Monday, August 21, 2017

HART Communication Protocol - Process Instrumentation

HART process instruments
Process instrument with HART protocol (Foxboro)
The Highway Addressable Remote Transducer Protocol, also known as HART, is a communications protocol which ranks high in popularity among industry standards for process measurement and control connectivity. HART combines analog and digital technology to function as an automation protocol. A primary reason for the primacy of HART in the process control industry is the fact that it functions in tandem with the long standing and ubiquitous process industry standard 4-20 mA current loops. The 4-20 mA loops are simple in both construction and functionality, and the HART protocol couples with their technology to maintain communication between controllers and industry devices. PID controllers, SCADA systems, and programmable logic controllers all utilize HART in conjunction with 4-20 mA loops.

HART instruments have the capacity to perform in two main modes of operation: point to point, also known as analog/digital mode, and multi-drop mode. The point to point mode joins digital signals with the aforementioned 4-20 mA current loop in order to serve as signal protocols between the controller and a specific measuring instrument. The polling address of the instrument in question is designated with the number "0". A signal specified by the user is designated as the 4-20 mA signal, and then other signals are overlaid on the 4-20 mA signal. A common example is an indication of pressure being sent as a 4-20 mA signal to represent a range of pressures; temperature, another common process control variable, can also be sent digitally using the same wires. In point to point, HART’s digital instrumentation functions as a sort of digital current loop interface, allowing for use over moderate distances.

HART in multi-drop mode differs from point to point. In multi-drop mode, the analog loop current is given a fixed designation of 4 mA and multiple instruments can participate in a single signal loop. Each one of the instruments participating in the signal loop need to have their own unique address.

Since the HART protocol is a standardized process control industry technology, each specific manufacturer using HART is assigned a unique identification number. This allows for devices participating in the HART protocol to be easily identified upon first interaction with the protocol. Thanks to the open protocol nature, HART has experienced successive revisions in order to enhance the performance and capabilities of the system relating to process control. The standardization of “smart” implementation, along with the ability to function with the legacy 4-20 mA technology and consistent development, has made HART a useful and popular component of the process measurement and control industry framework.

Have a question about HART? Contact Mead O'Brien by visiting this link, or call
(800) 892-2769.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Basics of Process Control Instrument Calibration

Process Control Instrument CalibrationCalibration is an essential part of keeping process measurement instrumentation delivering reliable and actionable information. All instruments utilized in process control are dependent on variables which translate from input to output. Calibration ensures the instrument is properly detecting and processing the input so that the output accurately represents a process condition. Typically, calibration involves the technician simulating an environmental condition and applying it to the measurement instrument. An input with a known quantity is introduced to the instrument, at which point the technician observes how the instrument responds, comparing instrument output to the known input signal.

Even if instruments are designed to withstand harsh physical conditions and last for long periods of
time, routine calibration as defined by manufacturer, industry, and operator standards is necessary to periodically validate measurement performance. Information provided by measurement instruments is used for process control and decision making, so a difference between an instruments output signal and the actual process condition can impact process output or facility overall performance and safety.

Instrument Calibration LabIn all cases, the operation of a measurement instrument should be referenced, or traceable, to a universally recognized and verified measurement standard. Maintaining the reference path between a field instrument and a recognized physical standard requires careful attention to detail and uncompromising adherence to procedure.

Instrument ranging is where a certain range of simulated input conditions are applied to an instrument and verifying that the relationship between input and output stays within a specified tolerance across the entire range of input values. Calibration and ranging differ in that calibration focuses more on whether or not the instrument is sensing the input variable accurately, whereas ranging focuses more on the instruments input and output. The difference is important to note because re-ranging and re-calibration are distinct procedures.

In order to calibrate an instrument correctly, a reference point is necessary. In some cases, the reference point can be produced by a portable instrument, allowing in-place calibration of a transmitter or sensor. In other cases, precisely manufactured or engineered standards exist that can be used for bench calibration. Documentation of each operation, verifying that proper procedure was followed and calibration values recorded, should be maintained on file for inspection.

As measurement instruments age, they are more susceptible to declination in stability. Any time maintenance is performed, calibration should be a required step since the calibration parameters are sourced from pre-set calibration data which allows for all the instruments in a system to function as a process control unit.

Typical calibration timetables vary depending on specifics related to equipment and use. Generally, calibration is performed at predetermined time intervals, with notable changes in instrument performance also being a reliable indicator for when an instrument may need a tune-up. A typical type of recalibration regarding the use of analog and smart instruments is the zero and span adjustment, where the zero and span values define the instruments specific range. Accuracy at specific input value points may also be included, if deemed significant.

The management of calibration and maintenance operations for process measurement instrumentation is a significant factor in facility and process operation. It can be performed with properly trained and equipped in-house personnel, or with the engagement of highly qualified subcontractors. Calibration operations can be a significant cost center, with benefits accruing from increases in efficiency gained through the use of better calibration instrumentation that reduces task time.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Very Unique "No Straight Run Required" Flowmeter

VERIS Accelabar
VERIS Accelabar Detail
The VERIS Accelabar® is a unique flow meter that combines two differential pressure technologies to produce performance never before attainable in a single flow meter.

