Achieving seamless integration of the many different control disciplines required to run a modern processing facility has in many ways never been easier. If one is lucky enough to start from scratch, today's most capable controller platforms are both open and scalable, and can natively address a broad range of disciplines that traditionally required separate systems, often from different suppliers. And if legacy systems are a necessary part of the application mix, those same multi-functional controllers offer an unprecedented ability to seamlessly communicate over a broad range of digital protocols.
In the case of ABB, the System 800xA's flagship controller, the AC 800M, provides the ability to integrate a broad range of networks, fieldbuses, serial protocols and input/output (I/O) subsystems. It provides seamless execution of advanced and process control strategies as well as safety, electrical, quality control and power management applications. The platform's extensive portfolio of communications modules also enables seamless integration of legacy controllers from ABB and other companies, as well as "non-traditional" automation devices, such as intelligent electrical devices (IEDs) via the IEC 61850 standard.
This flexible, unified field network architecture supports improved visibility and enhanced device diagnostics as well as distributed applications such as control in the field. Significant benefits can be achieved including improved process integrity, higher availability, and open and scalable information integration across the plant
Twelve Buses, One Controller
At the level of field instrumentation, a variety of standards-based fieldbus and, more recently, wireless networks provides an efficient means of gathering both process and diagnostic data from intelligent field devices. Once within the control system network, this data can be used for control and visualization as well as for condition monitoring, asset optimization or other non-control applications. From an architectural standpoint, it is important that one's control system offer the flexibility to communicate over any of the standard fieldbus and wireless protocols, allowing ultimate freedom of choice depending on a particular application's technical and business requirements.
From a practical standpoint, too, various instruments and field devices may communicate over a more limited range of standard protocols either because of their specialized nature or even country of origin. Further, there is an enormous opportunity today to integrate intelligent devices that have not traditionally been part of the process automation mix.
Setting the capabilities curve on this particular measure is ABB's System 800xA AC 800M controller, which can mix and match incoming information from any combination of up to 12 direct fieldbus connections. These module options include those for serial communications, Modbus TCP, Profibus DP, Profinet, Foundation Fieldbus, EtherNet/IP and IEC 61850 as well as ABB's own Masterbus 300, S100 I/O, Trio I/O, Satt I/O, INSUM and DriveBus protocols. Intrinsically safe I/O, SIL-rated I/O, and modular packaging options allow maximum flexibility in terms of I/O deployment.
Supporting this broad range of fieldbus options delivers significant value to the end users in the form of both capital expenditure savings (wiring, footprint and weight) and operational expenditure savings (heating and cooling, design flexibility and implementation of asset management and maintenance strategies). These protocols enable integration of data and devices from almost any compliant source. Further, the controller architecture is designed to allow individual controllers to see information from nearly anywhere on the entire network; there's no need for the individual controller-dedicated I/O structures of the past.
System 800xA also leverages the WirelessHART communication standard to wirelessly capture process variables and diagnostic data. WirelessHART data can be used within any System 800xA control or monitoring application, and for advanced asset optimization and maintenance strategies. System 800xA's WirelessHART integration, combined with ABB Instrumentation WirelessHART adapters and wireless consulting services offerings, delivers the complete package necessary to help users implement solutions tailored to their needs.
ABB's longer term vision of field networking acknowledges the convergence of field networks on the same Ethernet standards, including Foundation HSE, Profinet and IEC 61850. Since all of these protocols utilize the same Ethernet physical layer—whether copper, fiber or wireless–these different protocols can exist simultaneously on the same physical network infrastructure.