World’s first LiFi enabled light bar!

21/09/2017
Mainstream adoption of LiFi will be available within LED light bars which will replace the most widely utilized light source in the world – fluorescent tubes.

The introduction of the first LED “light bar” is forecasted to replace the most conventional form of lighting within commercial and industrial facilities: fluorescent tubes; with an estimated 3-4 billion installed throughout the world.

pureLiFi and Linmore LED will demonstrate this new technology at LuxLive from the 15-16th of November 2017 (London GB) as part of their LiFi experience zone.

WiFi versus LiFi

Wireless connectivity is evolving. The spectrum now has to accommodate more mobile users and is forecasted to increase to 20 Billion devices (forming the IoT) by the year 2020 which will result in what is known as the Spectrum Crunch. However, LiFi can open up 1000 times more spectrum for wireless communications to combat this phenomenon.  LiFi is a transformative technology changing the way we connect to the Internet by using the same light we use to illuminate our offices, home and streets.

Integration of LiFi within LED strip lights will drive mass adoption, enabling LiFi to easily move into full-scale implementation within offices, schools, warehouses and anywhere illumination is required.

Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi says: “This partnership marks a step change for LiFi adoption. We can now offer new solutions that will help industry, future proof their spaces, devices and technology to ensure they are ready to cope with the increased demand for highspeed, secure and mobile wireless communications.”

LiFi utilizes LED lights that illuminate both our workspace and homes to transmit high-speed, bi-directional, secure and fully networked wireless internet.

What is LiFi
LiFi is high speed bi-directional networked and mobile communication of data using light. LiFi comprises of multiple light bulbs that form a wireless network, offering a substantially similar user experience to Wi-Fi except using the light spectrum.

Lighting manufacturers are important players in the adoption of LiFi technology. Linmore LED has built its reputation in the retrofit market, and they ensure their portfolio of LED products perform in the top 1% for energy efficiency in the industry.

Retrofit fixtures are in great demand as many facilities seek to drive down energy costs by as much as 70-80% which can be achieved by converting to LED technology. This trend is also driven by the increased operating life that LEDs provide and the concerns of toxic mercury utilized within fluorescent lamps that complicates disposal. This provides a scenario where building owners and facility managers can adopt LiFi technology while dramatically decreasing lighting-related energy costs at the same time.

Paul Chamberlain, CEO of Linmore LED says: “Utilizing an existing part of a building’s infrastructure – lighting – opens up endless possibilities for many other technologies to have a deployment backbone.  Internet of Things (IoT), RFID, product and people movement systems, facility maintenance, and a host of other technologies are taken to the next level with LiFi available throughout a facility.”

John Gilmore, Linmore’s VP of Sales talks about early adopters of the technology: “We’re very excited to be aligning ourselves with pure LiFi. We firmly believe the US Government will be an early adopter of this technology. Our position on GSA schedule will help buyers be able to easily access the technology.”

LiFi offers lighting innovators the opportunity to enter new markets and drive completely new sources of revenue by providing wireless communications systems. LiFi is a game changer not only for the communications industry but also for the lighting industry, and with LiFi, Linmore certainly has a brighter future. 

@purelifi #Pauto @LinmoreLED ‏#bes
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Cybersecurity at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

08/02/2017
Ray Dooley, Product Manager Industrial Control at Schneider Electric Ireland examines the importance of maintaining security as we progress through Industry 4.o.
Ray Dooley, Schneider Electric Ireland

Ray Dooley, Schneider Electric Ireland

A technical evolution has taken place, which has made cyber threats more potent than at any other time in our history. As businesses seek to embrace Industry 4.0, cybersecurity protection must be a top priority for Industrial Control Systems (ICS). These attacks are financially crippling, reduce production and business innovation, and cost lives.

In years gone by, legacy ICS were developed with proprietary technology and were isolated from the outside world, so physical perimeter security was deemed adequate and cyber security was not relevant. However, today the rise of digital manufacturing means many control systems use open or standardised technologies to both reduce costs and improve performance, employing direct communications between control and business systems. Companies must now be proactive to secure their systems online as well as offline.

This exposes vulnerabilities previously thought to affect only office and business computers, so cyber attacks now come from both inside and outside of the industrial control system network. The problem here is that a successful cyber attack on the ICS domain can have a fundamentally more severe impact than a similar incident in the IT domain.

