Archive for category Communications
Everyone agrees that it’s good practice to keep a record of configurations and setups for any field instrument. I’m constantly recommending it to our customers for their transmitters, controllers, recorders, and other complex configurable devices.
Siemens clamp-on ultrasonic flowmeters even have a system in place to make this process easy. By connecting the meter to a PC through the RS-232 serial port, you can use a terminal program and the SITE command to fetch a data file that holds all the instrument’s configuration data.
The terminal program can also be used — with a set of instructions specific to the flowmeter — for viewing real-time operational data, performing device setup, uploading logger data, or uploading configurations known as SITE setups.
Recently, I was called to visit a plant and look at a misbehaving flowmeter. From previous discussions with the operator, I knew he’d saved SITE setup files for every flowmeter installed in the plant.
I asked if the customer would e-mail me the setup file before my visit, so I could check out how the flowmeter was set up. My request was met with a chuckle and “Well, if you really think it’s worth it…”
More and more people are using Modbus to get data from their instruments and controllers back into their control systems for reporting, alarming and troubleshooting.
And while I can’t be there to help you set up your Modbus master, I can give you 13 rules and some general practice advice for communicating to any Modbus RTU device.
It was bound to happen sooner or later.
I took a call from a customer who needed to replace a garden variety differential pressure transmitter… with one exception: He needed Honeywell’s DE digital protocol for communicating to his DCS. The DE protocol is still great, but since so many installations today use HART or Foundation Fieldbus, all of our in-stock pressure transmitters had a HART communication card – a critical mismatch to what the customer needed.
A year ago, we would have been stuck rush-ordering a unit from the factory, with all the attendant delays and expediting charges, because you couldn’t swap out a comms card without making the transmitter’s hazardous approval invalid.
What could we do?
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Before I talk about the value of a universal 4-20mA analog output on a level controller, let me explain why anyone would care. It’s all about ground loops.
Since the early days of electronic instrumentation, way back when, even before cell phones or PCs, instrument people struggled with ground loops that create an offset error, drive the signal off scale, or burn up an analog circuit.
The HART communication protocol has been firmly established as the standard means of configuring field instruments for some years. But talking to a field instrument needs a communicator.
There are the handheld communicators, Rosemount’s x75s and the “budget-priced” Meriam MFC 4150, but at a cost that’s more a capital appropriation than an MRO expense. Even the Meriam, with a 3-year field device description subscription starts at more than $4000.
People continue to ask me if there isn’t a more budget conscious approach to HART configuration.
RTDs are great temperature sensors – accurate and easy to install. But they are not friendly when it comes to trying to get a single RTD to go to two places, like when an RTD temperature measurement has to go to both a controller and a recorder. People call and ask, “How do I split an RTD signal?” The short answer is, “You can’t.”
An RTD cannot be wired in parallel or in series to a second device. Any RTD input supplies a known, regulated ‘excitation’ current to the RTD. Mixing RTD inputs would mix currents and that’s a Big No-No.
There’s also a lead wire compensation circuit for 3- or 4-wire RTDs that would create problems if a single RTD were connected to two different RTD inputs. There’s just no feasible means of making two RTD analog inputs play nice together.
But all is not lost. There are several ways to achieve your goal.