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

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.


Marie Green of Beijer Electronics discusses  possibilities in HMI development using MS .NET technology

How can .NET Framework technology create new opportunities and conditions for the operator systems of the future? And how can HMI developers and users win by choosing a standardized development environment for keeping up with rapid technological development?

Software development in HMI is a costly affair. Historically, many HMI suppliers have made major investments both in man-years and money to build up their software programs. The result is locked technological frameworks based on decisions made long ago.

Future HMI development is moving towards a new approach. By choosing an open development environment such as .NET Framework from the start, you can quickly implement a well-established and modern platform with proven stability. At the same time you can utilize a wide range of tools and functions that enable you to customize HMI solutions and make them more efficient.

Established technologies in interaction
The resources behind .NET Framework are substantial because the framework is a part of the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is highly probable that an application based on Microsoft’s framework can guarantee innovative and stable HMI solutions with a long future horizon. Another clear advantage is that you can benefit from technologies that accompany .NET Framework. The framework is extensive. Some examples of technologies that create prerequisites in the world of HMI in particular are WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), Ribbon (the toolbar field in standard Windows programs) and the opportunities for scripting in C#.

Generation shift within automation
Another new approach within HMI goes hand and hand with an automation market that is facing a generation shift. A new well-educated generation of developers is entering the industry and they are demanding more advanced and open tools. End-users and the operators on industrial shop floors have grown up with computers, smartphones and modern graphical user interfaces. Expectations for intuitive graphical operator interfaces without manuals are growing at the same rate. For a number of years, Apple and Google’s Android for example, have set a new standard for user-friendliness and graphics, and this will eventually require a response from the industry.

Augmented graphics and media components
One way to successfully meet this development is to utilize WPF, Microsoft’s graphics engine that is included in .NET Framework. Among the advantages are the user gaining access to vector-based graphics with zooming that does not degrade image quality, and that design can be separated from coding through XAML. This provides – besides capabilities for fantastic graphics – a tool for creating HMI objects that can be effectively harmonized with the end-user’s brand name.

Importing objects designed in MS Expression Design for example, opens the door for being able to immediately implement 3D graphics and effects such as transparency, shading, animation, storyboards and multimedia. The programmer creates the logic, the designer handles the appearance and XAML handles the interaction between them. Through WPF, the user gains access to a modern graphics engine on which to build future HMI functionality.

Another important technology in .NET Framework is access to Windows media objects, which opens the way to media components such as Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and PDF readers.

Creating a custom HMI
With present developments in the market, it is becoming increasingly important for machine manufactures and suppliers of HMI solutions to be able to add their own touch and consequently make the HMI solutions their own to differentiate them from those of the competitors. This can apply to functionality, but even to design. In a time when hardware is becoming increasingly similar, the matter of how the user can customize and work with HMI software is becoming more and more relevant.
Access to finished .NET components provides a unique opportunity to customize applications. The most common are the graphics components, where the functions are encapsulated in graphics objects (such as buttons or diagrams). Components are created with a development tool in a high-level language. They can later be locked and consequently safeguarded against copying. You can choose yourself whether to develop a .NET component or utilize third-party components that are already available at online component stores, ready to download and install.

There are a number of companies that develop components for .NET Framework. The opportunities of this development in HMI are very interesting. As an example, through .NET components you could contribute with special knowledge within various industries – such as oil and gas, building automation, water and wastewater – and consequently make it easier for customers to optimize their HMI solutions.

The scripting language is also important for an HMI solution. Historically, different manufacturers have had different dialects of standard languages. In .NET Framework, C# is one of the standard languages. In practice this means more freedom for the developer, who can make use of all functionality in the language instead of selected parts.
Through scripting, you can create your own functions in an application and in this way create the functionality that is not already included in the HMI development tool. You can also call various components.

Integrated systems in automation are what it is all about today – supplier-locked systems belongs to the past. A trend in the market is that standard platforms are preferred so that different system suppliers can communicate. Open systems and technologies are thus necessary in the future. Another trend is that HMI developers are increasingly demanding tools to customize solutions so as to strengthen competitiveness. The high demands on graphics and user-friendliness are driving a rapidly developing consumer market.

#SPS 2012: Successful if not quite hitting secure note!


“Arriving at #SPS/IPC/DRIVES. Looking forward to a great show”

Busy entrance area! (IE Book)

This was one of the first tweets we saw on this, possibly the biggest automation exhibition in the world this year. The SPS/IPC/Drives show is held annually in the Northern Bavarian city of Nuremberg. This year the dates were the 27 to 29th of November, As last year we were unable to make it this time, however there were some excellent reports which we have used (and linked to) in compiling this brief impression.

As might be expected the automation industry presented its capabilities in full force at the exhibition. There was a record number of 1.429 exhibitors which attracted more visitors than in the past, as 56.321 trade visitors filled the 12 halls to gather information about the latest products and solutions in electric automation. Well may it be said that SPS IPC Drives 2011 set a clearly positive sign for the future despite the gale-force winds blowing in financial circles for the last three years.

The conference which took place in parallel to the exhibition also recorded an increase this year with an attendance of 349 delegates. For three days the conference provided a platform for intensive discussions between product developers, suppliers and users. The opportunities for users to exchange information and knowledge were at the heart of the newly introduced user sessions.