The proliferation of cyber threats has prompted asset owners in industrial environments to search for security solutions that can protect their assets and prevent potentially significant monetary loss and brand erosion. While some industries, such as financial services, have made progress in minimising the risk of cyber attacks, the barriers to improving cybersecurity remain high. More open and collaborative networks have made systems more vulnerable to attack. Furthermore, end user awareness and appreciation of the level of risk is inadequate across most industries outside critical infrastructure environments.

Uncertainty in the regulatory landscape also remains a significant restraint. With the increased use of commercial off-the-shelf IT solutions in industrial environments, control system availability is vulnerable to malware targeted at commercial systems. Inadequate expertise in industrial IT networks is a sector-wide challenge. Against this backdrop, organisations need to partner with a solutions provider who understands the unique characteristics and challenges of the industrial environment and is committed to security.

Assess the risks
A Defence-in-Depth approach is recommended. This starts with risk assessment – the process of analysing and documenting the environment and related systems to identify, and prioritise potential threats. The assessment examines the possible threats from internal sources, such as disgruntled employees and contractors and external sources such as hackers and vandals. It also examines the potential threats to continuity of operation and assesses the value and vulnerability of assets such as proprietary recipes and other intellectual properties, processes, and financial data. Organisations can use the outcome of this assessment to prioritise cybersecurity resource investments.

Develop a security plan
Existing security products and technologies can only go part way to securing an automation solution. They must be deployed in conjunction with a security plan. A well designed security plan coupled with diligent maintenance and oversight is essential to securing modern automation systems and networks. As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, users should continuously reassess their security policies and revisit the defence-in-depth approach to mitigate against any future attacks. Cyber attacks on critical manufacturers in the US alone have increased by 20 per cent, so it’s imperative that security plans are up to date.

Upskilling the workforce
There are increasingly fewer skilled operators in today’s plants, as the older, expert workforce moves into retirement. So the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents a golden opportunity for manufacturing to bridge the gap and bolster the workforce, putting real-time status and diagnostic information at their disposal. At the same time, however, this workforce needs to be raised with the cybersecurity know-how to cope with modern threats.

In this regard, training is crucial to any defence-in-depth campaign and the development of a security conscious culture. There are two phases to such a programme: raising general awareness of policy and procedure, and job-specific classes. Both should be ongoing with update sessions given regularly, only then will employees and organisations see the benefit.

Global industry is well on the road to a game-changing Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is not some hyped up notion years away from reality. It’s already here and has its origins in technologies and functionalities developed by visionary automation suppliers more than 15 years ago. Improvements in efficiency and profitability, increased innovation, and better management of safety, performance and environmental impact are just some of the benefits of an Internet of Things-enabled industrial environment. However, without an effective cybersecurity programme at its heart, ICS professionals will not be able to take advantage of the new technologies at their disposal for fear of the next breach.

@SchneiderElec #Pauto #Industrie40


Complacency significantly raises risk of damaging cyberattack worldwide!

19/12/2014
Inadequate training and a culture of complacency among many owners and operators of critical infrastructure are significantly raising the risks of highly damaging cyberattack throughout the world.

That’s the viewpoint expressed by Steve Mustard, an industrial cybersecurity subject-matter expert of the International Society of Automation (ISA),  an European registered Eur Ing and a British registered Chartered Engineer and consultant with extensive development and management experience in real-time embedded equipment and automation systems.

Mustard, fresh off a trip to the Caribbean where he delivered a presentation on industrial cybersecurity to industry officials in petroleum and petrochemical operations, says that despite greater overall awareness of the need for improved industrial cybersecurity, not nearly enough is being done to implement basic cybersecurity measures and reinforce them through adequate staff training and changes in corporate culture.

cybersecurity“Everywhere I go I see the same issues, so this is not so much a company-by-company issue as it is an ‘industry culture’ issue,” maintains Mustard, an ISA99 Security Standards Committee member and an important contributor to the development of the ISA99/IEC 62443 industrial cybersecurity standards. “So much work has been done in the IT world on security that many believe they have mitigated the risks.

“For example, most security experts at the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) meetings on the US Cybersecurity Framework could not understand why we were still discussing the most basic security controls, but yet a visit to almost any critical infrastructure facility will reveal that while there may be established policies and procedures in place, they are not properly embedded into training and the operational culture. Too many owner/operators I meet believe that because they have not seen a cybersecurity-based incident themselves that it will never happen. This sort of complacency is why there will be a major incident.”

