Automation.com:
From the Field (May’11)

Nick Denbow, IAI: Resurrection at ABB Conference (May’11)

Though we were not there we were able to follow proceedings somewhat thanks to tweets from the organisers and attendees. We are particularly grateful for the independent contributions from Control’s Walt Boyes and Automation World’s Gary Mintchel and we have included links to their blogs in the box on the right.

Numbers exceeded projected event attendance expectations according to the organisers. The conference attracted a record number of participants for any ABB event, totaling more than 4,200 attendees.

ABB Automation & Power World, #APworld for those on twitter, is a three-day, comprehensive users conference and exhibition that showcases the group’s extensive automation and power offerings and expertise under one roof, “the widest range of technologies from one company at any one conference.”  The 2011 event included more than over 500 hours of workshops, customer case histories, partner presentations, and hands-on training sessions, as well as the massive exhibit hall and unique demonstration areas. Although primarily a North American affair with the increased use of social media platforms more and more people outside of that geographic area are taking an interest in proceedings at this now annual event. We reported last years event also, Power, Energy and er Automation? and there the question among the automation people there was Where is the automation? This question appears not to have been raised this time!

“We are honoured with the continued record breaking attendance of this event, and for the opportunity to host this valuable learning forum for our customers,” said Enrique Santacana, Region Manager for ABB North America and Event Chairman. “The energy, enthusiasm and optimism found throughout the entire conference this year is indicative of improving economic conditions in the industries we serve. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers and partners on how they will benefit going forward from attending this event.”

ABB designed its largest customer event for automation, robotics, industrial power and utility power users in engineering, operations, mill, plant, general management, and executive management in a wide variety of industries. Organised workshops, as well as information networking with their experts, industry experts and end user peers helped attendees share best practices, as well as learn how to reduce costs while improving their productivity and efficiency, be more competitive in today’s challenging economic environment, and build the foundation for future growth and prosperity.

The continued convergence of key market issues, such as the need to improve energy efficiency, optimize all aspects of manufacturing productivity and use of raw materials, and critical issues such as cybersecurity and process safety, have exponentially increased interest for automation and power customers.. ABB’s unique scope of supply and resident expertise addresses the entire spectrum of the energy efficiency and industrial productivity issues, from power generation and distribution to use in production and automation, as well as process reliability, efficiency and safety, and provides customers with the competitive edge they need to succeed today and in the future.

The dates and venue for ABB Automation & Power World 2012 was announced at the conclusion. The event will return to the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, on April 23-26, 2012.

Good results for 2010


The year end results from ABB will be of  interest to automation professionals especially that on “Descrete Motion and Automation” and “Process Automation.” The company has reported strong order growth in the fourth quarter of 2010 and higher revenues driven by strong industrial demand for energy efficiency and improved productivity as well as recovering investments into power infrastructure.

Discrete automation and motion: this division saw an increase in orders during the fourth quarter as industrial customers continued to invest in automation solutions to increase productivity and energy efficiency.The revenue increase was driven primarily by execution of the strong order backlog in the shorter-cycle businesses such as robotics, low-voltage motors and drives.

EBIT (Earnings before interest and taxes) and EBIT margin increased substantially due in part to a return to profitability in robotics, which reported an EBIT loss in the same period last year, mainly due to restructuring-related costs of some $110 million. Successful operational cost reduction measures and footprint changes towards the emerging markets during the year also contributed to the improved earnings.

Orders increased in the fourth quarter as industrial customers continued to invest in automation solutions to increase productivity and energy efficiency. Orders increased in all business units and were particularly strong in robotics and in the mid- to later-cycle businesses, such as power electronics, medium-voltage drives and generators. Orders for low-voltage drives also grew strongly. Regionally, orders grew at a strong double-digit pace in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Orders in China were up more than 40 percent compared to the same quarter in 2009.

Process Automation: Growth in large orders continued in the fourth quarter, especially in minerals, marine and oil, gas and petrochemicals, reflecting ongoing investments in the energy and commodity sectors. Orders for products such as turbochargers and measurement products also grew. Lifecycle services – including installation and commissioning, spare parts, retrofit and replacement and training – saw higher orders, driven by oil, gas and petrochemicals, metals, and pulp and paper.

Regionally, order growth was strong in South America – led by minerals investments in Chile and Peru – and Asia, where demand increased from the minerals sector in China and the marine sector in South Korea. Orders were also up at a double-digit pace in Europe and North America.

The revenue increase was driven by stronger product volumes and lifecycle services, as well as the ongoing execution of projects from the order backlog, especially in the oil, gas and petrochemicals and pulp and paper businesses.