Attendance: 2011 (2010)
Exhibitors: 1,429 (1,323)
Visitors: 56,321 (52.028)
Conference delegates: 349 (302))

Like a lot of European events there was not a small number of tweets from various sources and in various languages, but those that did tweet helped form an impression of how things were. One of the most prolific of these was Leo Ploner of the IE Book who gave us a sort of running commentary on his day interspersed with twitpics of stands and products which impressed him. This comprehensive collection of pictures have been added to the IE Book Facebook Page and we recommend that you pay a visit and see who you know and what products impressed him. “#SPS/IPC/Drives very busy on the first day of the show. Big crowds at all the stand” he reported after day one.

Put on those cans!
Also present on the first day was Control’s Walt Boyes, who gave up his Thanksgiving to be in Europe for the show. This is an interesting account in that it gives an American take on how things are done in Europe, simultaneous translations and the non-English keyboards (Now he knows how Europeans might feel in the U.S!)

Gary Mintchel of Automation World also found himself in Nuremberg during this week. His blog, Feed Forward,  provides us with “a roundup of various announcements that I gathered during my sprint around the halls and press conferences.” He managed to squeeze in a visit to the Siemens plant in Amberg on the day before the show opened!

The Control Engineering Europe team attended the show in force, collecting a great deal of feature ideas, as well as details about some of the most innovative launches at the show. They promise that further details of the most exciting product launches from the event will be presented in the February issue of the magazine.

ARC Reports
ARC Advisory also discuss day one in an article by Florian Gueldnerwhich looks at the Automation Outlook for 2012.  He bases this report on that of the ZVEI, as well as companies interviewed at the event. Their David Humphrey reports on The big trends in a further report on day two.

A busy corner at the show!

Come hither!
Of course exhibitors tweeted on their own stands and new products. Heading the posse was Siemens, who were on their home ground and virtually occupied one complete hall (There were twelve halls in all!). They mounted an impressive press conference on the first day. Their “big” announcement was the naming of their full motor range, now called “Simotics”. They also introduced some extensions to their TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) portal. Jochun Koch’s blog features some video presentations with English voice-over – Automation and IT (their Scalance range) – take a look and remember to click for the English translation if needed!

Phoenix Contact have a video tour of their stand – as it was being set-up – which they entitle “Solutions for the future – Phoenix Contact.” There are in fact a number of other videos from Phoenix Contact on theie YouTube site. Their final tweet from the show as they rolled up the tent was, “What innovation! More than 3,000 visitors @ Phoenix Contact.”

The Pilz Stand!

Also using video to press their message is Beckhoff who have produced reports for each day. This is Day One.  They exhibited their complete range of PC- and EtherCAT-based control technology and a large number of new products in all technological areas (IPC, I/O, Automation and Motion). The focus was on their new generation of controllers from the CX2000 series, the new proprietary-developed AM8000 servomotors and the release of the TwinCAT 3 software.

News of PROFINET and PROFIBUS at SPS/IPC/Drives is trickling out  said Carl Henning of his ProfiBlog reports.

Suzanne Gill of Control Engineering Europe reports here on some of the latest innovations that were introduced, which evidenced consumer technology moving into the industrial space and multi product combinations continuing to gain momentum.

We give some more releases from exhibitors on our Conf/Exhibitors pages.

Eric & Joann Byres at the show!

No security!
Another American braving the Bavarian winter was Eric Byres of Byres Technology, recently acquired by Belden (see our article Major acquisition strengthens war on Stuxnet and other malware Sept20’11). It is I suppose unusual that a supplier reports on an exhibition so his viewpoint is welcome. Obviously he has a certain slant on things viewing the exhibits from the security standpoint. He advises that SCADA Security Solutions were scarce at show. “What concerned me was the lack of booth space dedicated to security of any type. Of the 1,429 exhibitors, only 16 reported supplying ‘Industrial security’ technologies or services according to the show guide. This is a hopelessly small number.” He was proud to report however that their “Tofino Security technology accounted for nearly 25% of that total!” More alarmingly he reports that many vendors stated that security wasn’t a concern for them, while users were very concerned and indeed did not quite know what to do about it! Not a pretty picture! He concludes “If the automation world is going to adopt industrial Ethernet with such enthusiasm (which I support), it might want to consider securing it too!”

We referred to the excellent tweeting by Leo Ploner of the IE Book earlier and his very comprehensive report Industrial networking still looking good  tells in great detail what he saw as he moved through the halls. We’ve referred to their pictures above and here is a video which he took of an exhibit at the Sercos Stand.

Re-inventing the electric guitar

Equipped with an MLP industrial control from Bosch Rexroth, the robot guitar can read and play MIDI files. Bus terminals from Phoenix Contact are used to actuate lifting solenoids. Six to pluck the strings and 24 to operate the finger board. The automation bus from Sercos ensures the optimum operation of all components.

One final tweet from KUHNKE Automation sums up one impression “SPS/IPC/DRIVES was a complete success for us! Thank you for coming and the great constructive high-level talks!”

Next year’s automation filled show is scheduled for  Nov. 27. – 29 2012. Will you be there?

 Releases received at the Read-out Offices!

