Commonality Innovations Fuel Uncommon Instrumentation

March 25, 2009
New ABB Instrumentation Products Are Built on Five Basic Electronics and Interface Platforms that Share Technology

After the years it spent acquiring leading instrumentation brands, such as Taylor, Fischer & Porter, Bailey, K-Flow and others, ABB’s technology leaders report they and their colleagues have been working mightily to coordinate many of these formerly disparate technologies. To provide an update on these efforts, Sean Keeping and Pat Cashwell presented “What’s New in Instrumentation? And Why It Matters” this week at ABB Automation and Power World 2009 in Orlando. Keeping is technology vice president for ABB’s automation technology, instrumentation and metering business area. Cashwell is ABB’s vice president for instrumentation and field instrumentation.

“New ABB instrumentation products are built on five basic electronics and interface platforms that share technology.” ABB’s Sean Keeping provided a tour of the company’s industry leading instrumentation offerings.

“Our primary goals are to develop products based on common technologies, provide a common look and feel and method of operation, minimize component variety and improve their quality,” said Keeping. “We’re also working to achieve the best quality device integration between ABB and third-party systems, develop the best integration tools, device-type managers (DTMs), electronic device descriptions (EDDs) and asset monitors, and provide a common interface and user experience with all ABB instruments.

“In addition, we’re developing WirelessHART products that can unlock stranded data in installed products and secure new measurement points. We’re exploring energy scavenging technologies using solar, thermal, electromagnetic and electrochemical methods, and we’re working on other new products and features that expand our existing and unrivalled range. Finally, we’re striving to achieve an average product age of five years by 2011 to further ensure that we have the best and latest technology.”

To achieve these goals, Keeping added that ABB’s instrumentation and other technologies are developed and updated by its expert teams, which have provided a suite of common components and technologies. “New ABB instrumentation products are built on five basic electronics and interface platforms that share technology,” explained Keeping. “These are far more than cosmetic changes and instead provide new building blocks for all ABB instruments. The commonality among our solutions provides greater efficiency, reliability and quality, as well as products that are easier to service, maintain and enhance. This common look and feel extends beyond external appearance to include their user interfaces and methods of operation at both local and remote levels. We’re also working to simplify training at all levels too.”

For example, ABB has developed a common platform definition for its transmitters, so they now have a common software architecture, components, mechanics, HMI, electronics hardware, diagnostics and integration functions. These include ABB’s 60-mm, 90-mm and 120-mm transmitters, as well as its basic color and advanced color analyzers, controllers and recorders.

“We also have a new generation of integration tools, and we’re supporting the EDD and FDT/DTM standards,” said Cashwell. “ABB also supports the new FDI initiative to harmonize the integration methods between EDD and DTM, and we’re active on the boards of all the fieldbus organizations.

“A lot of what we’re doing now is bringing interfaces together. Technicians on the plant floor no longer have time to find and open up manuals. They need tools they can use intuitively to configure and operate their applications, and that’s what ABB can give them.”

For rookies and the uninformed, Keeping reported that ABB’s product range includes:

  • Flow technologies, such as electromagnetic, Coriolis mass, vortex and swirl, thermal mass, differential pressure (orifice and pitot) and variable area;
  • Pressure solutions, such as differential pressure and gauge technologies;
  • Analytical instruments, including colorimetric, electrochemical for water, electrochemical for gas, and optical;
  • Temperature sensors and transmitters
  • Actuators and positioners, including valve positioners;
  • Recorders and controllers, such as videographic,  mechanical recorder and panel-board controllers; and
  • Asset management solutions including PC-based asset management tools and a new WirelessHART retrofit adaptor.