Batch, MPC highlight Process Solutions booth

Rockwell Automation rationalizes batch, eases model predictive control (MPC) and highlights safety in Process Solutions display

By Paul Studebaker


A quick tour of the Process Solutions booth at Automation Fair leaves a visitor fairly impressed with the results of applying the philosophy of the PlantPAx modern distributed control system—a powerful, easy to deploy, single environment for process, discrete and motion control—to the challenges of mobility, batch management, MPC and safety systems.

“In March, we introduced PlantPAx 4.0, with an integrated design environment—one common development environment for network, configuration, coding and alarms, and a library of objects and control strategies. Users can design and deploy faster, with fewer clicks to get a system going,” said Stephen Pulsifer, director, process market development, Rockwell Automation. “Now, we’re improving mobility with an intuitive interface that runs anywhere on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.”

Deploying the FactoryTalk Batch View mobility solution with FactoryTalk Batch improves the operator experience and productivity. For example, “Having it in your pocket lets operators respond to alarms,” Pulsifer said. If an operator in the control room sees a valve fault, goes out and finds the valve limit switch needs an adjustment and adjusts it, they used to have to go back to the control room to test it.

“Now they can use their phone or tablet to activate the valve and see it operate,” Pulsifer said. “It saves a lot of time and effort. In some batch operations, a minute or two can be worth $1,000 to $10,000.” It also allows supervisors to sign off on a recipe or revision without having to run around the building.

Batch v13 hooks up with SequenceManager

In the spring, FactoryTalk Batch v13 will integrate SequenceManager to provide basic management and direct PhaseManager programs inside Logix-based controllers. This allows users to connect to and command SequenceManager sequences, scale up from small systems, and distribute batch control. “It offers a new level of flexibility for the control engineer,” said Pulsifer.

Users with small sequences in existing applications will be able to bring them in without needing to reprogram their older equipment, and do unit procedures with the code that's already there. For example, a user will be able to leverage an existing skid during a factory acceptance test (FAT) without reprogramming it. This has the potential to save users millions of dollars in time and labor.

Along with integrating SequenceManager, v13 will include:

  • Migration of operator interface graphics and support for language switching
  • Improved editing and managing of versioned recipes with a find feature
  • Improved database management tools
  • Take full advantage of FactoryTalk Batch View software. New features include Active Step Change and integrated eProcedure manual instructions.

Safety steps up

The processing power of the Trusted triple modular redundant (TMR) safety controller has been increased by a factor of four with 11 times the memory and an easy-to-use GUI and a development environment shared with the AAdvance fault-tolerant control system. “This makes it easier to set up, and to get the right level of safety for the application,” Pulsifer said.

The OptiSIS packaged safety solution handles 50-100 I/O in an engineered package that’s easy to configure, “pre-packaged and ready to go,” Pulsifer said. Based on AAdvance, it’s ready for use on smaller applications such as a turbine, compressor or distributed set of small equipment.

MPC everywhere

“PlantPAx MPC is now released and ready for sale,” Pulsifer said. Moving model predictive control (MPC) into the control system and off the server allows it to run faster—sub-second scans—while handling five 10x10x10 controllers.

This gives tighter control, and allows users to shift parameters and make changes on the fly. With the PlantPAx accelerator toolkit and standard HMI, “Users can consider MPC for applications where it hasn’t been cost-effective in the past,” Pulsifer said. “We’re seeing it used in innovative applications, such as whiskey control.”

For full-featured MPC, Pavilion8 offers “all the power they need for fundamental and empirical hybrid modeling,” said Michael Sugars, principal advanced process control engineer, Rockwell Automation. And now it’s easier to use: “When stepping process variables to identify models, it can maintain control within constraints so you don’t upset the process,” Sugars said. “This can save 40% of commissioning time and eliminate the rework that might result from step tests.”

It means users can start with a first-order model by working with their operators—or start with one from Rockwell Automation—then tune and retune it automatically to optimize it, Sugars said. “You can start it up and go home, and when you come in the next day, your process is running better.”

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