#SPS11: Cybersecurity, certification, safety & other highlights from Wind River – Wind River made several exciting announcements at this year’s faire. On day one of the event, they announced a strategic partnership with ISaGRAF, headquartered in Canada and part of the Rockwell Automation Company, a global leading automation software partner. Together, Wind … Continue reading →

#SPS11 Test drive industry’s first virtual target for software development on SoC FPGAs – Altera Corporation demonstrated its latest industrial embedded solutions for energy-efficient and safety-integrated drive systems. They highlighted how its Cyclone® series of FPGAs enables integrated, high-performance industrial systems such as drive systems with a high-performance control loop in floating point. Visitors … Continue reading →

#SPS11: Industrial Networking and Motor Control Systems from Xilinx – New capabilities for boosting design productivity and using Spartan-6 FPGAs for better system performance and lower bill-of-materials Xilinx announced new Ethernet protocol support and motor control building blocks for its Industrial Targeted Design Platforms, including new EtherCAT, Ethernet POWERLINK, PROFINET … Continue reading →

#SPS11: Hydrostatic actuation desifn concept from Moog – Reliable hybrid technology used in a new energy-saving solution for a variety of industrial applications Moog Industrial Group featured a prototype for a new Electro Hydrostatic Actuator (EHA). Combining hydraulic and electric technology in a self-contained system, Moog’s innovative EHA … Continue reading →

#SPS11: Minicarrier board! – congatec AG presented the conga-QMCB, a new mini carrier baseboard for space-critical applications based on the Qseven standard. The baseboard is ideal for fast prototype design and compact, mobile applications. Measuring just 145×95 mm, the easy-to-integrate mini carrier board is … Continue reading →

#SPS11: TE Connectivity solutions – TE Connectivity showcases its Hybrid Connectivity Solutions Both the Power4Net and the Motorman hybrid connectors integrate several functions into a single compactly designed connector. The flexible Power4Net hybrid connector has space for up to eight power and four Ethernet contacts … Continue reading →

#SPS11: Siemens extends TIA and unveils Simotics as full motor range – Siemens showcased the latest extension to its TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) Portal and unveiled the new name of its full motor range which will be called “Simotics” from now on. In advancing its automation and drives portfolio, Siemens is placing … Continue reading →

#SPS11 Dynamic reporting in process or energy management – COPA-DATA is to present their zenon Analyzer to the public for the first time COPA-DATA will present its new product for dynamic reporting, the zenon Analyzer, for the first time at the SPS/IPC/DRIVES 2011 trade fair. The software is designed … Continue reading →

#SPS11 Green automation initiative

Industrial communication technology facilitates plant-wide energy management within automation systems. HMS Industrial Networks presented a number of solutions targeting energy management in automation systems. Recent research from the AIDA group of German automobile manufacturers (Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche, VW) and … Continue reading →

SCADA, ICS and HMI vulnarabilities


Last week an Italian researcher, Luigi Auriemma published thirty-four SCADA product vulnerabilities against four SCADA products. “Selling the concept of security for SCADA and ICS might still be struggling, but publishing vulnerabilities for SCADA and ICS equipment seems to be a growth industry.” according to the Eric Byres of Byres Security on their blog The Italian job!, on 23rd March 2011.

Last Friday Joel Langill CSO of blogged on Protecting your ICONICS GENESIS SCADA HMI System from Security Vulnerabilities as they published a white paper providing six actions (also known as compensating controls) that users of ICONICS GENESIS products should take to protect their systems. Operators of other HMI products were advised to consider similar measures.

This morning Byes and Langill have released another White Paper, Analysis of the 7-Technologies IGSS Security Vulnerabilities for Industrial Control System Professionals, that may be important in protecting Industrial Control and SCADA Systems.

This paper analyses the vulnerabilities of the 7-Technologies IGSS SCADA/HMI system published by Auriemma. Moreover they state even if readers do not have this vendor’s products, it may be helpful to review the six Compensating Controls recommended, and apply ones that are relevant for their systems. They say: “Initial analysis seems to indicate that these vulnerabilities only affect IGSS Versions 8 and 9.  This is due primarily to the fact that these vulnerabilities focus on a single IGSSdataServer application that is not believed to have existed in prior versions of the software.  Until the vendor has posted an official response to these vulnerabilities, increased security diligence should be used based on the recommendations provided in this document.”

Due to the sensitive nature of this white paper, Analysis of the 7-Technologies IGSS Security Vulnerabilities for Industrial Control System Professionals, you must be logged in to the site to access it.

See also: SCADA Vulnerabilities for 7-Technologies on the ISS Source website.

Technical Symposium imparts knowledge


I remember well seeing National Instruments’ LabView for the first time. It was in Dublin’s RDS exhibition centre in 1988 and there a keen young American presented this program on one of the original Apple MACs which had automation engineers present salivating with wonder at this oh so simple way of configurating a control loop. It was very “Apple” and therefore very user friendly.

Lots of water has flowed under the proverbial bridge since then, history decided that the Microsoft windows was to be the preeminent platform for control systems and nowadays National Instruments products mostly use this platform. They have lost none of their enthusiasm however and organise events throughout the world to promulgate the good news and educate engineers and technicians on the many techniques and technologies they continue to develop.

Some attendees at NI Symposium in Dublin

This year the Ireland and Britain subsidiary of NI have hosted a series of seminars or “Technical Symposia,” a one-day professional development series for engineers and scientists. These were held in Glasgow, Cambridge, Manchester and the Irish leg was in Dublin. The symposium offered in-depth technical sessions and hands-on training covering the latest in test, control and design. It offered the opportunity to learn about the latest NI software and hardware innovations, “which offer greater flexibility, faster development and increased system performance.”

The full day event was divided into two tracks, a presentation track and a practical or “hands-on” track. The morning and evening sessions were preceeded with keynotes where all delegates were assembled together. In all there were in excess of 60 attendees at the event from all regions of the island.

Presentations for Download!