He points to the steady flow of cyberattacks on industrial automation control systems (IACS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks being tracked by the Repository of Industrial Security Incidents (RISI).

“There have been many incidents in the past 10-15 years that can be traced back to insufficient cybersecurity measures,” he says. “There are many every year, most of which escape public notice. In fact, it’s widely believed that there are many more that are never reported,” he discloses. “The RISI analysis shows time and again that these incidents are generally the result of the same basic cybersecurity control failures. It is often only the presence of external failsafe and protection mechanisms that these incidents do not lead to more catastrophic consequences. Many use these protection mechanisms to argue that the concern over the consequences of cyberattack is exaggerated, and yet incidents such as Deepwater Horizon should teach us that these protection mechanisms can and do fail.”

Emphasis on security seldom matches emphasis on safety; security influenced by significant reliance on third-party workers
While the need for safety is well understood in facilities such as offshore drilling rigs, attention to security is often minimal.

“This is partly because these facilities are usually so remote (i.e. 50 miles offshore) and/or appear to be secure (It’s not possible to just walk into an offshore or onshore facility without having the appropriate clearance.) and also because there is little or no experience of cybersecurity-related incidents, whereas there is usually some direct or anecdotal experience of safety-related incidents.

“Another issue is the very significant reliance on third parties to install and support IACS equipment,” Mustard continues. “This creates two issues—in-house staff often lack complete understanding of the equipment needed to provide reliable on-site support and there is a continuous flow of third-party staff in facilities. Although security is generally tight in these facilities, there is a lot of reliance on third parties to ensure their own contract staff are correctly vetted, and yet third parties may not be as thorough as owners and operators.

“Furthermore, third-party employees will have their own computers and removable media. The owner/operator may rely on the third party to scan their devices for malware before they are connected to the IACS equipment, but there is no guarantee that this is the case.”

USB flash drives and other USB devices continue to pose serious cybersecurity threats
“Use of USB devices still remains one of the most common ways an industrial control network can be infected. There are a number of factors at play. Many, or even most, IACS equipment runs without anti-virus software. Rarely, is the equipment ‘security hardened’ and very often default accounts and passwords are either hardcoded or not removed/changed before go-live.

“In addition, the operating systems and applications are often not patched at all or if they are, they are not patched regularly. This creates a whole host of vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malware. While most standards recommend the elimination of USB removable media devices and that all ports be locked down, this is rarely the case. Since machines are usually not connected to the Internet, removable media is often the only way to transfer files. And while IT policies might enforce virus scanning of such devices before and after use, this often does not get enforced in IACS environments.

thumbI heard recently anecdotally that a major oil and gas company detected the Stuxnet virus on its networks, and was found to have originated from an infected USB drive. This company has relatively good cybersecurity controls in place so you can imagine how easily this can happen in other organizations that have not yet grasped the importance of cybersecurity.”


Process optimisation by Real-Time Control!

23/08/2014
Major installation at English sewage treatment works.

Wessex Water, an English water authority,  is investing around £20m at its Taunton sewage treatment works to improve the facilities for wastewater and sludge treatment in a project that is due for completion by the end of March 2015. The upgrade to the works under the DWF (Dry Weather Flow) Improvements Scheme will increase the site’s treatment capacity whilst also improving the efficiency and quality of the treatment process, lowering energy costs and reducing the site’s carbon footprint.

Prior to the implementation of the DWF Scheme, the STW was comprised of an inlet pumping station and balance tank, coarse and fine screens, grit removal (detritor), primary settlement tanks, a conventional ASP & biological filter beds, final & humus tanks and final effluent lagoons. The construction work involves the creation of a new four-lane ASP to replace the existing 16 biological filters. To facilitate this, one of the lagoons and four of the filters are being taken out of service to create space for the new works, and this has allowed all development to remain within the existing site boundaries enabling most works to be constructed under permitted development rights.

tauntonProcess optimisation of the new ASP stage will be achieved through implementation of Hach Lange’s Real-Time Control (RTC) system, which monitors influent ammonium concentration and dissolved oxygen concentrations along the aeration lanes, providing more efficient control of the fine bubble diffused aeration. The measurement of other quality parameters in the process train provides feedback to the RTC. A reduction of up to 15% energy usage is anticipated as a result.