Higher EBIT and EBIT margin reflect the successful implementation of cost reduction measures and the higher share of revenues from product and service sales compared to the same quarter a year earlier. Included in fourth quarter EBIT is approximately $30 million in restructuring-related costs compared to some $80 million in the same quarter of 2009.

“We are satisfied with the 2010 results as ABB is today in a stronger position than before the financial crisis,” said Chief Executive Officer Joe Hogan on the full results. “Demand from industry and utility clients for short-cycle products gained momentum, contributing to the fastest base order growth in the past two years. Revenue growth accelerated compared to the third quarter, driven by strong industrial demand for energy efficiency and higher productivity. We achieved profitability well within our target range by leveraging our lower cost base. That allowed us to benefit from the ongoing recovery in automation and to successfully counter demand and price weakness in our longer-cycle businesses.

“The proposed dividend increase shows our confidence in the business. We see plenty of growth opportunities as we head into 2011 in both the short-term industry-driven businesses as well as later in the year when we expect utility spending on power equipment to begin a recovery,” Hogan said. “Long term trends for increased energy efficiency and flexible, more reliable power infrastructure remain very strong. ABB will seize these opportunities with a leaner cost base, an enhanced product portfolio and a more customer-focused organization.”

Where’s the automation?


ABB’s Houston party may have invited the automation community . . . but in the event it was all about power

By Andrew Bond (Industrial Automation Insider)

The ABB Automation and Power World event, held in Houston (TX US) from May 18th to 20th, gave an impressive display of the total ABB capability: it was the second time that ABB had joined Automation and Power together, presented as a complete complementary product package. The event was impressive, in logistics and size, with around 4500 delegates from 40 countries, listening to a selection of 500 hours of seminars and workshops, plus visiting the 100,000 sq ft of product exhibition area. Attendance at the main public days from customers and press was up 35% on last year: these three days were sandwiched between two busy weekends of ABB sales conferences and meetings, also covering the 800 staff from their distributors and sales partners, so a lot of leverage was added on top of the customer event. From the 1500 ABB staff present in Houston, the most regular comment – even from the power side – was that they had never realized just quite what a broad range of products was indeed available from ABB – but this was always made with a nod towards the power transmission products. (See also our blog Power, Energy and er Automation? last May)

What about Automation?

Peter Terwiesch - more power for major population centres

Well the word is right in there, in the title of the event. This was right where it stayed, in the ABB Automation and Power World Daily Blog from Malcolm Shearmur, from ABB’s corporate communications. Shearmur says he is “particularly interested in the energy challenges facing the world in the 21st century”. Rather than a total blanking of automation news he did include two relevant paragraphs at the end of one report, on a presentation by Peter Terwiesch, ABB’s chief technology officer, mentioning the trend towards wireless measurement: obviously automation is not Shearmur’s main interest. The major topic of Terwiesch’s excellent, and balanced, presentation was the world need to deliver more power to the major population centres, while reducing emissions and using additions from renewable sources, such as hydropower. High Voltage Direct Current transmission (HVDC) is offering the technology to transmit huge amounts of power, over long distances, and not just for power links to offshore platforms. For example ABB is helping to build the 200km 800kV o v e r h e a d transmission line from the Xiangjiaba hydro power plant, in southwest China, over to Shanghai, to deliver 6400MW of power (which is almost as much as used by Switzerland, admits Shearmur).

This project exceeds previous technology levels, providing twice the power rating and using a 33 percent higher voltage than all existing installations. ABB has invested in the new equipment development, manufacturing and testing facilities to enable this new technology to be used commercially. This ABB equipment has been under successful test operation at 850kV DC since 2006, at the STRI Laboratory in Sweden. US Investment in HVDC ABB see this as an area of major opportunity: Enrique Santacana, head of ABB in the US and North America, announced at a press briefing in Houston that they plan to invest about $90m to build a new highvoltage cable factory, in the USA. This is to meet the strong growth in demand for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) applications, in overlay grids being developed to complement the AC grids in use in Europe and the USA.

The Terwiesch presentation did pay particular attention to the convergence and commonalities between power and automation systems. Back in 2004, ANSI, IEC and the main vendors adopted an Ethernet-based global standard for communications and system architecture in substation automation and power distribution systems, providing interoperability between intelligent electrical devices (unfortunately given the acronym “IED”), engineering tools and a flexible and open architecture. And so IEC allocated the next number in their standards list, and called it IEC61850, uniquely – so that industries will not be confused with other standards, for example the functional safety standard, which is of course IEC61508.

