New NovaTech controller helps control systems modernize, provides next-generation features

D3v16 delivered with the new PCM5 process controller

By Jim Montague

What's the best way to upgrade distributed control system software? Give it a new controller to run on. Obvious, really. However, this is still a rare event, sort of like two holes-in-one in a single round of golf or winning two prizes in one raffle.

Still, that's exactly what NovaTech has pulled off with the July launch of its D/3 distributed control software, Version 16 (D3v16), which adds high-value, standardized features its users have sought to give them a competitive advantage. Not stopping at one major release, the company is multiplying D3v16's impact by delivering it with the new Process Control Module 5 (PCM5) process controller with embedded cybersecurity, full system virtualization down to the controller, and many ease-of-use and engineering enhancements to further aid users.

This software/controller combination gives NovaTech's users the capabilities they'll need in an increasingly digitalized future, while also protecting their applications and automation by preserving their existing technology investments. PCM5 also follows NovaTech's Platinum Pledge, which is its philosophy of future-proofing its products by allowing communication with its earlier generation of controllers on the same network, and permitting applications developed for those earlier controllers to run in the new controller.

Download the State of Technology Report: control systems

"This is one of the most significant D/3 releases in the past decade because PCM5 provides a new, modular platform that allows advanced applications and features to be added more efficiently," says Bill Keller, product development director at NovaTech. "This means shorter and more feature-rich release cycles that deliver more value to our customers.”

Buz Zey, NovaTech's president, adds the D/3 and PCM5's revamp was inspired by NovaTech's power division, which recently refreshed its Orion substation automation platform with added cybersecurity capabilities and hardening for harsh environments. "This meant we didn't have to start from zero and helped us develop our proof-of-concept," he explains.

The result is D3v16 with PCM5 at its core, where the controller provides best-in-class performance and reliability thanks to its new quad-core, 64-bit Intel Atom microprocessor, fanless cooling, no moving parts and redundant, hot-swappable power supplies. PCM5 also has a touchscreen interface for faster troubleshooting and an auto-configured firewall for embedded cybersecurity that's enabled by default for added protection.

"We'd been looking to take D/3 to the next generation by modernizing the platform and moving it to an industrial standard that would give users the features they need most. The heart of this is the new PCM5 controller that delivers those new capabilities, but preserves their investments in what they have, even as D3v16 takes them to the next level," says Chris Kourliouros, product marketing director at NovaTech. "D3v16 succeeds by delivering enhancements that allow them to further improve operational performance and efficiency across their plants. We're very excited to be releasing D3v16 at a time when the process industries are looking for more cost-effective, open, and secure automation solutions.”

In addition, D3v16's full system virtualization down to the controller level lets users simulate an entire D/3 system with multiple PCMs on one computer or memory stick. This enables users to innovate by developing, testing and validating applications before changes are made to production systems, minimizing operational disruptions. They can also easily copy changes to the live system when testing is complete, as well as train new personnel on all aspects of D/3 applications, plant operations and abnormal situations.

Other software enhancements integrated with or aided by D3v16 include:

  • More intuitive and mistake-proof MDL Builder for easier control database configuration;
  • ProcessVision with better runtime performance, enhanced fonts, and dynamic tag loop and logic drawings, as well as improved and more intuitive displays of D/3 Report Writer reports and operations status;
  • D3Express web application that lets users view, search and filter alarm history files from any time period, find all places where a tag (EPN) is used in D/3, and execute runtime status reports; 
  • TotalVision graphics with a new feature that lets users navigate faster from an overview graphic, giving operations personnel quicker access to the correct graphics; and
  • Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft Windows 10 Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), which is more stable over time and prevents potentially disruptive automatic updates.

For more information, visit www.novatechweb.com.

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