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ABB BACnet drives control both air quality and propulsion unit testing

10 November 2011

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is offering ABB a double advantage by controlling the air quality within one of its factories in Finland while simultaneously being used during the functional testing of its products. ABB’s Vuosaari factory near Helsinki produces Azipod - a podded, electrically driven marine propulsion unit, mainly used on cruise liners and other special-purpose ships.

BACnet enabled ABB low voltage ac drives within the HVAC system are providing the functionality needed to achieve this dual application. Thirty ABB standard drives for HVAC control the pumps and fans in the HVAC system. As well as monitoring heating and air conditioning throughout the site, the building automation system monitors the flow and temperature of air used by air-cooled Azipod propulsion units undergoing testing.

The BACnet system is divided into three sub-networks: one for the office block with five air handling units; one for the factory unit with three air handling units; and one air handling unit dedicated to supplying cooling air for the product testing. A sub-network can have a maximum of 31 drives and a router connected in a bus network, although in this case, no sub-network has more than 12 drives.

“Thanks to the BACnet-based open building automation system, the same operator workstations and operator interfaces are used for the air conditioning of the factory and the acceptance testing,” says Teemu T. Heikkilä, product manager, specializing in BACnet at ABB’s low voltage ac drives factory in Helsinki, Finland.

“The engineers involved in testing Azipod can control the air cooling system from their portable workstations on a wireless network.”

Because all data is available all the time on BACnet, a HVAC system based on it is extremely easy to expand, modify and maintain. This allows a workstation to be simply re-configured to add the new functionality. There is no need to change any network or device configuration when adding new reports or alarms to the operator workstation, eliminating the need to re-program any devices or install any new wiring.

A new range of smaller Azipod units has entered production. Here, water cooling will be used during testing, so the HVAC system has been modified to allow it to monitor cooling water temperature. The new testing station was added to the system without disturbing the existing automation.

“The network is future-proof,” says Heikkilä. “You can freely expand the system without touching the existing configuration, which will be compatible without modifications.”

The BACnet standard ensures that the integration between equipment from different vendors works in practice and that the system is fully open for any future expansion such as integration with supervisory systems.


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