Thursday, December 23, 2010

25 years in the CAN!

February 1986, the CAN protocol was presented the first time to the public at the SAE conference in Detroit. Bosch presented its serial bus system dedicated for embedded networking in passenger cars. One year later, Intel introduced the first CAN stand-alone controller followed by Philips Semiconductors in 1988. In the meantime, the CAN protocol has become one of the mainstream communication technologies. The success as in-vehicle networks is unique in the automotive history.

All early competitors are gone. And more: CAN has penetrated many markets, what was not intended by the fathers of the CAN protocol.

Holger Zeltwanger
According to the CAN in Automation (CiA) nonprofit users and manufacturers group, there have been sold in the 25 years more than two and a half billion CAN modules. And the automotive industry is still hungry on CAN chips. Even low-end vehicles are going to use CAN technology – this includes also light electrical vehicles (LEV) such as Pedelecs and E-bikes.

Also in many other industries CAN networks are in use. This includes industrial automation, machine control, medical devices, public transportation, maritime electronics, laboratory automation and even extreme applications such as sub-sea instrumentation, mining machines, and satellites. “In any system, in which more than three micro-controllers need to communicate, CAN is an opportunity,” said Holger Zeltwanger, CiA Managing Director

Even if the CAN protocol is 25 years old, there are still some developments on the physical layer and the implementation. Recently, CAN transceiver with integrated galvanic isolation have been introduced, and a CAN transceiver with selective wake-up capability has been submitted for international standardization. CiA has also received requests for an acoustic CAN transmission to be used in underwater applications. But the CAN protocol is still the same. It has not been changed. “This is one of the reasons of the success,” explained Holger Zeltwanger. “In particular, for mission-critical applications and systems with long life-times a stable communication protocol is essential.”

More than 50 companies offer CAN protocol implementations. Nowadays, nearly all micro-controller families include members with CAN module on chip. The broad variety of CAN implementations satisfies very different requirements: High-end dashboards with gateway functionality and high-performed industrial controllers on the one side, and low-end sensors and other simple cost-sensitive devices on the other end.

The future for CAN looks quite good. New application fields are just emerging: For example communication between battery and charger for e-mobility, battery-powered service robots, and very small motors with integrated controller for diverse applications including domestic appliances and laboratory automation. Especially for safety-critical systems, CAN is due its robustness and reliability the only choice. And the chips are available for outdoor conditions. It is not necessary to stress the reasonable prices for the CAN chips.

“On behalf of the CiA community I like to thank the inventers of the CAN protocol and the developers of the CAN implementations,” said Holger Zeltwanger. “You have done a great job, even if it was not intended in the beginning to satisfy so many different applications.”

Trend the process on your mobile device

ExperTune’s PlantTriage now provides real-time trending of process variables on your mobile phone.  Live data from a control system is relayed to your cell phone’s browser.  This feature allows users to have immediate access to control-room data, even when working remotely out in the plant.
Proven in hundreds of plants worldwide, the PlantTriage control performance monitoring system automatically diagnoses and prioritizes process, control, and instrumentation problems, 24 hours a day.  Integrated analysis and tuning tools improve plant results by focusing effort on the most critical issues. 
“Once you detect a physical problem with an instrument or a valve, you may have to walk 15 minutes to repair it.  Once it is repaired, you need to see if you truly fixed the problem.  Rather than walk back to the control room, now you can simply check your phone.” says George Buckbee, ExperTune’s Vice President of Product Development.
The trending tools provide immediate trends of process variables, setpoints, and controller outputs.  Users can zoom, span and scale the trends to see details. Other features of the PlantTriage Control Performance Monitor are also available directly via a cell phone browser.  For example, users can browse through reports and dashboards that pinpoint instrument issues, valve issues, and tuning problems. 
John Gerry, President of ExperTune, adds, “These mobile tools add a new level of efficiency for plant engineers and technicians.  By eliminating wasted time, plants can focus more effort in the right place.”
The new tools are included in the version 10 release of ExperTune’s PlantTriage software. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Free tool simplifies planning, validation and documentation of fieldbus technology

The Fieldbus Foundation has released DesignMATE a complete software tool for planning, validation and documentation of Foundation fieldbus H1 segments. User-friendly DesignMATE automatically audits segment layouts for conformance with the Foundation physical layer specification, which is based on the international IEC 61158-2 (Type 1) standard. This assures end users their fieldbus infrastructure will work with desired parameters such as cable length, number and type of installed devices, and selected power supplies.
“With the DesignMATE software, end users can simplify the implementation of Foundation technology,” said Fieldbus Foundation manager – fieldbus products, Stephen Mitschke. “This tool verifies that a fieldbus physical layer conforms to accepted industry standards and is designed for optimal performance and reliability. It is ideally suited for engineering firms or system integrators designing new or expanded process plants, as well as plant control engineers or technicians adding new devices to existing fieldbus segments.”

Mitschke added, “DesignMATE helps in foreseeing any issues with the configuration of a fieldbus system prior to implementation. It allows users to perform rapid calculations, eliminate human error, improve efficiency, and minimize the amount of paperwork required during the segment design phase.”