The first keynote on Harnessing the Cloud: a LabVIEW vision was delivered by John Wooton, National Instruments Area Manager. He gave a very good presentation on what exactly is meant by this fairly new term, the cloud in computing.  Over the lifetime of LabVIEW each new version has provided new features to make users more productive and their test and measurement applications more powerful. With the advent of cloud computing, engineering architectures could soon look very different.

He gave the vision for LabVIEW in this new world and how engineers and scientists could harness the cloud to solve real-world challenges. We have entered the Petabyte age and Labview is in the business of acquiring analysing and finally presentation.

In the first practical session under the direction of Séamus Casserly, District Sales Manager for Ireland confirmed that the LabView concept still intrigues – at least to this correspondant! He outlined briefly the latest trends in development of the product and guided the practical test driving of  PC-based data acquisition systems and helping participants on how to use graphical programming techniques to create modular and flexible applications; measuring temperature with a thermocouple and log the data to a file. These acquisition and signal conditioning products offer highly accurate measurements, combined with LabVIEW they give  the power easily to acquire, analyse and present data in minutes.

Moving into the practical track he later introduced us to the FPGA (Field-programmable Gate Array) concept used by SPINX, CERN and Optmedica for instance. It is an integrated circuit designed to be configured by the customer or designer after manufacturing, in other words it is “field-programmable”. The NI FPGA module opens up this technology to engineers for reconfiguarble input/output (RIO). He discussed LabVIEW FPGA for various pplications and how clients can efficiently develop and evaluate an application with this software. In the hands-on track there wsa the opportunity to explore this practically.

An other area where National Instruments has made advances is in the area of Robotics. In this presentation we gained an insight into the impact that robotics innovation will have in coming years and understand such as the NI CompactRIO. the challenges faced in designing robots to sense, think and act intelligently. This is a priority area for instance in the United States where the government are investing up to $52b in robotics. Areas of greatest use are security, education (maths and science), disability and improving core technologies e.g home use.

The second keynote in the afternoon was a fascination session enthusiastically given by Edin Omerdic of the University of Limerick on Advanced Control Systems for Open Water Autonomous Submarines. This was a fascination insight into practical research applications underwater. This is part of the projects from the Marine Robotics Research centre at UL.

We were unable to attend the further presentations but they are available for download on the National Instruments website here!

These includes RF measurement, using FlexRIO and LabView FPGA for Test Applications and the latest techniques and technologies for data acquisition. The presentation I would have loved to hear was entitled Smart Phones for Smarter DAQ. We probably carry around more computing power in our pockets today than was available on the average desktop 10 years ago. This presentation promised to tell us how to harness the capabilities of iOS, Android and the LabVIEW Web UI Builder to acquire measurement data on a mobile computing platform and share it over the Internet.

The well attended event was a busy no-nonsense symposium with lots of information and knowledge being exchanged.

Growth of the European HMI Market


Frost and Sullivan appear very active these past few days as far as the automation sector is concerned. A few days ago they came out with the Top Ten Energy Trends which included the observation that, amongst the others noted that most energy producers are seeking to “improve their measurement and monitoring network structure by implementing smart technologies.”

Now in a new paper they examine the HMI market in Europe and the opportunites and challenges that is and will present to industry.

Factors such as the need for technically enhanced human machine interface (HMI) in Europe and the availability of growth opportunities in price-sensitive markets such as Eastern Europe will intensify the competition among vendors in the HMI market. Although the financial crisis affected most end-user sectors across the world, the demand for HMI has been sustained through government-aided stimulus packages in key end-user segments. Steady market expansion will derive from end users looking beyond conventional HMI functionalities to more advanced technical features.

Their study Strategic Analysis of the European Human Machine Interface Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $541.9 million in 2009 and estimates this to reach $819.7 million in 2016. The study covers discrete and process industries.

The increasing importance of sophisticated and high-definition displays will support market prospects. The visualisation factor, which communicates the system parameters and displays the execution of the process on a screen, is highly valued by shop floor operators.

“The need for newer and more sophisticated displays is gaining importance,” notes Industry Analyst Sivakumar Narayanaswamy. “The ability of an HMI to fulfill this demand is continuing to drive the growth of the HMI market.”

Increased government spending on infrastructure, including power and water, is also strengthening the market’s growth potential. As an effect of the recession of 2008-2009, governments of developed economies have been aiding investments in infrastructure development, primarily in the power segment and for smart grid projects. This has resulted in a boom in the utilities segment, especially in the use of HMI applications.

A main challenge relates to the fact that end users are looking beyond the conventional functionality of HMI. Currently, customers are not satisfied with the usual features of data monitoring offered by HMI. They want the system to be more intelligent and intuitive.

“Software is the key to intelligent HMI solutions,” states Narayanaswamy.

Additionally, the advent of HMI integrated with video capabilities will enable proactive diagnostics in the event of a fault. HMI vendors need to focus on such intuitive trends to meet customer requirements.

More learned at technology day!


Yokogawa Technology Day in Ireland’s southern capital!

The southern capital of Ireland was the venue for the Yokogawa Technology Day organised by the Irish and European branches of the company and their Irish representative Irish Power and Process. Cork is a beautifully situated city in the valley of the river Lee and this event was held in the Silver Springs conference centre overlooking the river as it meanders to one of the largest natural harbours in Europe if not the world.

This correspondent had not attended a Yokogawa event before and we expected that it would not be that much different from other events of this nature. We found that it was and it wasn’t! Obviously each company has its own culture and way of looking at things and this company is no different. We gained information at the sessions some of which we were expecting and other which was completely new to us. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to go briefly through the programme.

