In recent decades, the introduction of industrial Ethernet and wireless networks in process manufacturing plants and automation facilities has meant that data exchange within a facility and even throughout global corporate networks is becoming commonplace. This free flow of information has introduced new possibilities for using the copius amounts of data in existing field devices in an IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), context to enable the Smart Factory, Cloud Automation and Industry 4.0. The flow of process and diagnostics data from smart HART digital field instruments can now be shared with mid and higher level control, asset management and data information systems without having to upgrade expensive process control interface equipment.
Plant of the Future The typical process control model that involves decision making for the process at the local or centralized level by PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller) or BPCS (Basic Process Control System) is quickly changing. These systems were never intended to deal with or even realize the amount of data they would have access to in the near future. There are newer ERP, MES and asset management systems that collect some of this data now, but the more critical challenge that local manufacturing facilities face is manpower. Because streamlining of costs and overhead has left many manufacturing facilities with just enough personnel to keep the plant running, facilities no longer have the extra time, personnel and resources required to analyze data. For this reason we are seeing companies offer leasing or annual agreements that involve collecting, storing, and analyzing all sorts of process data. This data is part of a larger predictive analytics strategy that can not only forewarn operators of impending problems to come, but is also being used to optimize the process itself. This type of cloud automation looks to gather as much data as possible to reduce operating expenditures and future capital expenditures for future plant builds. So the challenge remains: how do existing and new manufacturing facilities find a cost effective way to get critical plant floor data up to higher level information systems? The answer is to take advantage of the digital HART data you already have installed but either didn’t know it was there or couldn’t afford the equipment upgrades to gain access to it.
HART Protocol With over 40 million installed HART devices worldwide, HART continues to get updated revisions that continually enhance data exchange capacity, speed, number of devices on a network, support over Ethernet, and wireless capability. It enables end users to have unfettered access to process and diagnostic data that can be shared with all areas of the new Smart Factory that supports IIoT endeavors.
In many cases, HART instruments were installed simply because they could be configured and diagnosed easily with a HART handheld communicator (HHC). However, the HART digital signal often contains additional process measurements and other variables that may include instrument status, diagnostic data, alarms, calibration values and alert messages. A simple and cost-effective solution for gathering HART information is to use a HART interface device. These HART interface devices make acquiring HART data a fairly simple proposition. This HART data can then be made available to the control system, asset manager or plant Ethernet backbone where it can then be shared with higher level systems or corporate WANs (Wide Area Network).
HART Interface Options There are several ways to interface with HART smart field devices in order to acquire the digital process and diagnostic information. They vary from HART enabled 4-20mA input cards, HART multiplexer (Mux) systems, slide-in PLC gateway cards, custom coded software interfaces for asset management and MES/ERP systems and standalone gateways that typically convert the HART data to some other proprietary or open industry format.
HART multiplexers are common and typically their interface is a custom RS-422, RS- 485 or RS-232 serial connection and is custom configured for a particular vendor’s hardware interface, asset management system or control system. Each of these options is quite costly and often avoided. The most expensive but also most specific HART interface to have is one written by a programmer which can then be customized to exact user and hardware specifications.
Standalone HART gateways, such as the Moore Industries HES HART to Ethernet Gateway System, often provide the most economical pathway to extracting HART data from field devices, making the data readily available to higher level systems. These products usually offer one to four channels or ports that allow several HART devices to be multidropped for maximum data concentration.
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