Showing posts from 2011


The integration of legacy systems and modern technology is sometimes a challenge in the creation and maintenance of robust industrial environments. The maintenance cost and shortage of spare parts for old equipment creates a financial burden and production risk that raises questions - is there a better way, can we leverage the cost and energy efficiency benefits of newer technology? In response to a customer requirement to retain his existing PLC (with unmodified code) but over time migrate legacy drives to modern drives we have created a gateway/converter that allows them the freedom to upgrade equipment incrementally. In their case a number of drives are controlled over a multi-drop RS485 network using the GEM80 Starnet HDLC protocol. Our gateway provides access to the original HDLC network and also to a parallel PROFIBUS network. It is possible to disconnect a legacy HDLC controlled drive and enable a modern replacement drive on the PROFIBUS network - the PLC is not aware that anyth

IDX Breakfast 2011

IDX hosted a breakfast at Blandford Manor, Johannesburg , on Wednesday 7 th September. The presenter was Dennis Van Booma, General Manager of PROCENTEC and Chairman Working Group “Training” at PROFIBUS International. The company PROCENTEC, based in The Netherlands, concentrates all products and services on the PROFIBUS and PROFINET technology. The first presentation gave insight into COMbricks from PROCENTEC, the first PROFIBUS and PROFINET based automation system that unites network components, permanent monitoring with ProfiTrace and remote I/O. The second presentation was about PROFINET. IDX is a PROFIBUS Competence Centre in South Africa and is a gold distributor for PROCENTEC.

HDLC GEM80-400 converter

We have recently designed a gateway for one of our clients that allows them to use their old GEM80-400 PLC to control PROFIBUS devices. Their upgrade procedure requires the old system running in parallel with the new system so they needed a gateway that was completely transparent to the old GEM80-400 PLC. The gateway transparently connects the old technology with the new, allowing for the easy integration of modern technology. Looking at the requirements that our clients had we realized that the system needed to be robust and versatile, allowing for the integration of a vast array of modern technologies. Leveraging the versatility of the converters and gateways already developed, we have built on the technology that is already tried and tested, and developing only what was not already available. With current testing and design we have developed a Modbus TCP driver which allows us to control most devices and connect to the majority of gateways already available. This allows for eas

PROFIBUS Training Courses in Richards Bay

The PROFIBUS Competence Centre ( PCC ) travelled down to Richards Bay in September to give two consecutive Troubleshooting and Maintenance courses at Mondi . This training was organised by Cube Technologies who has partnered with the PCC to facilitate Profibus Training in KwaZulu -Natal. The course was well received with 15 new PROFIBSUS Installers becoming certified. The attendees had the opportunity to do some hands-on troubleshooting on the PCC ’s training rigs. They are asked to identify and correct the faults on the rigs which are typical faults that one might find on a plant. Some of these faults can be identified and corrected by visual inspection, which can only be done once you know what you are looking for – that is, by coming on training. Some faults you can only identify with the appropriate test tools, without which, they discovered, they would be shooting in the dark. Profibus test tools include the BC-600 from Softing , the NETTEST II from COMSOFT and the ProfiC

Gold Certified Partner

IDX recently attained the Gold certified status from PROCENTEC. So many of you may think “what does this mean?”. PROCENTEC is rewarding companies for attaining a level of excellence by auditing their distributors according to a variety of standards that they have felt is important. These standards include, the technical knowledge of their devices, the practical capability to be able to setup these devices correctly, the CRM system that is used by the company must contain detailed information about the clients and the quotes and invoices. So we can make sure you get the correct device you ordered on time. What was probably the most interesting part is that we had to write a test, there were 2 options for this test. Either you could write it on an individual basis and you must pass by 90% or you can write the test as a group effort but the trick is that you must get 100% to pass. So you can guess what we did…that’s correct, we opted for the group effort and we passed. It was even fun on

KNX Training

We have been hard at work on our newest IDX Academy offering. Our strong industrial networking background has provided a great base to launch into the building automation space.*The KNX training course is offered at two levels, namely basic and advanced. The basic course will leave delegates with a solid detailed understanding of how KNX works, practical experience in setting up and configuring devices using ETS™, and how to design and specify a KNX system. You will also learn important techniques for energy saving and how to best go about specifying devices to minimise energy costs. The advanced course builds on knowledge offered in the basic course, and offers users in-depth knowledge of building automation systems, such as heating, lighting and air conditioning as well as an in depth look into the KNX protocol. The advanced practical includes topics such as security and motor control.*Delegates leave the training courses feeling confident in their knowledge to be able to tac