Attendees at the Yokogawa Ireland Technology Day 20th January 2011

Dónal Bourke, the Ireland Sales manager for the company welcomed everyone  and how the day was planned to run. By and large this programme was adhered to. There were about thirty attendees from a wide variety of industries and other establishments.

Session 1: Reducing fuel costs and emissions

Noel Heary of IPP makes adjustments during the TDL Demo

Paul Carrington, their Product Manager Analysis Products discussed reducing fuel costs & emissions in large combustion processes  using their Tunable Diode Laser (TDL). Processes can significantly reduce fuel costs, maintenance costs and the emissions of large scale combustion processes by using measurement techniques that enable enhanced combustion control. In summary it provides precise, fast measurement of simple gaseous molucules. It is non-sampling and low maintenancein in temparatures up to 1500 °C. He completed this presentation with a demonstration of the unit.

Session 2: Managing remote production facilities
The next session had Eduard Van Loenen of the Global SCADA Centre speaking on how new technology developments allow for the demanning of remote production facilities. He focussed on centralised sharing and visualisation of key operational information. The Yokogawa offering is FAST/Tools SCADA, through which a fully Web-based, secure and real-time SCADA management system is now a reality. He described the “Visions – From Transaction to Interaction” breaking it down to two concepts.

Real-Time intervention, where a work team identifies an issue with a production operation and promptly assesses the situation from an operations support center which can be geographically located anywhere. The virtual team makes a decision and then implements it, all within a span of about ten minutes.
The second is Remote Collaboration The situation is similar to the first vision but in this example team members engage via a PDA and through a web-based collaboration network established with an equipment manufacturer.
He concluded with a demonstration showing a simulated control system in the North Sea Oil & Gas fields.

Session 3: Manufacturing execution
This was the area that was new to many of the attendees. We were unaware of the product offering of the company in the area of MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems).  In this session Bill Bambeck, their MES Pre-Sales Consultant (right), showed how implementing value added solution packages to plant control systems can allow users to increase the visability of their process and improve their bottom line. He introduced us to a whole new (for us) range of products produced by Yokogaway Marex on the Isle of Wight (GB). He introduced us to a whole plethera of products under the Exaquantum brand name – plant information management systems. This includes batch, Sequential Event Recording (SER), Movement Monitoring etc. He included an exposé of the RPO (Realtime Production Organiser) the suite of MES packages within the ISA 95 model. Many of the particpants were surprised at the comprehensiveness of the range.

Session 4: Integrated control & safety systems
Speaking on Production Excellence with Integrated Control & Safety System (ICSS) – Centum VP & Prosafe RS, Ged Kelly – Manager Oil & Gas UK and Ireland showcased the latest HMI and Alarm Management updates in the Centum VP DCS platform. The presentation will also illustrate the features and benefits of an integrated DCS and SIS system. He started with a fascinating review of the innovation history of the company from the 1970 introduction of their YODIC600 Direct digital control system to the introduction ProSafe-RS, “a World first DCS-SIS Integrated Safety System,” and on to Centum VP and most recently Field wireless devices for both monitoring and control applications. His presentation presented a full condensation of their offering.

Session 5 : DP flow
We loved the title of this session: DP Flow ‘Alive and Kicking for gas and steam flow measurement.’  In this presentation Simon Hatch, Flow & Transmitters Product Manager,  introduced DPharp sensor technology (DP high accuracy resonance pressure) and a success story with the National Transmission System in Britain as well as  recent developments in diagnostics and digital signals. Like the previous session he started with a historical perspective from analogue DP transmitters up to the Digital transmitters of the nineties and noughties. He explained the philosophy and advantages of the silicon resonant sensor used in the transmitters.

Safety as standard!

The NTS is the system of delivery, or national grid, for natural gas in Britain. Independent evaluation of DP transmitters was completed in 1995 where the EJA transmitter outperformed all other transmitters. Standards developed and improved especially in the area of safety through the years culminating in orders for the current EJX transmitters and stocking of same. This transmitter meets safety standards as standard.

Session 6: ISA 100 Industrial Wireless

For many this was the most interesting part of the evening. Simon Hatch again  was the presenter and he gave  talk on the ISA 100 standard and how it can be used. He gave a useful explanation of the different terms like router or gateway as well as describing how the system worked. He also showed the unique battery pack used with their wireless transmitters.

Later that evening he gave a talk to a well attended Technical Meeting of the Ireland ISA Section where he went into considearbly more detail including an exposé on STAR and MESH topologies, how and where to use them and how effective they are. He also discussed the ISA 100 Wireless Complience Institute (formed in 2009).

The ISA 100 committee was set up in 2005 to establish standards and related information to define procedures for implementing wireless systems in the automation and control environment. He was at pains to point out that it is an end-user driven standard. Although he did refer to the two IEC standards, WirelessHART and a Chinese system he was unwilling to discuss the controversies attached to the approval of these standards and ISA 100.

Both these talks culminated in an impressive demonstration of the wireless transmission from temperature and pressure transmitters.

ISA 100 demonstration at ISA Ireland Technical Meeting

Making decanter centrifuges and other sophisticated equipment easy.


The new iX from Beijer Electronics helps Peter Blomberg and his automation colleagues to create a graphical interface that makes decanter centrifuges and other sophisticated equipment from Alfa Laval as easy to use as today’s mobile phones. The user-friendly interface is appreciated by customers, as well as the new HMI solution saves time and money in installation and service.

Australia – it says on the consignment note of decanter centrifuge just being packed into a large wooden box. High quality is one of the reasons why the machines from Alfa Laval´s production plant in Søborg, (DK), are exported successfully to all over the world.

