Control News from Europe March 2008

Read Andrew Bond’s Industrial Automation Insider, a monthly newsletter covering the important industrial automation news and issues as seen from the U.K.

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Yokogawa launches new generation ‘multiplant’ DCS

As intimated in the January INSIDER, Yokogawa has once again used ARC’s annual forum in Orlando for a major announcement. Making his first appearance at the event since taking over from Isao Uchida as president and COO, Shuzo Kaihori announced nothing less than the replacement of Yokogawa’s flagship Centum CS3000 DCS. However, in keeping with the company’s policy ever since it introduced what it claims was the world’s first DCS back in 1975, CentumVP—for “Vigilant Plant”—will   maintain compatibility not just with its immediate predecessor, but with every Yokogawa DCS right back to that original introduction.

Although the announcement was made in Orlando on February 4, details were hard to come by in Europe ahead of the official European presentation in Amsterdam, scheduled for the Thursday of the same week, and even normally effusive and prolific bloggers, such as Walt Boyes and Gary Mintchell, seem to have been atypically reticent. Nevertheless, INSIDER has to acknowledge a debt to Boyes’ ‘Sound Off’ blog in particular for what details we have been able to glean thus far.

Single real-time database

Satoru Kurosu, who has succeeded Kaihori San as senior vice president for industrial automation, is said to have described the new system as targeting the gaps being created by the impending retirement of the “boomer” generation of engineers and operators and breaking down the barriers both within plants and between the plant and the enterprise. To that end, one of the key features of CentumVP, which is described as a ‘multiplant’ DCS, will be a single real-time database in place of the multiple real-time databases which typify today’s facilities.

Whether that single database and its associated integration tools will actually feature in the first release of CentumVP is less clear. The Orlando announcement appears to confirm rumors that had been circulating earlier that the new system would be released in stages, and indeed that it was what one competitor described as an “accelerated announcement,” thus leaving Yokogawa open to the accusation that this is more a rebranding exercise than a new system. Hence while CentumVP—and not, as some had predicted, CS4 or CS4000—will at least initially retain the I/O, controllers and recently IEC accepted Vnet/IP control network (see below) of Centum CS3000 R3, what is unquestionably new—and some would say long overdue—is a new HMI which, as well as running on Windows XP, is among the first, if not, actually the first from a major DCS vendor to run on Vista.Boyes quotes Kurosu San as saying that the new HMI’s ergonomic design, intuitive navigation and consolidated alarm management almost double the operator’s speed of decision making and hence reduce by half the time necessary for corrective action.

When will these wonders be available for new users or for migration of existing CS 3000 installations? The word is the first quarter of 2008, although whether that means release to beta test sites, acceptance of orders or actual shipments isn’t at this stage clear, at least in Europe, but then we’re not supposed to know about it at all yet. Perhaps all will become clear after our day trip to Amsterdam later this week!

  • Yokogawa’s recently developed EtherNet/IP compatible communication interface for industrial recorders and data acquisition equipment has become the first of its type to pass the ODVA conformance test. It eliminates the need for dedicated software to connect data acquisition equipment with other devices such as PLCs and temperature controllers and will be installed as standard on Yokogawa recorders and data acquisition equipment during fiscal 2008. EtherNet/IP is widely used in North America and elsewhere and is increasingly being adopted by manufacturers in Japan.

Meanwhile the Vnet/IP control network protocol used in Yokogawa’s flagship Centum CS 3000 R3 DCS has been accepted as a part of the IEC 61784-2 standard. Vnet/IP is based on 1 Gbit/s high-speed Ethernet and is claimed to combine the openness of Ethernet with the reliability and real-time capability required for process control. It was accepted by IEC as a publicly available specification (PAS) in April 2005. The protocol allows general purpose TCP/IP communications with PCs, subsystems and HMIs to take place on the same network as UDP/IP communications between HMIs and field control stations. Networks can be made dual-redundant, but can also be configured with general-purpose network equipment such as layer 2 or layer 3 switches. “The fact that Vnet/IP has been accepted by the IEC means that Vnet/IP will enter wide use as a standard network protocol and be used by other manufacturers in combination with their own products,” said Masatoshi Nakahara, vice president of Yokogawa’s Industrial Automation business headquarters.


Commonality is key to Ethernet growth

Cisco’s vision of an all Ethernet world, as expounded to INSIDER last November by Stuart Robinson, head of manufacturing and energy verticals for Europe, receives powerful support in ARC’s newly published “Ethernet-based Device Networks Worldwide Outlook.” Evidence of industrial Ethernet’s “continued march downward in the enterprise architecture” can be found in its migration into the device or I/O level of the automation network hierarchy, resulting in a market totalling over a million nodes in 2007 and growing at more than 27.5% compound to pass three million by 2012.

Motion control

Already firmly established at the control level, Ethernet has become a lead option in even the most demanding motion control applications, thanks to the emergence of automation-applicable standards, intelligent implementation strategies and overall improvements in product reliability. More important than any of these to current and future growth, however, is Ethernet’s commonality and not, as received wisdom has traditionally had it, its openness; witness its increasing use even in embedded applications where proprietary protocols have traditionally dominated. In the motion control segment, for instance, industrial Ethernet is rapidly being adopted in even single-vendor applications that don’t require the ability to plug-and-play with components from different suppliers.

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