Using FDT Technology for Improved Diagnostics and Troubleshooting

With FDT You Can Reduce Downtime, Engineering Costs, Improve Data Accuracy, Monitor Field Devices Across Multiple Protocols and Set Up Vendor's Devices Using One Software Environment

By Brian Root

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To improve overall performance, troubleshoot out-of-margin conditions and minimize downtime, manufacturers worldwide rely on intelligent field instrumentation to measure process variables such as temperature, pressure and level. Every decision made is based on the accuracy of these measurements. Two perennial conditions, however, often stand in the way to gathering timely and consistent diagnostic data. First, instrumentation often requires using vendor-specific software, forcing engineers to be familiar with numerous environments, tools and optimizing features. Second, many devices and business systems operate on different fieldbuses, creating the need for special hardware and expertise for even basic data sharing.

The need to vary device integration techniques based on protocol or vendor implementation creates higher learning curves, added installation costs and an increased mean time to repair. To improve plant productivity and people effectiveness, users need the flexibility to use best-of-breed devices and connect them to their control system of choice.

Field Device Tool (FDT) technology bridges the requirements for factory and process automation, standardizing the communication interface between field devices and control systems and eliminating the barriers to information. The key feature of the technology is its independence from the communication protocol and the software environment of the device/host system. EtherNet/IP, HART, PROFIBUS PA, Foundation Fieldbus and DeviceNet are among more than 15 networks currently supported by FDT.

Using FDT technology embedded in process control systems such as the Rockwell Automation PlantPAx process automation system, manufacturers leveraging devices from multiple vendors using multiple networks can use a single asset management solution to set and drill down into configuration parameters for each device. This provides access to data for higher-level applications, decreases integration costs, improves operational and maintenance efficiency and optimizes plant assets.

How it Works

The device supplier develops a Device Type Manager (DTM) for each of its devices or group of devices that encapsulates the device-specific data, functions and business rules. This includes the device structure, its communication capabilities, internal dependencies and the human-machine interface structure.

The DTMs provide functions for accessing device parameters, configuring and operating the devices, and diagnosing problems. They can range from a simple graphical interface for setting device parameters to a highly sophisticated application capable of performing complex real-time calculations for diagnosis and maintenance purposes.

A single asset management solution is used to initiate and manage the DTM for all devices. This solution contains the communication component to interface with the specific fieldbus communication and enables the device to interoperate with the system engineering and operating environment.

FDT and Rockwell Automation

Using FDT Technology, Rockwell Automation and the other 80+ members of the FDT Group deliver world-class solutions for the configuration, diagnosis and integration of a wide range of process devices into the PlantPAx process automation system. The diagnostic data is gathered and delivered from the instrumentation-level to the business enterprise via the EtherNet/IP network. This network serves as the communications backbone for data transfer.

By supporting FDT Technology, Rockwell Automation and the other FDT Group members can provide manufacturers with a common interface for devices residing on multiple field and control networks. This results in a consistent device integration and data acquisition method, which ultimately reduces installation and maintenance costs, improves system reliability and provides useful information to plant personnel in a timely manner.

Most plants want an easy way to reduce downtime, reduce engineering costs, improve data accuracy, proactively monitor field devices across multiple protocols and set up vendor's devices correctly using one software environment. FDT is the answer.

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