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Software Advances from GE Fanuc

The company’s latest iFix HMI/SCADA system is the latest volley in the battle of product upgrades vs. automation software competitors.

GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, a Charlottesville, Va.-based unit of GE Enterprise Solutions, on July 16 announced a new release of its iFix HMI/SCADA—version 5.0. This version of the iFix human-machine interface/supervisory control and data acquisition system continues the battle of product upgrades with competitors Rockwell Automation and Wonderware. It includes the integration of software objects within the product. The new release includes a completely reworked user interface based on Microsoft Fluent technology. It uses the “ribbon bar” concept to improve organization of tools, yet it will run on Microsoft XP as well as Microsoft Vista.

One of the most significant improvements is the Enhanced Failover feature. This capability enables users to synchronize real-time data, every aspect of the tag database and alarms across the entire network. It is easy to configure and allows prioritization of networks for data synchronization and separation of real-time SCADA networks from the data synchronization network to boost performance.

Customers heard

“This is a major release of iFIX and has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback throughout its development and its Beta program,” said Prasad Pai, GE Fanuc’s iFIX Product Manager. “The product includes many voice-of-customer requests which have translated into major features and minor enhancements. The important ones include alarm management enhancements, easier to configure UI (user interface) for Network and Alarm filters and Event trapping support for iFIX’s Visual Basic for Applications scripting commands.”

iFIX 5.0 introduces a new state-of-the-art Charting tool that expands the software’s capability to display X-Bar, R-Bar, S-Bar, Histogram and Logarithmic charts, in addition to the more traditional real-time and historical charts. With support for advanced CGI graphics and a wide range of plotting types like Bar, Area, Spline and Best Fit Curves, the new Charting tool enables configuration of different line and display styles. This new tool implements an advanced algorithm to fetch and plot data efficiently, boosting the overall system performance.

In addition to configuration, iFIX 5.0 now enables users to read time-stamped data into their process graphics from GE Fanuc’s Proficy Historian using iFIX’s standard Datalink, providing easy accessibility to historical data in context to the real-time data. iFIX’s VisiconX tools now have an added capability of connecting directly to Proficy Historian tables for display of data grids into graphics without configuring complex SQL queries.

Alarm management

Alarm Management is one of the most critical aspects of a HMI/SCADA system, and, iFIX 5.0 introduces new tools to filter alarms, display alarms and notify the users of alarm escalations. iFIX 5.0 introduces an Alarm Escalation feature to generate an event if the severity of a particular alarm has increased, improving notification about process abnormalities.

Another enhancement to the new software comes in the form of more than 500 pre-built graphic objects called Dynamos that include Instrumenation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA)-specific symbols. These Dynamos support versioning to track any changes made to the master Dynamos. All objects support dynamic linking, so users can update graphics with any changes made to the master Dynamo object. Because the Dynamos have been built natively in iFIX, they are extremely scalable and support animations.

Other new features include:
• Discover and Auto Configuration that allows users to read programmable logic controller (PLC) configurations from its PLC file and configure the driver, database and Proficy Historian from one location in one single effort
• Graphic Thumbnail Support supporting the “Thumbnail View” of its graphics in Windows Explorer
• Custom Scaling for Analog data within Database tags
• Loadable blocks are specialized database blocks that have been created over the years based on customer requirements and input that are now included on the product CD.

GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms

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