Advancements in fieldbus controlled valve automation has been driven by the need to reduce costs, operator intervention and footprint on the field. The ability to control and manage processes has increased to a great extent where field devices can execute process control loops. In comparison to the analogue transmission system the fieldbus system involves reduced cabling and higher data transmission rates resulting in more information transmitted over the network.
Process industries are adopting fieldbus networks for the enhancement of plant control and operation. The adoption of fieldbus systems is happening on an increasing scale due to reduction of wiring costs and diagnostic features that come along with fieldbus systems. Due to these factors process industries have achieved increased return of investment.
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A general challenge in the fieldbus market is the fact that fieldbus systems are selected based on the credentials of the company rather than performance of the fieldbus communication system. Major automation companies market field devices with fieldbus systems developed by them. The lack of early standardization has contributed to the development of individual fieldbus protocols by the major process automation companies.
“Intelligent field devices have created a revolution in the way machinery, process equipment and plants are being managed. Field devices transmit a wide range of self-diagnostic information that can be used to monitor their health,” says Frost & Sullivan Technical Insights Research Analyst Vishnu Sivadevan.“ This means that the technological advancements in the development of 'intelligent' field devices such as intelligent positioners and actuators are towards incorporation of features that enable real-time monitoring and diagnostics.”
The major challenge for upgrading a plant to fieldbus technology is the operator training aspect. The personnel at the process installation are usually trained for the existing industrial network. An upgrade or an expansion of the existing industrial network with fieldbus technology creates a situation where personnel have to be trained for two networking protocols. Due to the time that may elapse for operator learning and its effect on total installation time, the industry is adopting a cautious approach for upgrades to fieldbus systems.
“End users are only beginning to realize the true potential of diagnostic capabilities of intelligent field devices,” says Sivadevan. “A large section of process industries still function on analog industrial networks that are not capable of transmitting information other than control signals. In cases where industrial communication systems have been upgraded to fieldbus systems, full utilization of historic and real-time diagnostic information has not been achieved. Technical advantages of fieldbus and significant maintenance cost reductions where fieldbus automation has been implemented are convincing reasons for industries to go for upgrades.”
Smart field devices such as valve positioners are indispensable to attain and maintain optimum performance in process control. Proactive planning of maintenance is possible due to the diagnostics and predictive maintenance functions that are ubiquitous in most smart devices.
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