Balfour Beatty has provided the civil works and Nomenca Ltd is responsible for the supply, installation, commissioning, and performance testing of the mechanical and electrical components of the new works. Contracts Manager Trevor Farrow says, “Nomenca’s reputation is built on a track record of successfully delivered projects, and the relationships that we develop with both clients and suppliers are key to this success. We have already worked with Hach Lange’s instrumentation on a wide variety of projects, so we are confident that this project will be a further success.”

As Project Manager for Wessex Water, Garry Orford says: “The drivers for this works upgrade include an increased treatment capacity requirement and a tightening of the consent, taking in to account longer-term requirements that may be implemented in AMP6. We have already implemented Hach Lange’s RTC process optimisation systems at our Holdenhurst plant – 175,000 PE – near Bournemouth, and this has delivered energy savings of around 25% so we are confident that we can repeat this success at Taunton – 85,000 PE.”

taunton2Following completion of the new works, the site will meet the following consent conditions:

  • Dry Weather Flow (DWF)   30,595 m3/d
  • Sanitary parameters BOD:SS:AmmN 15:30:3 mg/l

In addition to the upgrade of the sewage treatment facilities, a third anaerobic digester (AD) is also being built at the Taunton works. “This will increase our capacity to generate renewable energy and further reduce our electricity bill,” according to Garry Orford. “The power generation of the AD plants is fairly stable, but the energy demand of the treatment plant varies according to the load, so there will be occasions where we can sell energy back to the grid, and others where we will continue to have a power requirement. It is essential therefore that we use this power as efficiently as possible.” 

Real-Time Control in industrial processes is commonplace. However, wastewater monitoring represents a greater challenge because of its physical and chemical variability. Historically, wastewater monitoring technology was prone to drift (especially galvanic dissolved oxygen monitors) and required a high level of maintenance, so RTC was not feasible. However, the latest sensors offer much higher levels of reliability than was possible in the past, with substantially lower levels of maintenance and recalibration. This has been a major factor in enabling the development of RTC in wastewater treatment. In addition, many of the latest sensors provide a ‘health status’ output in addition to the readings. As a result, if any problems arise they can be quickly remedied, and control systems can ignore data from sensors that are not performing to their target specification.

Monitoring technology
The capital outlay for the addition of RTC to a treatment plant is relatively small; the most significant extra cost is the requirement for extra sensors plus the RTC unit. The Taunton build includes the installation of the latest sensors for dissolved oxygen, ammonium and turbidity, controlled by an sc1000 network, providing reliable data on the influent, and from within the treatment process.

IMG_0056The LDO sc dissolved oxygen sensor employs an optical luminescence method for calibration-free and drift-free measurements. Once the construction work is complete there will be four new lanes, each with three zones, so a total of 12 LDO probes will monitor dissolved oxygen.

In addition, two SOLITAX ts line dip probes will measure Mixed Liquor Suspended Solids (MLSS) content in the aeration lanes and the solids content of the Returned Activated Sludge. The RTC at Taunton will also control sludge retention time, which enhances plant efficiency. The suspended solids probes employ a patented dual scattered light method with a built-in wiper, to provide colour-independent measurement of solids without a requirement for calibration. Ammonium measurements will be undertaken at both the entrance and exit of the aeration lanes with two AMTAX sc instruments; high-precision analysers that continuously collect samples via an air-bubble cleaned filter probe. The ammonium analysers will be mounted directly over the filters to minimise the distance travelled by samples.

Real-Time Control
The Hach Lange RTC is implemented on an industrial PC which communicates with an sc controller network and the local PLC. The RTC system determines the most efficient aeration level and continuously feeds DO set points to the PLC which controls the blowers. This means that under RTC, DO set points are no longer ‘fixed’, instead they ‘float’ according to the load. The RTC modules continuously deliver set points to the PLC, which applies them to the process. This ensures that response to changing conditions is immediate. The algorithms employed by the N-RTC (Nitrification Real Time Controller) are mainly based on the Activated Sludge Models of the International Water Association.

The N-RTC also constantly reads the NH4-N concentration at the outlet of the aeration lane. This value provides a feedback control loop and ensures that the DO concentration is fine tuned to achieve the desired ammonium set point at the end of the ASP. In this way, the N-RTC control module combines the advantages of feed forward and feedback control, which are (1) rapid response, (2) set point accuracy and (3) robust compliance.

