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.