Monday, August 21, 2017

Fieldbus Equipped Process Control Instrumentation: Part Two of Two

(Image courtesy of Lessons in Industrial Instrumentation
and Tony R. Kuphaldt and shared under Creative Commons
4.0 International Public License
Since automatic control decisions in FOUNDATION fieldbus are implemented and executed at the field instrument level, the reliance on digital signals (as opposed to analog) allows for a streamlined configuration of direct control system ports. If the central control device were to become overloaded for any reason, tasks related to control decisions could still be implemented by operators in the field. This decentralization of the system places less burden and emphasis on the overall central control unit, to the point where, theoretically, the central control unit could stop functioning and the instrumentation would continue performing process tasks thanks to the increased autonomy. Allowing for the instrumentation to function at such an increased level of operation provides a proverbial safety net for any system related issues, with the capacity for independent functionality serving as both a precaution and an example for how process technology continues to evolve from analog solutions to fully end to end digital instrumentation.

Even in terms of the FOUNDATION instrumentation itself, there were two levels of networks being developed at this increased level of operation, initially: the first, H1, was considered low speed, while H2 was considered high speed. As the design process unfolded, existing Ethernet technology was discovered to fulfill the needs of the high speed framework, meaning the H2 development was stopped since the existing technology would allow for the H1 network to perform to the desired standards. The physical layer of the H1 constitutes, typically, a two-wire twisted pair ungrounded network cable, a 100 ohm (typical) characteristic impedance, DC power being conveyed over the same two wires as digital data, at least a 31.25 kbps data rate, differential voltage signaling with a defined threshold for both maximum and minimum peak receive rates, and Manchester encoding. Optical fiber can be used on some installations in lieu of the twisted pair cable.

Most of these specifications were exactly designed to withstand extremely challenging process control environments while still not abandoning the philosophy of being easy to build and implement, especially in terms of new system establishment. The most crucial aspects of many process control systems are streamlined together, allowing for consistent communication and synchronization. All aspects are viewable from both the legacy central controller and also via each individual device. Despite the data rate of 31.25 kbps being relatively slow, what is sacrificed in terms of speed is more than made up for in terms of the system being compatible with imperfect cables and other hiccups which may destabilize a network with faster speeds. The evolved technology, ease of installation, and durability have made the H1 network a widely used implementation of the FOUNDATION fieldbus technology. Fieldbus is currently considered one of a few widely adopted industrial process control communications protocols.

Contact Power Specialties with any process instrumentation, or field device communication question you may have. Visit or call (816) 353-6550.