Aeration to achieve the biological oxidation of ammoniacal compounds to nitrate is the most energy intensive process at activated sludge plants because blower power consumption can represent over 50% of total costs at some plants. However, in addition to the advantages of the process optimisation system, four new Sulzer high speed HST-20 turbo-compressors are being installed by Nomenca, following trials on similar units by Wessex Water. These machines employ a control system that manages both the number of blowers to run, and the speed of the blowers, which will further improve energy efficiency.

Summarising, Garry Orford says: “Wessex Water has an ambitious long-term objective of carbon neutrality, and these improvement works projects provide us with useful opportunities to make a significant contribution to that goal.”


Walt!

26/11/2013

The automation world was a bit stunned to read the following tweet from major automation pundit and personality Walt Boyes: “I will be leaving Putman and Control magazine to return to Spitzers & Boyes. My last day will be December 13.”  He made the same announcement on his face book page! Later he amended it “Oops, now it seems I will be leaving Putman November 30, not December 13.”

Walt

Of course we don’t know the full story nor I suppose should we pry too much. Indeed one of the responses to the news on social media says “Realising there is untold backstory here, I hope this turns out as a super good thing for you!” Suffice it to say that nearly all print publications, especially, those in dedicated or dare I say, niche, markets are struggling to find a position in a world dominated by electronic communication. How they react is perhaps a measure of their understanding of their audience.

Walt_Boyes

Another scoop!

Control Magazine, like all automation periodicals has shrunk somewhat in size although, under Walt’s editorship through its internet presence, ControlGlobal it has managed to reach audiences far beyond the shores of North America. Another comment hearing the news, “It will be Control Global’s loss and Spitzer & Boyes gain! If I remember….they didn’t have an on-line magazine until you took over as editor. You and your connections brought them world-wide exposure.” Probably true but in fact an on-line presence would have happened whether Walt was there or not. It is valid however, to surmise that it would not be as effective as it is without his lively input!

Walt, needs little introduction in the area of automation. This writer has known him since the eighties at least and indeed maybe further back through his involvement as a leader in the International Society of Automation. His authoritative presence in the ISA Publications Department, including as Publications VP, was an inspiration to many. When he was appointed as Editor in Chief of Control Magazine his ethical side came to the fore and he disengaged immediately from involvement in any ISA activities which could have been seen as compromising to the society’s interest. This was not universally recognised and led to some estrangement from some members especially in the early days. However thankfully the Society has recognised his expertise and dedication when he was created a Fellow some years ago. He continues to support ISA in those areas where there is no clash of interests and indeed at the ISA Automation Week earlier this month was presented with another award by the Management Division recognising his “special contributions,” to that division.

He is a man who calls a spade a spade. Sometimes people might think him to be too forthcoming in his opinions but what no one can deny is his sense of devotion to what he sees and understands as the truth. One might say that in automation terms his motto might be “Fiat justitia ruat caelum!” His robust interventions in the wireless standard debates are a case in point.  His well named “Sound-Off Blog” is a never to be missed yet at times very personal  commentary on the automation sector. It is to be hoped that Putman sees fit to leave these postings on the control website rather than remove all trace of his prodigious input.

His venture with David Spitzer in Spitzer & Boyes, is another useful resource and David’s monthly e-zine is a welcome delivery in many automation mailboxes advice and explanations of the various technologies. This is a consultancy providing flow and level measurement engineering, market research, and related consulting services to instrumentation users, manufacturers, and representatives on a worldwide basis. We look forward to Walt’s & David’s strengthening of this input into our discipline. “You have an amazing ability to improve things wherever you may be. Best of luck with this, and all your endeavours.” says another on hearing the news!

We mentioned previously that we have known Walt for many years. A very human being who has had his share of sadness especially when his wife of many years died suddenly a few years ago. He has recently found happiness with a lady called Joy (in name and in nature!) and indeed we in Read-out cherish their visit to us in Ireland during his honeymoon in the Summer. All his many friends were delighted that in Joy he has again found a soul-mate.

Hopefully in this development automation professionals throughout the world will be able to continue to benefit from Walt’s unique expertise and opinions for many years into the future.

Reading this it looks like an obituary but of course it isn’t thank God. It is however an opportunity for this writer at least to express appreciation and perhaps gratitude for a contribution to the world of automation that is the life to date of Walt Boyes!

Good luck Walt, and every good wish for success in this new phase of your life.

news-flashWalt is Sounding Off again! (10 Dec 2013)

Automation preventing nuclear disasters

26/08/2013

Thoughts of an automation thought leader stimulated by the events at the Fukushima nuclear power station in the wake of the tsunami in 2011.

