Enabling simple electronic marshalling of pneumatic systems.


The ASCO Numatics 580 CHARMs node enables simple Electronic Marshalling of pneumatic systems

Pneumatic systems are an essential part of many process plants, in industries such as chemical, life science and food & beverage, particularly those where ancillary machines are used. Although an essential part of the process, these machines are often stand-alone and are not connected back to the process control architecture. This could mean that should there be a problem with the machine’s pneumatic systems, it may not be communicated back to the control system, therefore leading to a breakdown of the machine. The plant may then continue to produce products that cannot go on for further processing or packaging.

Current architecture
Process control systems are normally able to accommodate pneumatics systems through the implementation of an additional fieldbus network, such as PROFIBUS-DP® or Modbus® TCP. However, this approach adds complexity through additional configuration and data mapping, and whilst supplementary diagnostics is possible, a second programming environment, with its associated costs, is not desirable and may not easily support communication and power redundancy.

In 2016 Emerson introduced electronic marshalling for pneumatic systems. This solution enables users to easily integrate the ASCO Numatics 580 Series valve islands, with Emerson’s DeltaV control system for a complete Emerson Automation I/O and pneumatics system solution for process plants.

What is Electronic Marshalling?
Control engineers and project managers working on continuous or batch-oriented processing plants will be familiar with the problems associated with commissioning I/O in distributed control systems. The traditional method involves field device connection through multi-cored cabling, wired to terminal blocks in control cabinets, with each connection then manually cross-marshalled to its appropriate I/O card. As system complexity increases and the number of connections accumulates – inevitable I/O changes abound – thus, difficulties arise in keeping track of each and every physical connection in the marshalling panel. Every change adds cost, delays, and most importantly risk to the project. Adding redundancy causes even more headaches. Furthermore, future maintenance and system modification is often made difficult with staff changes and system unfamiliarity, which can adversely affect down-time.

Whilst manual marshalling is still considered adequate for small projects, large-scale batch and continuous processes in areas such as chemical, pharma, and food manufacture – where lost production can result in truly excessive costs – increasingly turns to more risk averse and reliable process system design strategies.

Electronic Marshalling does away with the manual and labour-intensive practise of cross marshalling. The cables from the field are still wired in to the marshalling cabinet, but from there on in the connections to the controllers are handled electronically. It is now possible to map each I/O channel to any controller. Emerson manage this mapping with their CHARMs (CHARacterisation Modules). These are essentially analogue to digital conversion cards that may be characterised to perform any signal function (AI, AO, DI, DO, RTD etc.). They are ‘clicked’ on to CHARM I/O Cards (CIOC), which are in-turn mounted on DIN rail terminal blocks where field wiring is arranged; the field device is identified and the appropriate CHARM card is set up and Electronically Marshalled through a hidden digital bus to ANY controller in the system. Fully redundant power and communications connection is included, and autosensing each I/O channel means that identification, configuration, diagnostics and design changes are easily carried out by the DCS.

The technology provides many benefits, from the first design stages, to commissioning, and through the lifetime of processing oriented manufacture. As digital or analogue I/O of any type can be bound to specific controllers at any stage in the project without manual rewiring, hardware and design costs can be more predictable from the outset. Design changes – adding new I/O or changing I/O types – can be catered for without intensive labour and disruptive re-wiring costs. Projects become easier to scale, safety is assured. Configuration and diagnostics are taken care of by a single integrated software platform – Emerson’s DeltaV Explorer. Importantly the Total Cost of Ownership is significantly reduced, measured by increased operational certainty, process reliability and increased machine availability.

Integrating pneumatic valve islands into automation systems with CHARM technology.
The 580 Series CHARMs allows control engineers and project managers working on continuous and batch-oriented manufacturing projects a straightforward, cost saving and fast-track approach to the integration of pneumatic systems within the process control environment. The node facilitates single connection from the field to Emerson’s DeltaV™ DCS offering Electronic Marshalling, native configuration and diagnostics plus built-in redundancy – for a truly integrated system architecture.

•Download Whitepaper – 580 Charm

With the introduction of ASCO Numatics’ 580 CHARMs node, pneumatic systems’ integration with Electronic Marshalling is made possible within a single network platform – a one package and one supplier solution – for the first time. The 580 CHARMs node directly links to the DeltaV system via the CHARM baseplate and natively combines autosensing and Electronic Marshalling through redundant power and communication connection, harnessing the full native diagnostic capabilities of the DeltaV. From the DCS, each pilot valve is managed in exactly the same way as the other system I/O. The DCS can identify and marshal all the pneumatic connections through a single redundant connection with up to 48 valve solenoid outputs connected to each CHARM node.