Peter Blomberg has been three years as automation manager at Alfa Laval. He explains that the company puts a great pride in producing reliable and cost-effective machines with a long life time. The strategy also includes that their machines must be easy to use: ‘The goal is to make our machines just as intuitive to use as today’s personal computers and mobile phones’.

After arrival and installation at the Australian buyer, the decanter is operated from a Beijer Electronics 15-inch touchscreen panel. In order to function even in dusty and damp industrial environments, the panel is fitted with an IP67 seal at the rear.

Simplicity in operation
Simplicity in the operation of machines is both a selling point and a quality issue for Alfa Laval. And the latest tab-based graphical user interface 2Touch, created with the help of the iX Developer, is in perfect line with the fundamental intentions. ‘The idea is that all information should be readily available when it´s needed’.

By pressing a finger at any of the tabs on the screen, the operator open menus to see operational data, adjust parameters, acknowledge logged alarms or maybe change the menu language. Yellow labels for each choice, explain the different hand grips.

On the screen, icons to start, pause and stop, has the same symbolic language as on the DVD player in your living room. A few clicks on the screen are enough to browse through the electronic manual that describes the machine, or to see an instructional video. Alfa Laval is without doubt inspired by more consumer-oriented products and is now in the lead with increased ease of use. Peter Blomberg is clear on why this effort has been made. ‘HMI solutions with different colored push buttons and cryptic text messages on oversized screens belong to yesterday’.

While the simplicity is quite obvious, he is open about the challenges to get this far. The decision to update the automation platform, while creating the new graphical operator environment was taken before the launch of iX – Beijer Electronics’ largest and most ambitious development effort. ‘By starting in an early stage, we have not only gained a unique knowledge, but also a significant advantage over our competitors’.

Already more than fifty models of the new generation of decanters with the new user interface have been delivered to customers globally. Decanter centrifuges are not the only machines equipped with 2Touch: ‘Other types of machines in our three product areas (heat transfer, separation and fluid handling machines) will be upgraded to the new platform’.

Evaluation of more than a dozen different HMI concepts
Although there have been teething problems to overcome, He does not regret that Alfa Laval was early with iX. The decision was well founded. The project began with nine intensive month´s evaluation of more than a dozen different HMI concepts. ‘No other vendor could offer the same features and graphic possibilities within the framework of an open architecture’.

Alfa Laval has customers and employees spread all around the world. Another important issue in the selection was also the fact that Beijer Electronics is a well established and globally active company with a strong focus on technology.

Customizing to Alfa Laval’s visual identity
The development tool iX Developer is a well structured tool for configuration and documentation. Deeper HMI experience is not necessary to create a basic application in the Windows environment – something that actually does not need to take more than a few minutes.

Existing projects can be reused. In addition to this, Beijer Electronics also offers a range of ready-made and tested icons and modules. Companies, unlike for example Alfa Laval, who does not want to create custom icons, can benefit from the comprehensive component library’s standard set. ‘We have put a lot of work to customize the interface to our visual identity’, says Blomberg, ‘who among other things appreciates the vector graphics capability to create crisp, clear images at any magnification’.

In addition to openness and graphics, the flexibility speaks for iX. He notes that the HMI solution works with most control systems. This is unlike the competitors that were evaluated, where the link between HMI and PLC products often were very dense. ‘Although we are currently using controllers from B & R, the flexibility is crucial to us. Customers may have existing control systems or requests for other PLC brands or industrial computers’.

The support for OPC, provide completely freedom to choose communication protocol. This is significant in cases where Alfa Laval’s products are integrated with equipment from other suppliers in the same process line. Switching between different protocols is actually possible in real time.

A technology shift with more advantages
The decanter centrifuges touch panel facilitates not only the operator’s work through improved overview of the process. The technology shift is also an advantage for Alfa Laval’s technicians: ‘End-users are satisfied and at the same time as we obtain simplified installation and maintenance services,” according to Blomberg , “time is money, if a machine fails’.

Today Alfa Laval’s engineers reach all functions and information via the operator panel. It is no longer necessary, as before, to connect a laptop by cable for troubleshooting. Updating a machine’s system software is as easy as to put a memory stick in panel USB connector. The ability to monitor and address the machine or process line remotely via modem is another plus value. ‘With an aesthetically pleasing HMI solution that works today and has a modern feel in the years to come, we have reached our goal’, he summarizes.

Operator panels with 2Touch make even other machines from Alfa Laval easier to manage. In addition to separators and decanters, other products for cooling, heating and fluid handling belongs to the company’s range of bestsellers.

Constant development
Decanter centrifuges consist of a rotating screw conveyor that separates solids from liquids. The basic idea is the same as in Gustaf de Laval’s classic separator which for more than one hundred years ago formed the foundations of the company. Alfa Laval has over the years evolved into a publicly held global company with 11.500 employees, twenty production units and a turnover of around 26 billion SEK.

The decanter is adapted to different process environments by varying the design, height, etc. The difference between a decanter and a separator is the ability to separate out larger particles. Application areas include everything from dewatering of sludge in sewage treatment plants to food and oil production.

RTU products supports remote communication such as IEC60870, IEC61850, SNMP, Modbus.

Wastewater treatment optimisation provides cost savings


Dr Michael Haeck, Hach Lange

The operators of wastewater treatment plants constantly seek new opportunities to improve plant efficiency and environmental performance. In order to achieve this they need to be able to maintain the effectiveness of the treatment process, producing a consistent discharge within consent limits, whilst minimising inputs such as energy, labour and raw materials.