Bela Lipták is one of those people who may without doubt be called an automation leader such as mentioned in Nick Denbow’s recent article, Who are the Automation Thought Leaders?

Lipták, a patriotic Hungarian by birth, has done much to pass on his considerable knowledge to the next generation of automation professionals. He is a worthy recipient of the ISA’s Life Achievement Award  for his history of dedication to the instrumentation, systems, and automation community as evidenced by his teachings, writings, and inventions. He has published over 200 technical articles and has written 34 technical books, including four editions of the multi-volume Instrument Engineer’s Handbook.

He has published a series of articles through the years on the role of automation and more specifically how its correct application might have have prevented some of the sometimes fatal and always catastrophic nuclear disasters that have occurred down the years. Events such as that at Three Mile Island (USA) in 1979 or in Chernobyl (Former USSR) in 1986.

Of course the most recent such incident is the Fukushima Power Station irrepairably damaged after the major earthquake and subsequent tsunami in North East Japan. All these studies have been published in Control Global, or its sister publication and normally we would just put a link on our news pages (and indeed may have in some cases at the time of publication). This time we are using this method because he has published several articles at different times continuing his thoughts on this major and still alarming disaster.

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident – Part 1 (15/4/2011) Béla Lipták talks about the safety processes used at the plant.

Preventing Nuclear Accidents by Automation – Part 2 (5/7/2011) Bela Liptak here discusses the design and control errors at Fukushima, because they still exist in many american boiling-water reactors (BWR) and must be corrected.

How Automation Can Prevent Nuclear Accidents-Part 3 (31/8/2011) Watch out for outdated and/or unreliable instruments. These can cause major disasters.

In Automation Could Have Saved Fukushima (Part 1), (15/3/2013) Liptak says that if the Fukushima level detectors had operated correctly, the hydrogen explosions would have been prevented.

Automation Could Have Prevented Fukushima, (Part 2) (30/4/2013) discusses automatic vs. manual operation of the emergency cooling systems, and the roles the bad designs of control and block valves played in this nuclear accident.

He promises some further articles and we hope to put links here to those as they appear.

 


Three men in a boat! Industrial computors as HMI for giant ship engines!

13/04/2012
Quality requirements drive MAN Diesel & Turbo

A large proportion of all ships plying the oceans are propelled by MAN Diesel & Turbo. With around 12,500 employees, the company is the leading supplier of two- and four-stroke engines for maritime use and for installation in power stations, for example.

In recent years, demand for electronically controlled B&W two-stroke diesels has risen sharply. Advanced control systems that manage fuel injection and compression contribute to better fuel economy and reduced emissions.

Special requirements at sea
With the progressive tightening of environmental requirements, ship owners are also increasingly interested in installing electronic control in existing vessels. As a bonus, modern control systems also facilitate operation and maintenance by the crew, including lubrication of the engines.
At sea, reliability takes the highest priority. Downtime costs big money. To prevent and avoid problems, the engine control system consists entirely of carefully selected, high-quality electronic components such as computers. Vital functions are also duplicated.

Since the summer of 2011, robust industrial computers from Beijer Electronics have been used in the onboard systems. In the first six months or so since deliveries started, around 150 computers from the EPC series have been commissioned, “Without a single complaint,” stresses Kennet Palm, Head of Hardware Development at MAN Diesel & Turbo, who is responsible for all the hardware used in the control electronics.

Industrial computers for tough jobs
These EPC boxes are specially designed and made for maximum reliability in the most demanding environments. Private PC buyers are mainly concerned with performance and low price. The occasional ‘blue screen’ may be irritating, but it is not a major problem. It is quite different at sea – particularly on a big tanker or freighter hundreds or even thousands of miles from port.
When MAN Diesel & Turbo chooses components for its electronic control systems, reliability combined with a long service life is crucial. “We build engines with a lifetime of 30 years, which have to work day in, day out in a tough maritime environment with all that this implies in terms of heat, humidity and vibration,” explains Palm, emphasising that factors like purchase cost and warranties are not irrelevant either.

A secure supply of products and spare parts, with ‘just in time’ delivery, is just as high on the list as quality, “to guarantee the supply of components, we made a decision at the group level to have two, or preferably three, alternative sources for every key product that we need.” Kennet Palm and his colleagues leave no stone unturned in their constant efforts to identify the best and most reliable products on the market. They search the world for computers, screens and other hardware for the control system.

