OVER the past two decades, the evolution and industry acceptance of intelligent field devices has created new opportunities for process optimisation by providing two-way digital information flow for an expanding range of data from industrial processes.
Now the interchangeability and user-friendliness of the measurement and control devices is being radically boosted by a new software specification known as the Field Device Tool (FDT) and its associated Device-Type Managers (DTMs), Endress+Hauser reports.
In the past, field device vendors developed proprietary protocols and hardware communication tools. Then the HART specification defined instrument configuration protocols in terms of mandatory sets of standardised, basic commands, and the associated device description (DD) software enabled the products to function in an open environment.
However, after the HART technology became widely accepted vendors began building additional functionality into their DDs in order to gain market advantage. This led to the development of extended device descriptions (EDDs) - divergent software tools that were proprietary to each vendor.
Nowadays, using an EDD to configure, commission and operate an intelligent field device involves downloading the latest EDD version for that device from the Web into a HART hand-held configurator (HHC), and connecting the HHC to the device.
Given that the latest EDDs are large files, that the HHCs have limited storage capacity and that some vendor-specific HHCs have limited application, this can be extremely cumbersome for the users of the technology.
The evolution and market acceptance of fieldbus technology (eg Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus) have exacerbated this unsatisfactory situation by making EDDs even more complex and specific.
User frustration with the present EDD strategy has finally been eliminated by the new FDT in combination with FDT-compliant DTMs.
The FDT/DTM approach was developed by a consortium of manufacturers and endorsed by an international Joint Interest Group.
This advanced, hardware-independent framework provides 'plug and play' installation and conveniently centralised engineering, diagnosis and service for field instrumentation across all commonly used digital communication networks, such as Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus and HART.
The user installs the DTM for each device on their Windows-compatible platform as easily as they would install a driver for a new printer. The FDT technology automatically identifies and installs the suitable DTM, thereby allowing seamless communication with the device.
Major manufacturers are now developing DTMs for every field device or group of devices in their range. Like EDDs, DTMs are vendor-specific, high in functionality and are relatively large files; but unlike EDDs, they are freely available and will plug and play with your FDT.
The development of FDT-based DTMs offers a high degree of interoperability across the intelligent field device sector.
The simple, efficient design of the FDT/DTM human-machine interface will transform the end-user's experience of intelligent field devices, from installation through to predictive maintenance.
Engineering applications and DTMs for intelligent field devices have already been launched worldwide by leading members of the FDT Joint Interest Group, including ABB, BARTEC, Endress+Hauser, ifak, Invensys, M&M, Siemens and Vega.
Individuals or companies interested in participating in an Australian FDT/DTM user group should contact John Immelman at Endress+Hauser.