Having developed the electrical interfaces to substations and switchgear to IEC61850, an interface module built for the AC800M controller allows the standard System 800xA to provide operator control of process electrification, substation automation and power management. ABB reports the supply of over 800 substation automation projects based on IEC61850. More important is that the same 800xA system can use another standard interface module in the AC800M to communicate with instrumentation fieldbus networks, and provide process control as well. One common 800xA-based operations console can deal with both power and process control, and plant events from either side are recorded on one centralized historian and archive, which also helps track event causality, being on one timeframe.

Twenty projects to date
ABB has combined process and power control systems in this way on over 20 projects to date, primarily in oil and gas plants, but also in mining and minerals, as well as power generation plants. Although overall a small number so far, there was a considerable geographical bias towards such projects in Brazil and South America – coincidentally, the next Automation and Power World event is scheduled for a location in Brazil, in August.
Johan Hansson, the manager of the Control Systems Electrical Integration Centre of Excellence in Sweden, explained some of the advantages of combined control systems in oil and gas plants, where the integral power management system initiates load shedding according to an operator managed priority table, in less than 100msec, whereas previously the selection was hard wired, and much slower. Petrobras have not yet established operational cost savings, but already have saved 20% on training costs by combining the process and power systems: in Petrobras the protection and control relays are a mixture of ABB and Schweitzer IEDs, all to IEC61850.

. . . And so to Instrumentation
ABB in total spends $1bn annually on R&D, employing 6000 scientists. Terwiesch mentioned their recent development of an optical calliper for measurements in the paper industry, monitoring web thicknesses equivalent to 1/ 50th of a human hair, at 60mph. They are also working on energy scavenging techniques for powering wireless enabled sensors, using energy sources such as vibration, solar power, fluid flow, and temperature differences. The major instrument product launch announcements at Houston centred on wireless sensors, with the main product being the loop-powered FieldKey WirelessHART upgrade adapter, which mounts into any available cable gland on an existing HART instrument. As such it follows the same principle as the Emerson THUM adapter (INSIDER, December 2009, page 2 and also Conquering Complexity on this blog) but claims a “small footprint” as it is indeed a smaller package and antenna than the Emerson unit. ABB see the FieldKey as providing the capability to unlock the stranded information held within the 90% of the 3 million HART instruments already installed, whose systems cannot access their intelligence. The data can be accessed, and the devices remotely configured (if needed) using asset management software in 800xA, or with an Asset Vision Professional standalone product. The FieldKey adapters form a self building mesh network, and working to WirelessHART standard specifications can be accessed via any WirelessHART Gateway: ABB demonstrated their system with a new Pepperl+Fuchs gateway, which is shortly to become available. FieldKey is currently submitted for hazardous area approvals, and ABB are still interested in further field testing, for example in European sites.

FieldKey is a basic building block for ABB to incorporate WirelessHART connectivity in various new product developments: so also presented in Houston was an ABB pressure transmitter that has been adapted to become a wire-less transmitter, by incorporating the radio board and a 5 year life battery within the normal transmitter housing, plus a FieldKey antenna mounted in one of the standard conduit connections.

Vibration sensor?

Such battery-powered wireless transmitters are likely to be developed as needed: an example occasionally on display, but mostly kept under wraps, was from the oil and gas development group. This was a prototype of a battery powered vibration monitor, presumably an accelerometer rather than an acoustic emission sensor, built into a housing no bigger than a standard FieldKey. However, the main emphasis of corporate research appears to be focused onto alternative power scavenging techniques to power such wireless sensors, using heat, vibration, solar or process flow energy. Obviously this vibration sensor is work in progress, but judging by the size of the Perpetuum Free Standing (vibration energy) Harvester (68Ø and 63H, delivering 4mA at 5V), launched in May and to be on-show at the Sensors Expo in Illinois in June, ABB will find it difficult to incorporate vibration energy scavenging into the current package size.

Energy scavenging using Peltier techniques was the example featured in a demonstration sensor for temperature monitoring, explained further by Philipp Nenninger from the corporate research labs in Karlsruhe (D). Previously shown at the Hanover Fair this year, a temperature difference of 30K between the process fluid and the electronics housing can create the power to drive the temperature monitoring circuit, and the WirelessHART data transmission. Included within the housing is a standard non-rechargeable battery, which allows the sensor to continue functioning and transmitting data even as the process goes into shutdown, when the temperature difference might drop below the 30 degrees required. While process requirements for this type of specification are difficult to postulate,Nenninger quoted some keen interest in certain applications. Slowly beginning to think like ABB, the deduction is that the planned applications have to be in temperature monitoring of power transformers, or other power industry duties where wired connections are not possible.