Anybus Wireless Bridge

I have often been asked if there is a possibility to convert from Modbus to Ethernet and then back to Ethernet, in other words the information needs to be bridged across an Ethernet infrastructure. Anybus is now meeting these requirements using wireless technology with a clever and robust solution. How it works The wireless modules act as a wireless bridge where a physical cable would usually be installed. What makes this wireless module so impressive is its ease of use. The simplest configuration is a point to point connection. The wireless modules require relative little configuration which is all done via the buttons on the modules. The modules will scan for the device that it is connected to and learn the MAC address (physical address) and IP address of the device. Both modules will need to learn the device that they are connected to, from there it is just plug and play. Since the module take on the IP of the device that it is connected to, the modules appear completely

IDX introduces AS-Interface (ASi) training

IDX has been successfully running certified PROFIBUS training for the last half decade and is now starting the IDX Training Academy which will be the umbrella for other fieldbus and device training. Watch this space for future training offerings including PROFINET, MODBUS and device related training (HMS, Procentec, Softing and Comsoft). We have been providing a combined PROFIBUS/ASi course for a number of years but we have decided to give ASi a space of its own. So we are proud to introduce Actuator/Sensor Interface, otherwise known as AS-Interface (ASi), training. The course will begin with an introduction to AS-Interface: where does it fit and when to choose it. Attendees will have a look at various topology options and network structures. The course then covers how power and data are transmitted and how the masters and slaves interact with each other. The training will cover the features, benefits and limitations of ASi as well as some safety considerations. The attendees

PROFIBUS – Full of adventure

For some of you, when you hear the word “PROFIBUS” you might cringe because of the problems you may have faced in the past with this fieldbus. When I hear PROFIBUS, I hear adventure, a new challenge and a new solution. I recently travelled to an African country known for its happy people and great chocolate. That’s right, you guessed it…Ghana! Situated on the north west of Africa along the Gulf of Guinea, it’s a tropical forest teaming with gigantic pot holes (at least the route that I travelled was!). The next morning,after 20 hours of travel and 4 hours of sleep, I was on my way to try and solve the elusive problem that was plaguing this plant. The problem was described to me as “three devices keep stopping and then we have to manually restart them”. After looking at the voltage levels, signal waveforms, message trace, statistics, etc on my trusty PROCENTEC ProfiTrace my conclusion was that the messages are getting corrupted by noise. Unfortunately there is not too much that can be

Need for Tag Synchronisation and Management

Modern plant systems consist of various real-time data systems, often from different vendors and the data contained in these systems is usually not directly exchangeable. The requirement to share information between these systems has become easier to achieve over recent years due to the advent of standardized data exchange protocols and systems, such as those defined by OPC, or using products such as IDX Data Exchange Server. However, while sharing this real time data has become simpler, the management of the systems producing and consuming this data has not. Currently, if the real time data elements, referred to as tags, are added or removed from the data producers, manual intervention is required to ensure those tags are added and removed from all the consuming systems in order to ensure configuration synchronization between all systems. Manual synchronization is a tedious process when the systems involved are large, changes are frequent, and where small changes, such as a cha


COMbricks™ - The first PROFIBUS and PROFINET-based automation system that unites network components, permanent monitoring with ProfiTrace and remote I/O. COMbricks is a modular system that allows a mix of automation components on a backplane. Repeater modules can be inserted next to a PROFIBUS slave and at the same time, in a web browser over Ethernet, the condition of the installation can be remotely inspected with ProfiTrace OE. Ap plications Remote maintenance station (ProfiTrace OE) Modular repeater backbone with hotswap Transparent datahub; repeaters, fibre optic, RS 485-IS, DP slave, etc. Gateway between PROFIBUS and PROFINET (DP/PN couplers) Remote I/O for PROFIBUS and PROFINET Product feature s 32 modules (10 high-speed modules) Wide range of modules available ProfiTrace OE Hotswap and extendible DIN-rail mounting IP 20 Modular PROFIBUS repeaters The current trend with PROFIBUS projects is to use segmentation with repeaters, fibre optic and ProfiHub

My Profibus network doesn't work...

We are constantly faced with comments about peoples Profibus network problems where, the general consensus is pure frustration. Helping out with different industries, ranging from precious metals to tissue paper, we have found common issues that if corrected and avoided, all problems fade away. Some of the issues we have found Lack of respect for the technology Managers don't understand the skill requirements needed to successfully troubleshoot and maintain a Profibus network. It is a common occurrence to find unrealistic expectations of staff who have never had any formal training on how the technology works. They are expected to know the ins and outs of Profibus and this is an unfair expectation. The network runs and may be easy to maintain, but if a problem arises, there is no way for the responsible parties to actually perform their required tasks. Rules are streched until broken We also hear the statement "But the network has been running and stable for the last 2 years,