The 580 CHARMs node interfaces with ASCO Numatics 500 Series valve islands. These high performance, “plug-in” directional control valves feature the highest flow capability for their product size, helping to keep machine footprints compact and lowering system costs, whilst a comprehensive range of accessories and options makes for easy installation, configuration and modification.

The cost and time benefits of simplified machine architecture
When compared to a manually, cross-marshalled, process manufacturing system for batch and continuous production scenarios, the benefits of a CHARMs technology based solution with Electronic Marshalling are apparent and compelling. When pneumatics require integration, and the solution is compared with the introduction of a fieldbus such as PROFIBUS-DP®, the benefits are even more convincing with the easy-to-use, task-based engineering environment that the DeltaV offers.

The elimination of a secondary network allows substantial savings in components, associated I/O, wiring, and commissioning time. The Emerson single network solution means single point responsibility for products, documentation and support, with savings for personnel, programming resources and system training. Reduced component count and direct connection equals a reduced risk of system failure. Design changes throughout project development and future troubleshooting is made easier with embedded intelligent control with autosensing and plain message workstation diagnostics. Shutdown time is significantly reduced thanks to integral diagnostics directly on the valve island or displayed on the DeltaV systems workstation. Reliable redundant connection ensures safety and reduces maintenance down time. Further compelling benefits include flexibility in process control thanks to every CHARM I/O from voltage and current sensors to alarms and pilot valves sharing the same DeltaV Explorer configuration, and being available in the ‘cloud’ to any controller in the network.

These factors combine for a tightly integrated solution for I/O and pneumatic valve islands that delivers more complete project and operational certainty, comprehensive control optimisation and processing reliability.


“Were you made for me?” – Choosing the right connector spec.


Connectors come in all shapes and sizes depending on environment and application. There are literally thousands of options, sometimes for the same job. Inevitably, this can cause a lot of confusion. To make sure you find the best product for every job, there are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before making a purchase. Here Amy Wells, business development manager at Electroustic poses the questions you need to be asking when specifying a connector.

ELE060First things first, size matters. Do you know the physical size of the connector you need, or are you limited in space and height by the job? Hundreds of connectors are used in wire looms; perhaps even thousands if these are part of an automated manufacturing line. In each case, the requisite space needs to be analysed and the correct connector specifications chosen. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often people come a cropper. 

The next question you need to be asking yourself is how many poles the connector needs.

Different applications require connectors with different poles. Future-proofing your choice can be a good idea, especially for a new product. So it’s worth considering whether you should go for more poles than originally required.

Do you know how many mating cycles the connector needs be able to make? Despite what you might think, mating cycles refer to the number of connection or disconnection operations the connector can withstand, while still meeting the specifications for maximum resistance and pull force. Every connector has an expected number of cycles before efficiency is compromised and the connector needs replacing.

This brings us nicely onto the proper protection. Connectors may be susceptible to ingress of foreign materials, such as moisture or dust. Connector protection is provided by the housing and the seal. The IP standard rating system defines the degree of protection provided. The first digit defines the protection against the ingress of dust particles; the second digit defines the protection against the ingress of water. Choosing the right connector for the job is key.

One of the most important factors is knowing what applications and environment a connector will be operating in – we can’t stress that enough. Electromagnetic radiation can interfere with electrical equipment. In applications where electromagnetic radiation is likely to be higher than usual or where operations are critical, connectors need to have electromagnetic fields (EMF) shielding.

Similarly, connectors used in explosive environments must be ATEX certified and components used in military applications need to have Mil-Spec to ensure the highest levels of performance. 

Furthermore, connectors in particularly harsh environments – like those in the oil and gas industry – need to be up for the job at hand. Knowing the minimum and maximum operating temperature is essential for specifying a rugged connector that meets the temperature range set by the application.

It’s not just the connector’s specs you have to be aware of when planning a job. Lead times from manufacturer to supplier can be lengthy, running from anywhere between four to sixteen weeks. It’s no good specifying a part that has a typical 16 week lead time if it will hold up the production process. To combat this potential issue, a good distributor will always hold a substantial amount of stock on the shelf.

Speaking of distributors, they will also be able to advise you on cost effectiveness.  When crafting wire looms, connectors are ordered in bulk, with the resultant savings passed on to the customer. However, if you need just one connector – perhaps if it’s a specialist part – you won’t be quite as lucky. A good working relationship with an experienced distributor can result in alternatives being sourced for a fraction of the price.  

Finally, as any lifestyle magazine will tell you, compatibility is paramount. If you’re retrofitting new connectors to old or simply mating two together in a loom, they need to be intermateable. If not, you risk damage to the system and or data/power loss.