Appropriate Network Connectors Bring Best Service

Not having the right connection devices or technologies can cripple the potential of an automation network.

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That’s why some recent advances in connection technology bode well. “Everyone recognizes what they need, but the technology to upgrade has been too expensive,” observes Mike Cushing, product marketing manager with the Process Instruments and Analyzers Group at automation supplier Siemens Industry Inc. (www.sea.siemens.com), Spring House, Pa. That’s why he believes that wireless technology will bring “game-changing” solutions. “All the buzz is about wireless. Think of it as a network connection device.” He also predicts, “WirelessHart is going to be how things are done.”

Perhaps, though, the best connection end-users need is the one not made? Austin, Texas-based vendor Emerson Process Management (www.emersonprocess.com) could help end-users realize that goal through its DeltaV S-series electronic marshalling technology. That input/output (I/O) apparatus will be shipped in May 2010, states Andre Dicare, DeltaV product marketing manager. “The overall I/O card has 96 channels per card, where all are 100 percent usable.” He explains that the CHARM—characterizing module—technology can accommodate any type of I/O, which allows end-users to use spare I/O and to connect I/O anywhere in the system, such as field junction boxes.

Powerful cables

Connections typically imply cabling, and recent or about-to-be-launched advances should improve end-users’ operations. “We’ll have a 600-volt cable for Ethernet,” forecasts Bob Lounsbury, principal engineer with supplier Rockwell Automation Inc.’s (www.rockwellautomation.com) Controls and Visualization business unit in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Lounsbury’s reference is to a product scheduled for launch and simultaneous shipment at the end of March or in April, according to Tanvi Desai, Rockwell product manager for connection systems and networks, in Chelmsford, Mass.

“We will see it being used in power cabinets where there is switch gear,” Lounsbury predicts, “because industrial Ethernet is being integrated in platforms that inherently have high-voltage cables in them.” He notes that the need to separate power cables from these communications cables, using metal separators, disappears.

For cable-to-cable connections, in the past six months, Pepperl+Fuchs GmbH (P+E, www.pepperl-fuchs.com) increased the operating current in its VAZ-T1-FK-Clamp1 AS-Interface [Actuator Sensor Interface] flat-to-flat cable-splitter box  from 6 amps to 8 amps, notes Helge Hornis, the Twinsburg, Ohio-based manager of P+E’s Intelligent Systems Group. “Whatever the AS-I cables supports, this [splitter] will now handle.”

Another connector technology that Hornis highlights is the Automatisierungsinitiative der deutschen Automobilhersteller (AIDA, German automotive manufacturers’ automation initiative) push-pull-type connector. “You can have it with Ethernet or power.” However, he notes that P+E uses the AIDA push-pull connector on its radio-frequency identification, or RFID, devices.
 
And though it’s a Fieldbus Foundation fieldbus-focused enterprise-control system that connects business and automation, Plano, Texas-based Invensys Operations Management’s (www.ips.invensys.com) InFusion platform is seeing an enhancement that should make network operations easier for users. Development began in the 2008-2009 period. It shipped at the end of January. It expands the fieldbus’ functionality, but “doesn’t change the connections,” comments Charlie Piper, development program manager located in Foxboro, Mass.

This automates “the process by which we can set up the function blocks and transducer blocks in the field devices,” Piper explains. Calling this a “second-generation Foundation Fieldbus system,” he claims, “instead of taking minutes per device, it’s about a 20-to-1 reduction in time, compared to human-supervised effort.”

C. Kenna Amos, ckamosjr@earthlink.net, is an Automation World Contributing Editor.

Siemens Industry Inc.
www.sea.siemens.com

Emerson Process Management
www.emersonprocess.com

Rockwell Automation Inc.
www.rockwellautomation.com

Pepperl+Fuchs GmbH
www.pepperl-fuchs.com

Invensys Operations Management
www.ips.invensys.com

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