HART 6: The very model of a modern calibrator?

Can HART, version 6, turn your calibrator or field programmer into a primary asset management tool? CONTROL’s Ian Verhappen takes a closer look at the latest and greatest in field calibration.

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Iav Verhappen, Contributing EditorBy Ian Verhappen, Contributing Editor


THE HART Communication Foundation recently released the latest update to its HART protocol. Version 6 enhances HART’s ability to meet needs of modern asset management solutions that track the health of field devices. Users worldwide are paying more attention to their field devices’ condition because they know more than 60% of requested maintenance is unnecessary, and that more than 80% of all automation maintenance is spent on field devices, while only about 2% goes to host control systems.

The Inertia Effect
When asked how asset management systems will affect how work is done, recently retired automation professional Terry Molloy, PE, replied, “I’m familiar with all of these issues you raised questions about, as I got to suffer through this process in the 1970’s as we moved from pneumatics to electronic instrumentation in the utility industry. As I used to say when making presentations to students about our industry, ‘We use state-of-the-art technology with fifteen to twenty years of proven reliability.’” This statement sums up the sentiments of several respondents though there are several companies in the resource sector who are making serious attempts at overcoming inertia.

Wilfred Hartmann, an engineer with one of the largest chemical companies in Europe confirms Terry’s sentiment since his field calibration tools continue to consist of field voltage/current meters, mA-calibrators, mA-simulators, RTD-calibration, level detectors, ultrasonic flowmeters, and handheld configuration tools for HART-signals. However Hartmann continues, “Integration of calibrator signals in a Central Maintenance System (CMMS)? Hmm, why? Normally only temporary information is of interest. Explicit calibration is normally not done in the field (lack of accuracy of field calibration tools or bad calibration conditions) or documented elsewhere (paper certificate).”

So even though the calibrator companies are rushing to put the ability to interface with the CMMS, some industry professionals are wondering whether the gains talked about at the beginning of this article are real. If they are real, there are just as real hurdles that must be overcome, on either end of the wire, to make the data from calibrators useful to the enterprise.

Leaping the Hurdles
HART devices typically have an ASIC to contain all the information on its capabilities and functionality. Because of this, they normally require a complete instrument replacement to add new features or capabilities. The host systems do not have the ASIC limitation so they will be able to take advantage of HART 6 as soon as the appropriate software release becomes available from the suppliers. Because HART 6 is fully backwards compatible with all existing HART installations, there will not be any impact on the installed base.

Of course, if a new field device is necessary to obtain HART 6 features, the question posed by Jim Sprague, a member of CONTROL’s Editorial Advisory Board, and an engineer at a major Saudi Arabian oil company, says, “We should be concerned about this issue, especially with FF coming on strong.”

Jim Sprague says, “Our company -- and I believe the Middle East in general -- is woefully behind in integrating smart instrument calibration & verification systems into our central maintenance systems.”

“The biggest problems are,” Sprague continues, “that we have a wide mixture of installed smart instrument protocols.  In our refineries, gas plants, stabilizing plants, and many GOSPS, we have mostly Honeywell DE & Foxboro FoxComm instruments, with a smattering of Yokogawa Brain, HART, and now FF. Thus, any calibration system has to be developed at a plant basis, rather than company-wide.  I’ve seen Druck, Fluke, Loveland, Beta, and many others being used (and not used) in our plants.” 

Furthermore, Sprague notes, “There is no legislation here (yet) forcing us to develop a centralized recordkeeping system.” 

“We seem to have lots of supervisory turnover in our plant maintenance organizations – it seems to be stepping stone to other jobs,” Sprague goes on. “Plus maintenance is a stepchild, with only functional ties to our engineering organizations, so they don’t get the central direction needed for change,” he concludes.

Wilfred Hartmann, of the world’s leading chemical company, adds to this list of impediments the additional requirements for a calibrator to be, “Explosion proof, and have a battery or rechargeable battery power supply.”

Coming Soon to a Calibrator Near You
The three main manufacturers of portable calibrators, Emerson Process Management, Beamex and MTS will soon incorporate the capabilities of some or all of the new HART 6 however until these features are available at both ends of the wire they will be of little value to End Users. Therefore, just like any new technology it will be up to the End Users to vote with their wallets and purchase the equipment with the features they require.




How HART Works

Simlar Like most communication protocols, the HART protocol also follows the OSI 7-layer model using layers 1, 2 and 7, and is based on the Bell 202 telephone communication standard and operates using the frequency shift keying (FSK) principle. The digital signal is made up of two frequencies— 1,200 Hz and 2,200 Hz representing bits 1 and 0, respectively. Sine waves of these two frequencies are superimposed on the direct current (dc) analog signal cables to provide simultaneous analog and digital communications. The digital communication signal has a response time of approximately 2–3 data updates per second without interrupting the analog signal. A minimum loop impedance of 230 is required for communication.

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