Fieldbus Foundation announces SIF final spec and development tools

Jan. 7, 2009

Austin, Texas, January 6, 2009 -- The Fieldbus Foundation today announced new device development solutions for its Foundation for Safety Instrumented Functions (SIF) technology. The latest SIF release includes the Foundation for SIF final Technical Specification package, SIF Interoperability Test Kit (ITK) and updated DD Library with SIF function blocks. These solutions support development of interoperable SIF devices for use in a wide range of industrial plant SIF applications

Foundation fieldbus, with its industry-proven distributed function blocks and open communications protocol, is an ideal platform for advancing standards-based SIFs. Foundation technology enables process end users to realize significant CAPEX and OPEX benefits by extending fieldbus benefits into plant safety systems. The SIF protocol was approved by TÜV Anlagentechnik GmbH to meet the requirements of IEC 61508 up to, and including, Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3.

In May 2008, the Fieldbus Foundation conducted a successful end user demonstration of its Foundation for SIF solution at the Shell Global Solutions technology center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The purpose of this live technology demonstration, which attracted process automation end users and equipment suppliers from around the world, was to evaluate Foundation fieldbus-enabled safety valves with partial stroke testing (PST) capability, as well as various pressure, level, temperature and diagnostic devices. The demo also evaluated system integration capabilities with asset management and Basic Process Control System (BPCS) platforms.

Audun Gjerde of Shell Global Solutions conducted the SIF demo at the Amsterdam event. He commented, "By implementing Foundation for SIF, Shell expects enhanced diagnostics through a fully integrated asset management system. We also anticipate less testing of final elements thanks to smart testing and diagnostics, as well as online testing and partial stroke testing. This will result in early detection of dangerous device failures -- and fewer spurious trips."

The ARC Advisory Group recently issued a new white paper, "Foundation SIF Technology. Fieldbus Safety Instrumented Functions Forge the Future of Process Safety," describing Foundation SIF technology. Please visit the Fieldbus Foundation website to download the paper

According to the Fieldbus Foundation's product manager-fieldbus products, Stephen Mitschke, the new Foundation for SIF solutions will enable automation equipment suppliers to develop SIF devices incorporating powerful fieldbus diagnostics. He said, "Plant safety systems can now employ the same rich diagnostic capabilities traditionally offered by Foundation fieldbus technology.These diagnostics are the key to improved process reliability and robustness, as well as increased uptime and fewer spurious alarms."

Mitschke added, "Leading automation equipment suppliers are designing a variety of devices to meet the growing market demand for fieldbus-based SIFs. Our developer resources ensure the interoperability of fieldbus equipment in modern safety systems.  Certifying agencies such as TUV then provide certification for use of the equipment in Safety Instrumented Systems."

The new Foundation for SIF technical specification defines analog input (AI) blocks for fieldbus transmitters and other SIF devices.Future updates to the specification will include digital output (DO) blocks. Within Foundation technology, function blocks contain the information needed for online control functions. Device Description (DD) and Capability Files (CF) provide additional information required for configuration and display purposes. 

The Foundation for SIF ITK 1.0 is an excellent tool for troubleshooting and debugging devices and provides all hardware and software required to ensure a manufacturer's complete device interoperability as specified by the Fieldbus Foundation's official registration testing procedure. By using the test kit, device developers can run tests identical to those used by the foundation before submitting their device for registration.

The Foundation for SIF ITK includes a host of test cases verifying the functionality of a fieldbus device and its conformance with the Foundation fieldbus function block and transducer block specifications. It also incorporates a DD "Super Viewer" allowing examination and verification of a device's DD, and a conformance test procedure for the Physical Layer. The DD Super Viewer supports validation of existing DDs and the new DD 5.1 format. Device developers can walk their DD, execute methods, and render  visualization elements supported by the new DD 5.1 technology. As additional standard function blocks become available, the ITK will be upgraded with new test cases to verify these expanded implementations.

The interoperability test suite can be paired with an ITK automation tool designed to eliminate several manual intervention steps required when performing pre-registration testing of fieldbus devices. The tool improves ITK schedule efficiency and provides a direct reduction in the person-hours needed to complete the testing phase. It is available with a maintenance agreement to keep the test suite software up to date with the latest enhancements.

The Foundation DD Library (Version 3.4) has been updated to include standard Device Description Language (DDL) code for new SIF blocks. With this DD subscription service, device developers now have access to a template DDL that makes it easier and less time-consuming to develop DDs to the Foundation fieldbus specification.