The VERIS Accelabar® is capable of measuring gases, liquids, and steam at previously unattainable flow rate turndowns—with no straight run requirements.

No Straight Run Required

The VERIS Accelabar® can be used in extremely limited straight run piping configurations. All necessary straight run is integral to the meter. The stabilization and linearization of the velocity profile within the throat of the nozzle eliminates the need for any upstream or downstream pipe runs.

Read the document below for more information or download the VERIS Accelabar® PDF from Mead O'Brien's website here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mead O'Brien: Experts in Valves, Valve Automation, Steam & Hot Water Systems, Process Instruments

Mead O’Brien specializes in valves & valve automation, steam & hot water products and systems, instrumentation products, skid designs, field services, surveys, assessments, and consulting.

Product Focus:
  • Valves, valve automation and control
  • Steam and hot water products and systems
  • Instrumentation and controls
For more information, visit or call  (800) 892-2769.

Please pardon our little shameless self-promotion. Thanks for watching this short video highlighting Mead O'Brien products.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Industrial Valve Actuator Basics

Electric actuator
Electric actuator (Limitorque)
Actuators are devices which supply the force and motion to open and close valves. They can be manually, pneumatically, hydraulically, or electrically operated. In common industrial usage, the term actuator generally refers to a device which employs a non-human power source and can respond to a controlling signal. Handles and wheels, technically manual actuators, are not usually referred to as actuators. They do not provide the automation component characteristic of powered units.

The primary function of a valve actuator is to set and hold the valve position in response to a process control signal. Actuator operation is related to the valve on which it is installed, not the process regulated by the valve. Thus a general purpose actuator may be used across a broad range of applications.
Pneumatic actuator
Pneumatic actuator (Metso Neles)

In a control loop, the controller has an input signal parameter, registered from the process, and compares it to a desired setpoint parameter. The controller adjusts its output to eliminate the difference between the process setpoint and process measured condition. The output signal then drives some control element, in this case the actuator, so that the error between setpoint and actual conditions is reduced. The output signal from the controller serves as the input signal to the actuator, resulting in a repositioning of the valve trim to increase or decrease the fluid flow through the valve.

An actuator must provide sufficient force to open and close its companion valve. The size or power of the actuator must match the operating and torque requirements of the companion valve. After an evaluation is done for the specific application, it may be found that other things must be accommodated by the actuator, such as dynamic fluid properties of the process or the seating and unseating properties of the valve. It is important that each specific application be evaluated to develop a carefully matched valve and actuator for the process.

Hydraulic and electric actuators are readily available in multi-turn and quarter-turn configurations. Pneumatic actuators are generally one of two types applied to quarter-turn valves: scotch-yoke and rack and pinion. A third type of pneumatic actuator, the vane actuator, is also available.

For converting input power into torque, electric actuators use motors and gear boxes while pneumatic actuators use air cylinders. Depending on torque and force required by the valve, the motor horsepower, gearing, and size of pneumatic cylinder may change.
Linear pneumatic actuator
Linear pneumatic actuator (Neles)

There are almost countless valve actuator variants available in the industrial marketplace. Many are tailored for very narrow application ranges, while others are more generally applied. Special designs can offer more complex operating characteristics. Ultimately, when applying actuators to any type of device, consultation with an application specialist is recommended to help establish and attain proper performance, safety and cost goals, as well as evaluation and matching of the proper actuator to the valve operation requirements. Share your fluid process control requirements with a specialist in valve automation, combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Segmented or V Ported Ball Valves

Metso Neles segment ball valve
Metso Neles segment ball valve
Ball, plug and butterfly valves all belong to a class of valves commonly referred to as "quarter-turn" valves. This refers the 90 deg (angular) rotation required to go from full closed, to full open position.

In most cases standard ball, plug, or butterfly valves are not the best choice as control valves (where the process media has to be modulated or throttled). Standard ball, plug and butterfly valves usually introduce very non-linear, dynamic flow coefficients. Furthermore, they can introduce undesirable turbulence to your piping system.

As a means to linearize flow coefficients and reduce turbulent flow, the machining, or characterization, of the valve disk is done so that the machined shape allows for more optimized flow.

For ball valves in particular, machining the ball's flow port with a "V", or even by machining the ball more radically, can deliver excellent flow curves. A term for a more radically machined ball is the "segment ball" (sometimes called "segmented").  In the following video you can see how a Metso Neles segment ball valve is designed to provide excellent control.

For more information about Metso Neles valves, contact Mead O'Brien at  (800) 892-2769 or visit

Friday, June 30, 2017

Happy Fourth of July from Mead O'Brien

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Declaration of Independence