Five year average age
Greg Livelli, US Marketing Manager for Instrumentation, presented a review of the total ABB offering, from pressure transmitters right through to sophisticated spectrometers and ion analysers. Several common themes emerged in the product design concepts, which have been rolled out as a result of the continuous investment and development effort, which will result in the average product age being reduced to five years by 2011. The programming format across all microprocessor instrumentation uses the same style, and the operator keypad follows the principles of the mobile phone, resulting in a common and intuitive look and feel, reducing the need for extensive reading of new manuals for each different instrument: learn one and the rest follow. Equally all diagnostics follow the NAMUR NE107 format, whether on a flue gas analyser or a magnetic flowmeter. Significantly most of the more unusual instrumentation from ABB is dedicated to power industry applications, whether these are for trace iron, aluminium, silica or manganese in boiler feed-water, or for SF6 gas emissions monitoring from HV switchgear.

System 800xA
Roy Tanner, global marketing manager for System 800xA, explained the reasoning behind the recent developments to be launched in Version 5.1 of System 800xA in June. “The System 800xA is designed to meet the challenges produced by the emerging trends in the process industries, such as consolidation of control rooms, intelligent field devices, monitoring and reducing energy consumption and unplanned shutdowns. We need to finally end the ‘islands of automation’ and provide information access for all disciplines. You need more than a DCS. The combined automation and power projects we’re doing have seriously increased the number of I/O and tags required.”

So Version 5.1 will run on Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server, with double the present system capacity, and introduces the new AC800M PM891 field controller with twice the performance, eight times the memory and three times the clock speed of the PM866 version. Advanced alarm management systems will hide alarms to stop alarm overloads: new Alarm Analysis functions are natively accessible to operators based on Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics. A new “Point of Control” feature in this release allows an operator in a remote location to request permission to control an area or unit from the responsible operator. Once approved, operation is transferred to the requesting operator and captured in the audit trail: any system alarms occurring in that transferred unit are only flagged up to the remote operator. “We now have interfaces for Profinet, DeviceNet via Ethernet IP and WirelessHART. Our Foundation fieldbus interfaces also support EDDL, and we have connectivity to all ABB legacy systems, and to Provox and TDC3000 systems, that act just like a natural part of the 800xA system” said Tanner. Since introducing System 800xA, ABB now claim to have sold over 5750 systems, with 37,500 AC800M controllers and over 24,500 operator workplaces.

Tanner also mentioned the 800xA safety architecture, with the TÜV-approved logical separation of functions between safety and control qualified up to SIL3 (INSIDER April 2010 page 7). Kristian Olsson of the Process Automation Safety Center of Excellence in Norway explains that he has the ideal situation of the SIL3 approval of 800xA and 19 Safety Execution Centres (ie engineering centres capable of delivery and implementation of safety system projects in accordance with international industry standards). In April the centres in Beijing, Shanghai (CN), Bangalore (IND) and Buenos Aires (ARG) were reported as gaining TÜV certification, joining Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Singapore in the ABB listing: ten further centres are in the process of applying for the certification, including those in Canada, the USA, Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea. With more experience and engineering resources available than any other supplier, Olsson is looking to expand this activity into other markets and critical safety areas, maybe even as far as machinery safety systems, he suggested.

The ABB Low Voltage Products Group, exhibiting a few feet away from the System 800xA presentations, was the source of one of the A+P World acquisition announcements, confirming the February acquisition of Jokab Safety International AB, a supplier of innovative products and solutions for machine safety, with 120 employees worldwide, 50 in the USA. We’ve clearly reached that point in the economic cycle where those who’ve survived and have the cash are in a position to make significant acquisitions, though nobody seems prepared as yet to go for the big one. Nevertheless ABB is deploying another $1bn of that fabled cash mountain to buy Atlanta, (GA US) based energy network management software provider Ventyx from venture capitalist Vista Equity Partners. ABB is paying approximately four times Ventyx’s annual revenues of $250m for the company whose portfolio includes solutions for asset management, mobile workforce management, energy trading and risk management, energy operations, energy analytics and planning and forecasting of electricity demand including renewables. ABB CEO Joe Hogan described Ventyx as “a cashgenerating acquisition in an exciting growth market.”

Meanwhile, ABB Process Automation has added Louisiana-based K-Tek, a manufacturer of liquid level detection and measurement systems, to their Measurement Products Business Unit. Veli-Matti Reinikkala, head of the Process Automation division, commented that “K-Tek is well established, particularly in the oil and gas industry, which is a growth area for ABB”. K-Tek is quoted as being recognized as a global leader in magnetic level gauges, magnetostrictive level transmitters and laser level transmitters, with sales of $50 million and 250 employees.

This article appeared in the June 2010 issue of IAI


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