Real-time control (RTC) has become very reliable.

As technology advances new opportunities materialise and this article will outline the considerable benefits that can be obtained from the latest sensors coupled with a new breed of real-time controllers. Improvements in the accuracy and reliability of sensors, coupled with a new facility providing  information about the sensors’ performance, in addition to the measurement itself, means that real-time control (RTC) has become very reliable which means that it has become an attractive option in a large number of applications.

Hach Lange has developed a set of standardised control modules, enabling the application of processes improvements and optimisation strategies without the need for complex programming and expensive customisation.

In combination with Hach Lange sensors, Nutrient Removal and Sludge Treatment Processes can now be easily optimised in order to achieve savings in aeration energy and chemical consumption, even on small waste water treatment facilities.

RTC opportunities
Stand-alone wastewater treatment optimisation solutions (WTOS) control modules are now available to optimise individual treatment processes at treatment plants. These can be easily integrated into an existing plant structure and currently include (1) the chemical elimination of phosphorus and (2) dissolved oxygen adjustment according to the actual NH4-N load in an aeration tank.  Control modules for sludge management as sludge retention time controller or desludging controller will be added in the near future.

In addition to the stand-alone modules mentioned above, it is also possible to combine different RTC modules to optimise an entire plant, as outlined in the trial below. Termed an ‘enterprise solution’ this activity involves a review of the plant as a whole and the creation of customised specifications for the application of different control modules for nitrification, sludge retention time, methanol dosing, and/or chemical phosphate removal to achieve the best overall performance.

Sensor technology
In recent years, improvements in sensor technology have focused on greater resolution and accuracy in combination with longer intervals between calibration or service. However, in order for an RTC system to operate effectively it is also necessary for sensors and analysers to be able to provide information on the quality of the signal and the service status.

Hach Lange has filed a patent application for this facility under the brand name ‘PROGNOSYS’. This provides the RTC control modules with a continuous indication of a sensor’s status so that if pre-determined conditions occur (sensor failure, outside calibration, service overdue, drift etc) the RTC automatically adopts an alternative control strategy, which might be a typical weekly and diurnal flow profile that has been stored in the system’s memory.

Stand-alone RTC example: chemical Phosphate removal
As outlined above, the measurement technology for phosphate has advanced considerably in recent years in tandem with a reduction in capital and operational costs. As a result, an easy to integrate RTC module in the phosphate removal process can deliver pay back periods of less than one year.

The measurement of phosphate levels in combination with an RTC system can be utilised to manage the dosing of precipitant salts. This precipitates the phosphate and facilitates sedimentation and removal. Accurate continuous monitoring is necessary to ensure that (a) sufficient dosing is applied to remove the phosphate and (b) excessive dosing does not take place. Over-dosing would be undesirable on three counts; firstly, from an environmental perspective the objective is to minimise the amount of iron being added that could remain in the effluent; secondly, ferric sulphate is expensive and excessive dosing would be costly; thirdly the amount of precipitation sludge should be kept to a minimum because sludge disposal can represent a significant cost.

A unique feature of the RTC system is the continuous automatic calculation of the ‘ß’ value (overdosing rate), which is required to calculate the right amount of precipitant dosing for open loop control. The calculated ß-value takes into account the percentage of phosphate which has to be removed. The less phosphate there is; the more difficult removal becomes and the more precipitant is required to eliminate the same amount. For example, more precipitant is required to lower phosphate concentrations from 4 to 2 mg/l than from 6 to 4 mg/l.

Wastewater treatment plants operating an open loop real time control system for phosphate removal have demonstrated considerable savings – a UK works has saved approximately 37% of the ferric sulphate cost and 57% of caustic chemical costs and a plant in Italy has shown 50% cost savings in comparison with a constant dosing system, which represents a 7 month payback.

If closed loop control is applied, the RTC system requires a measurement of phosphate levels immediately after dosing. As a result, the Phosphate concentration can be held at a fixed desired level and the control performance is monitored as indicated in figure 1.

Figure 1: Example for Stand Alone P-RTC performance

UK RTC Trial – activated sludge process control
The results of a trial investigating the benefits of an RTC system on the management of the activated sludge process (ASP) have been published by Thornton, Sunner and Haeck[i].

Managed by MWH UK Ltd and employing monitoring instruments from Hach Lange, the trial employed online sensors and control algorithms to optimise the operation of the ASP, leading to greater efficiency and sustainability. Undertaken at full scale, the trial assessed the benefits of RTC at a 250,000 population equivalent (PE) works in the UK and consisted of two identical ASPs (each with four lanes) configured as a 4-stage Bardenpho plant with methanol addition in the secondary anoxic zone.

Standard aeration lanes (fixed DO set-points with fluctuating NH4 effluent concentration) were compared with lanes running an RTC system operating variable DO set-points based on actual load. The RTC lanes deployed extra sensors for dissolved oxygen, ammonium and nitrate.

The trial demonstrated that the RTC system was able to respond quickly to ammonium influent spikes and to maintain a stable effluent ammonium level. The trial also demonstrated that the RTC system was able to reduce methanol consumption by 50% and energy (measured as air flow) by 20% (figure 2). The system has now operated successfully for more than one year

Figure 2: RTC savings

The Hach Lange optimisation system combines process measurement technology with advanced RTC control modules to provide substantial savings in operational costs at wastewater treatment plants, whilst maintaining compliance with consent values.

