Keywords: ABB, Field Devices, Instrumentation, Process Automation, Wireless, Condition Monitoring.
Executives from ABB's Measurement Products group, a group within ABB's Process Automation Group, recently briefed ARC Advisory Group on product enhancements and its go-to-market strategy for its measurement product portfolio. ABB has made significant technology investments to develop a common platform for all of its measurement products to give them a standardized look and feel as well as common functionality and diagnostics. While it has offered wireless instruments for some time, the company has made significant technology enhancements to address device power and communications. Even more compelling is ABB's go-to-market strategy for wireless products. This embraces a solutions-oriented approach to help ensure wireless devices and networks provide optimal and reliable performance long after the installation and commission phase.
ABB Measurement Products Group
ABB Measurement Products employs over 4,100 people in 50 countries. Its product portfolio consists of a broad range of measurement devices for process applications, including pressure, temperature, and level transmitters; analytical instruments; and flowmeters. ABB also offers a full complement of services, including startup and commissioning, calibration, training, maintenance, and optimization. ABB Measurement Products has customers in almost all major process industries, including chemical & petrochemical, electric power, oil & gas, water & wastewater, pharmaceutical, food & beverage, mining, and pulp & paper.
Technology Innovation: Key Competitive Advantage
ABB Measurement Products has invested heavily in R&D to maintain a technological edge in its measurement products. The investment has paid off, resulting in several market-leading positions derived from innovative technology leveraged across many of the company's product lines. Much of the company's R&D efforts have focused on creating efficient and user-friendly commonality within and across its measurement product families. For example, ABB instrument families share newly redesigned Top Works platforms that provide common HMI, software, electronics, and power supplies. The four platforms of Top Works include two-wire, four-wire, Field, and Advanced.
The two-wire platform supports all loop-powered and low power devices. The four-wire platform supports line-powered instruments. ABB offers the Field setup in wall- and DIN-mounted formats and includes color HMI and Ethernet connectivity. The Advanced platform, due to be rolled out in 2015, will be available in rack, wall, and integral formats and will offer both Ethernet connectivity and a touchscreen interface.
ABB's Top Works Platform Couples Common HMI to a Variety of Sensors
The Top Works platform can be mated to all sensor types ABB offers, including analytical, flow, pressure, temperature, and force measurement sensors. This approach enables the company to take advantage of economies of scale in production and provides its customers with greater flexibility and lower total cost of ownership.
A New Wireless Product Line
ABB recently introduced a new line of wireless field devices, including pressure and temperature transmitters, a wireless adapter for installed conventional devices, and a wireless vibration monitor for fault detection on rotating equipment.
The new WiTemp and WiPressure devices are completely wire-free, no power or communication cabling is required. The devices communicate via the WirelessHART protocol, offer 4 to 60 second update rates, and ship with five-year batteries. To address battery life issues, ABB has developed an integrated thermal energy harvester designed to be the device's primary power source. Using the differential between process heat and ambient temperature, the patented thermal harvester's thermoelectric generators can fully power the transmitter and support a 16-second update rate at minimum temperature differential of ±35° K. Higher temperature differences yield greater performance. Energy harvesting is available on WiTemp models, and ABB plans to introduce a pressure version in 2014.
ABB's WiAdapter is a wireless adapter designed for use with legacy wired field instruments. Designed for two-wire installations, the WiAdapter is compatible with HART 7.0 and HART 5.9 devices. This option provides users economical access to advanced HART diagnostics from their installed fleet of analog instruments. These are easily integrated into the asset monitoring functionality of ABB's System 800xA.
The WiMon 100 wireless vibration monitoring device employs a magnetic base, allowing it to be quickly installed on electric motors and other rotating plant equipment. Intended to support preventive maintenance programs, the device allows for the early detection of faults, giving users the information needed to optimize the timing of repairs for a failing motor. The WiMon 100's low power consumption can extend battery life up to five years. It can also be integrated with System 800xA or to third-party asset monitoring solutions, allowing a broader base of users to harness and benefit from motor diagnostics.
Beyond Technology: A Service-Centric Approach
ABB has invested significant resources into perfecting its wireless field device technology, addressing many of the drawbacks of wireless gear, particularly reliable device power. The company has also carefully considered how the technology will be applied in the field, and understands that the job is not done when the device is installed. As such, ABB is taking a measured approach to bringing its wireless offerings to market and plans a phased introduction of its wireless devices and solutions over the coming months.
In the near term, the company's strategy includes several pilot projects to evaluate its wireless measurement products' operation in real-world conditions. It is also developing methodologies to optimize wireless network performance in a variety of plant environments, each of which can present unique challenges to reliable wireless network communication. Upon completing the pilot phase for both wireless devices and networks, ABB believes it will be able to offer a fully realized, solutions-oriented approach for deploying wireless systems, with an emphasis on partnering with customers during and after the installation phase to help navigate the wireless learning curve and ensure that wireless devices and networks are stable and reliably deliver process and diagnostic data to the DCS.
ABB Wireless Devices Integrate with Control Systems via Wireless HART
ABB's Measurement Products group has made great strides to increase its value proposition for customers. ARC believes that a common electronics platform for all its instruments and new wireless technologies are major achievements. ABB continues its evolution from an engineering- and technology-oriented provider to a more solutions-oriented one with strong services capabilities and is bringing this philosophy to its field device business. Though some could argue that ABB is late to the table relative to wireless field devices, the company has taken the time to develop products that are designed for flexibility, ease of use, and low total cost of ownership. ARC believes that ABB's emphasis on offering fully-realized wireless solutions that integrate devices, networks, and control systems; combined with an ongoing, consultative relationship with its wireless device customers; should have a positive impact on their plants' performance.
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