Smart manufacturing in process control and universal I/O

Plant efficiency with the right control hardware.
January 12, 2024 by
Pedro Jr.

Process customers today are seeking to reduce the total cost of ownership, project execution time, and optimize production by expanding capacity, decreasing downtime, and empowering operators with smart manufacturing.

Smart manufacturing demands more intelligent information. Fortunately, today information and big data are everywhere. Sensors and instrumentation provide much more information than ever before. The problem arises when you need the system to accept that additional information.

In many cases, these changes are difficult, if not impossible, depending on the system's ability to receive the right data in the right place. Typically, control systems are commissioned with a specific quantity and type of input/output (I/O) cards that can accept data from sensors and instrumentation. Historically, any change in the arrangement of I/O cards was only possible by leaving space in a cabinet and having many different I/O cards available as needed. This is costly and can affect how quickly a system recovers from a failure or scheduled maintenance.

Today, the FLEXHA 5000™ Universal I/O options, enabled by the PlantPAx® 5.20 distributed control system, provide a new answer to address this issue.

Definition of universal I/O

Universal I/O, also defined as electronic marshalling, allows different types of I/O to be connected on a single card. These types of I/O can consist of analog (with HART) and digital inputs and outputs. With FLEXHA 5000 Universal I/O, these configurations are enabled by software, avoiding the need for physical changes to the components.

Benefits through flexibility

Reduced project execution effort: FLEXHA 5000 I/O allows various field wiring types. The end customer doesn't need to finalize their wiring too early. This helps reduce the total installation cost and provides efficiencies to engineers during the initial design without affecting panel costs. Many revisions and changes occur as needs may change not only during commissioning but throughout the life cycle of a system. There's also a benefit in designing a system with universal I/O. Starting with a universal I/O design, the power requirements of a system, termination assemblies, and wiring designs can remain the same regardless of whether the I/O type needs to change later, saving a lot of effort and planning. Minimize the impact of late I/O changes The FLEXHA 5000 platform provides the flexibility to change I/O types during its operation. This allows decoupled project workflows where the physical and functional design are parallel, enabling project timeline and cost optimization. Historically, you would have to manage maintenance needs by carrying many different I/O cards in inventory for each cabinet area. The FLEXHA 5000 universal card stands out as a single catalog entry, reducing the need to carry additional inventory.

Optimized for the process system user

It's important to note that process control systems demand certain capabilities from I/O cards that must still be available whether the option is universal or not. Redundant and highly available options, as well as channel isolation and HART communication availability, are crucial. The new FLEXHA 5000 I/O not only provides that universal differentiation but also offers redundancy, channel isolation, and HART communication interfaces.

Not all universal I/O is the same.

Many control system providers have launched universal I/O capabilities, but not all cards are built the same way.

Some, like the FLEXHA 5000 platform, allow remote software configuration of channel I/O types during runtime. The FLEXHA 5000 platform offers common components across I/O types, allowing a remote operator to dynamically change the I/O type without being physically close to the I/O card.

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