Available for free download on the End User Resources page on the FF website, the DesignMATE software provides an intuitive graphical user interface and mouse support, enabling fieldbus segment design “on the fly” with drag & drop capabilities. The tool displays fieldbus segments in the form of an exportable image of a stylised topology. A printable report in Rich Text Format (.rtf) is also available. Users can analyze and check key physical layer parameters, such as supply voltage, load conditions at all terminals of power supply, fieldbus couplers and field instruments. An error log indicates deviations from the Foundation specification in clear text visuals for immediate remedy by the user.

DesignMATE also has the unique capability to consider ambient temperature and cable parameters, which can be easily set in the respective dialog windows. Default values for spur length or device load current only need to be established once.

Additionally, the DesignMATE tool is equipped with libraries for all components in the typical Foundation fieldbus infrastructure, including power supplies, fieldbus couplers for both safe and hazardous plant areas, and field instruments. Fieldbus devices from a wide range of automation equipment manufacturers are available in the software. An easy-to-use device editor is included for creation of custom instrument libraries.

Technical support for DesignMATE is available on Fieldbus Forums.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Transducers ideally suited to tests involving shock and vibration

Linear variable displacement transducers (LVDTs) from RDP Electronics are inherently robust and durable enough to meet the rigours of testing in situations generating vibration or shock.

Such test situations are numerous, but typical applications include vehicle testing, recoil testing, switchgear testing, and use on rolling mills and steel production machines, which often involve high levels of shock and vibration. Thanks to the rugged LVDT technology they have a high cycle life, excellent accuracy and repeatability with the added advantage of being an absolute device with infinite resolution. Because the sliding core of an LVDT does not touch the inside of the tube in which it is housed, it can move without friction, making the LVDT a highly reliable device, while the absence of any sliding or rotating contacts allows the device to be totally sealed. Typically the housing is of stainless steel providing high levels of protection against the operational environment. RDP offers comprehensive ranges of LVDTs for many types of accurate displacement measurement.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Online-tool for system integrators

Thomson's website offers new online tools that users and system integrators can use to find the right product in exactly the right size.
Thomson has enhanced its customer support with the addition of innovative product selection, configuration and sizing tools to its website. These tools can be found online at http://thomsonlinear.com/website/com/eng/design_tools.php. Depending on their requirements, users can select one of the following tools for products across Thomson's comprehensive range, which includes linear bearings and guides, planetary gearheads, ball screws, brakes and clutches, linear actuators, motors, linear motion systems and controllers:
    - Thomson Product Selectors – with one selector for each product segment, simply specify the desired product features and generate a list of products in an easy-to-read comparison table
    - Linear MOTIONEERING® – sizing, selection and quotation tool for linear systems
    - Micron MOTIONEERING® – sizing, selection and pricing application tool for Thomson’s wide variety of transmission products
The Product Selector tool has a special input screen to help you choose the appropriate model(s) for you. Each product category has its own product selector or “advisor”: ball screws and splines, lead screws, linear bearings, linear race shafting, profile rail linear guides, linear guide: round rail, linear actuators, precision balls, precision linear actuators and clutches and brakes. In the example shown in illustration 1 (“Linear Bearings” selector), you can first select the product family (e.g., Super Smart, Miniature Instrument, XR Extra Rigid, etc.) and then enter the shaft size in inches or millimetres. Under bearing options, enter the desired bearing type (open, closed, adjustable) and specify if additional features, such as wipers, seals, etc., are required. There is also help available with many of the options to guide you in choosing the appropriate features. With each option or feature clicked, the list of matching linear bearings on the right hand side of the window will update until only a few suitable models are displayed. You can also generate a special comparison table to see all the characteristics differentiating the products listed at a glance, providing additional help in making your choice.

The innovative Linear MOTIONEERING and Micron MOTIONEERING tools are web-based sizing, selection and calculation tools for linear positioning slide systems and for Thomson transmission products. The user simply enters application parameters in a few simple steps and application needs are filtered through a comprehensive set of calculations, such as linear bearing load/life, ballscrew critical speed, specific movement profiles and radial/axial forces. The tool then produces a set of product solutions tailored precisely to your application requirements. Once a product solution is selected, you can choose from a wide assortment of accessories, motors and motor mounts. In addition to this, the program offers interactive 3D models, list prices, delivery times and ordering information.

Also available on the website are interactive 3D models offering a three-dimensional representation of every Thomson product, which you can observe from all angles, using your mouse to zoom in and out. The dimensions and all other essential data are also displayed. Graphics can be downloaded in all common image and CAD formats, and you can even send an order request directly to Thomson from the illustration.

Website upgrade

Iconics has launched an upgrade of its website www.ICONICS.com. Virtual visitors to the new site are advised that they will experience a vibrant and innovative Website. Features included the latest technology for website design such as Silverlight, Content Management System (CMS), Tag Clouds and other advanced Web 2.0 features.
The new site offers the following benefits to the visitor:
    Intuitive access to information through simplified navigation.  Integrated Bing Maps and YouTube Video.  A beautiful, modern visual interface.  Content tailored to unique solutions, industries & job roles.

With the launch of the new Website, they welcome customers with SupportWorX Agreements to the Iconics Customer Connection , a Web portal devoted to customer support. On this portal, Hot Fixes, Complete Products, Services Packs, and Documentation are available for customer download.