A Peek under the Hood of the New System 800xA

May 19, 2010
ABB Shows New Features Available for the System 800xA

"It's not just a control loop anymore!" said Roy Tanner, global marketing manager for the ABB System 800xA. "It is all about integration." Tanner presented an overview of the System 800xA platform and then some peeks at version 5.1, which will be available in June, in his talk this week at ABB Automation and Power World 2010 in Houston.

"The System 800xA is designed to meet the challenges produced by the emerging trends in the process industries," Tanner said, "such as consolidation of control rooms, intelligent field devices, monitoring and reducing energy consumption and unplanned shutdowns. We need to finally end the ‘islands of automation' and provide information access for all disciplines. You need more than a DCS."

"The System 800xA's unparalleled integration capability means increased collaboration and increased operator efficiency, and it provides cost-effective solutions," Tanner said. "We can easily handle disparate control issues like substation control, batch and continuous process control with the same control system, the same user interface, the same engineering library and tools. Nobody else can do that."

"The combined automation and power projects we're doing have seriously increased the number of I/O and tags required." A doubling of system capacity is among the new features of the System 800xA revealed by ABB's Roy Tanner.He went on to say, "Today it is imperative to have the high enough level of integration required to create a collaborative environment. Because the System 800xA is based on the IndustrialIT platform, it removes barriers and promotes collaborative production automation with pre-integrated, common value-added applications and services with features such as open-seat licensing, efficient engineering applications, the ability to easily organize information and easily share data with all applications—even third-party ones like Maximo. We have connectivity to all ABB legacy systems and to Provox and TDC3000 systems that act just like a natural part of the 800xA system."

Tanner noted that even the safety architecture is different from other systems. The system has TÜV-approved logical separation of functions between safety and control, up to SIL 3. It can be used stand-alone as a separate system with both safety and control elements, or it can be integrated closely with the System 800xA.

Tanner went over the features that the system's Aspect Object Technology makes work, including the ability to template re-usable object types, personalized workspaces and controller libraries designed to upgrade value-added systems from older versions.

Version 5.1

What's new in version 5.1?  The newest version of System 800xA will be available the end of June and will be upgradeable online from version 5.0 SP2. It will run on Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server, with double the present system capacity. "We needed to do that because the combined automation and power projects we're doing have seriously increased the number of I/O and tags required," Tanner said.

System 800xA version 5.1 also introduces the new AC800M PM891 field controller with twice the performance, eight times the memory and three times the clock speed of the PM866 version. All controllers now handle up to 32 applications instead of 8. There is also a new task analysis tool to determine what and where the bad actor instruction is.

There are upgraded alarm management features in the new release too. Alarm Shelving and Alarm Analysis have been included in the system in order to help keep alarms in check. In addition to traditional reporting of alarm statistics, the new Alarm Analysis functions are natively accessible to operators based on Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics.

A new "Point of Control" feature in this release allows an operator in a remote location to request permission to control an area or unit from the responsible operator. Once approved, operation is transferred to the requesting operator and captured in the audit trail. Point of Control improves the coordination of operators during critical periods such as shift change. There are also multiple engineering improvements, such as simplified bulk data handling when engineering Foundation fieldbus projects, and two features that improve and streamline change-management procedures.

The Task Analysis Tool lets the user evaluate how the application will be executed based on current task rates before downloading to the controller. It shows latencies and conflicts and then prevents the new application from being downloaded and causing a controller error. The Task Analysis Tool also can be used for what-if scenarios to pinpoint where problems with modifying task execution cycle times can occur.

The other significant engineering tool in version 5.1 is a Detailed Difference Report that lets the engineer easily see changes made in applications and graphics and provides a report of exactly what has been modified, "not just a time-and-date stamp that says somebody modified something, but doesn't say what," Tanner said.

The new release takes virtualization to a whole new level, reducing the number of PCs required for installations by as much as 75%, and now has greater support for VMware. In addition, improvements made to the 800xA Foundation fieldbus architecture have reduced the infrastructure requirements for HSE networks and increased the number of devices that can be connected to one node by 400%.

Based on user-centered design principles, the new version includes a System Administration Console and a Security Update tool that permits safer, more secure patch management.

"We've really increased connectivity," Tanner said. "We now have interfaces for Profinet, DeviceNet via Ethernet IP and WirelessHART. Our Foundation fieldbus interfaces also now support EDDL, and we have provided even deeper and wider integration with electrical systems by increasing the number of IEDs per IEC1850-based communications card, and improving alarm and event support for power, substation and SCADA applications."

"Since we introduced the System 800xA," Tanner said, "we've sold over 5,750 systems to new or existing ABB customers. That includes 37,500 AC800M controllers, over 24,500 operator workplaces and almost 20 million S800 I/O channels."