Recent advances in sensors, analysers and controllers mean that wastewater treatment no longer has to be managed on a ‘worst case scenario’ basis. Processes can now be monitored and adjusted instantaneously to maximise efficiency and improve process stability. Cost reduction is obviously a key benefit, but the ability to reduce energy consumption is becoming an important objective in many countries.

[i] Thornton, Sunner and Haeck, 2010. Real time control for reduced aeration and chemical consumption: a full scale study. Water Sci. Technol.61, 2169–2175

Latest trends in HMI


What are latest trends in HMI? And what should you look for or be aware of, when you browse the market in search for new HMI solutions? The purpose of this white paper is to outline and describe some of the most recent key trends in software driven industrial HMI solutions.

HMI solutions take on inspiration from consumer-oriented products like mobile phones, MP3 players, etc. with advanced graphics resulting in user-friendly and intuitive user interfaces.

Trend 1: HMI as an integrated part of a user experience
The significance of user interfaces has become increasingly clear over the last years. Think of Apple´s products, e.g. the iPod or the iPhone as iconic examples of how appealing and intuitive user interfaces have completely changed the perception of particular product types.

The success of Apple´s products and other consumer oriented merchandise clearly shows that a common look and feel among the products, graphics and environments contribute to brand distinction and consistent customer experiences.

Many industrial corporations have reached the same conclusion and are starting to focus more on the quality of the user interfaces in their products. In many ways the HMI is the front of a machine or process. The higher level of functionality and interaction embedded in the HMI, the more the user interface reflects the essential experience of a machine or process. Tomorrow´s successful HMI will lift the concept of a HMI solution from merely being a functional add-on, to becoming an integral part of a user experience by adding the right look and feel.

Design features will include the use of WPF objects, scalable to whatever size without loss of picture quality, and the use of .Net objects found or purchased on the internet. The use of templates and object styles facilitate efficient ways to ensure consistent, reusable design. Embedding of all functional objects, including Windows media objects, in the desired screen design will further enhance a positive user experience.

Beside the competitive advantage for a machine builder, there are solid arguments even for end users to justify the investment in the development of well designed intuitive user interfaces. The value addition of tomorrow´s intuitive HMI solutions is reflected in ease of use, higher efficiency and productivity, reduced time to complete tasks, improved user satisfaction, trust in systems, and fewer user errors.

Trend 2: Innovation based on modern best practice software technologies
The HMI evolution is driven by continuous software development backed by robust high-performance panel hardware. Today, the panel hardware is considered as a vehicle for the HMI software platform, allowing OEM design engineers to add value to their corporation´s products with a variety of options for functionality and design features. The software platform is therefore a crucial element of a HMI solution.
HMI software development is a costly and complex matter and innovative HMI manufacturers will need to base their software platforms on modern, widely spread technologies like .Net technology to be able to access a sufficiently broad variety of tools and functionality.

The same argument can be applied to the future maintenance and development of the technology platforms of HMI solutions. The resources behind .Net are enormous, which will be reflected in the continuous development of the new functionalities in the HMI software. Dependence on proprietary technologies or technologies from smaller vendors must be considered a unique approach, but a risky strategy.

HMI solutions based on Microsoft´s .Net framework or similar technologies are likely to be able to guaranty a innovative future-proof tool with continuous updates and service support highly appreciated by OEMs with long term strategies for own products and external suppliers.

Trend 3: Open platform architecture for integrated solutions
HMI basically integrates the operation of a machine or a process with the feedback to or from the operator. One aspect is the quality of the graphic user interface and in connection to this, the usability. Another important aspect is the openness of the HMI solution. Is it easy or difficult to exchange essential information with different systems or controllers? Is the application code locked for customization of functions or objects? Will runtime software be able to operate on different hardware platforms? Are design engineers able to use standard .Net objects in their projects? These are issues frequently more discussed in the dialogue between customers and vendors.

The open platform architecture of tomorrow´s HMI solutions will offer a wide range of opportunities for OEMs to enhance the look, the functionality and the connectivity of applications in order to catalyze unique products with substantial integrity.

HMI solutions will be less proprietary and offer increased freedom in choice of runtime platform; from compact operator panels to industrial PCs from different manufacturers.

It will be possible to create a scalable master project, which can be applied to different controller brands and panel resolutions with the advantage of only having to maintain one project. Engineers will demand opportunities to use scripting tools, e.g. C# script, to customize the look or functionality of objects. The design tool will offer the possibility to import third party objects and .net controls.

Freedom in connectivity and communication is the hallmark of a truly open HMI solution and will include a variety of options ranging from simple real-time exchange of data between controllers up to SQL and OPC communication with other equipment and IT systems.

HMI solutions are in a state of change. Industrial user interfaces take inspiration from consumer-oriented products like mobile phones, MP3 players, etc. with advanced 3D-style graphics, icon based navigation and controls, resulting in user-friendly and intuitive user interfaces. Trend-setting HMI solutions will support this mindset with state-of-the-art graphics and functionality fully embedded providing well designed intuitive user interfaces based on the flexible widely spread modern software technologies and a true open platform architecture.

Graphic user interfaces does not necessarily have to include the use of advanced graphic solutions. Simplicity and consistency often beats complexity and overly artistic solutions. However, the design process very often benefits from cooperation between graphic designers and the application engineers.

Beijer Electronics HMI Products, source of this article, is a full-range, global supplier with 25 years of automation experience. Their HMI solutions connect people and processes, thus enabling actions, data collection and storage, and the management of information – on site or remotely.