Thomas Lehnemann, Kennet Palm and Niels Torres Engel at MAN Diesel & Turbo put reliability at the top of their list. “A ‘blue screen’ at sea simply isn’t an option”

Tests leave nothing to chance
The adoption of Beijer Electronics as one of very few PC suppliers to MAN Diesel & Turbo has been a lengthy process. The EPC boxes have been tested, methodically and very thoroughly, over a long period.

Niels Torres Engel and Thomas Lehnemann, who are responsible for research and reliability, leave nothing to chance. For their rigorous testing, they have a small ‘torture chamber’ at their disposal in the company’s Research and Development division. “Among the formal requirements, the products have to be type-approved by the leading maritime classification associations,” says Niels Torres Engel, explaining that, after the preliminary screening, the different computers are installed in test beds to confirm their compatibility, performance and quality.

Ready for a harsh environment
In the engine room of a ship, it can get really hot. That is why checks are made to ensure that the computers will still work in 70-degree Celsius temperatures. The EPC boxes from Beijer Electronics met this challenge – as well as the vibration and humidity tests. “By ‘stressing’ the products, we pick up any faults that might not show up at first.” Thomas Lehnemann stresses the importance of ensuring that manufacturers do not make any sudden design modifications. Even minor changes to components can affect the programs running in the computer. “We perform constant spot-checks to ensure that the equipment supplied is up to the mark, and we are in constant contact with our partners.”

Responsive collaboration
The partnership with Beijer Electronics is described as personal, relaxed and good. As Kennet Palm says, if communication with the suppliers isn’t working, it doesn’t matter how good the products are:
“We feel that our wishes are listened to and we get all the help we need” and Niels Torres Engel readily agrees. He freely admits that MAN Diesel & Turbo could be described as a ‘difficult’ customer:
“Although we’re not buying vast quantities of industrial computers, we are extremely fussy about the quality of what we get. Not just that the collaboration works well; it also saves time because all EPC boxes are supplied pre-configured.”

Customised solution
The computers supplied are ready to use right out of the box. The operating system and the relevant drivers and programs are already installed by Beijer Electronics before delivery.

This close dialogue has brought improvements in the onboard systems, which also increases safety. If a control computer should fail – against all the odds – the crew on board can re-install the operating system and programs. This backup copy used to be held on a CD, but unfortunately the mechanisms in the CD drives could not always cope with the vibration they were exposed to. The EPC boxes introduced the idea of restoring from a USB stick, a much more robust solution.
“It is a pleasure to work with suppliers who suggest ideas that provide value and inspiration,” they conclude

The technology in brief
The Beijer Electronics EPC box is a robust, maintenance-free and well-protected industrial computer for tough environments. In purely technical terms, it is built around Intel processors with Windows XP Embedded. Fanless processors keep the temperature down and reduce wear. The industrial computer is IP20-rated according to DIN EN 60529. Plenty of connections make for great flexibility. Parallel and serial ports are standard, along with USB 2.0 sockets and 100 Mbps Ethernet. MAN Diesel & Turbo has chosen flash disk for data storage. The alternative is a traditional vibration-tolerant hard disk. Beijer Electronics’ EPC series is certified by the ABS (American Bureau of Shipping), Bureau Veritas, DNV, Germanischer Lloyd, Lloyd’s Register and the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.

A mechanical giant
All development, both electronic and mechanical, of MAN Diesel & Turbo’s two-stroke engines is carried out in Denmark. Although some special parts are still made in Denmark, the engines are now built under license in countries like Korea and China by partner companies such as Hyundai Heavy Industries – physically close to the shipbuilding yards that buy the engines.

The electronic control systems manage enormous forces. The engines may output up to 115,000 horsepower and weigh up to 2,000 tons. The cylinders, between six and fourteen in number, have a stroke length of almost five meters. A mechanical efficiency of over 50 percent – the best cars achieve 25 percent – makes for high energy efficiency.

It is no accident that MAN Diesel & Turbo uses industrial computers from Beijer Electronics as human machine interface (HMI) for the company’s giant B&W engines. The choice was based on a very thorough evaluation and negotiation process, in which suppliers from all over the world were compared against each other. On board ships, reliability is absolutely crucial, so all components in the redundant control system have to be of the highest quality.