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Field mountable videographics has arrived

01 September 2006

Armed with the new SM500F platform, ABB believes it is the first in the market with a fully field-mountable videographic data recorder that takes the process recording function out of the control room and into the plant, giving operators access to important process data - on the spot. Les Hunt reports

The data recorder market is a pretty mature one, so you'd think there wasn't much elbow room for any advancement. In recent years there has been a steady move away from paper recording media into solid state recording techniques that don't involve moving parts and costly consumables, and this replacement market is potentially a lucrative one - if you have the right product. And there are any number of companies offering solid state replacements for paper recorders.
ABB has been making data recording systems for longer than it probably cares to remember, and paper chart recorders have certainly made up a large part of its offering. The demise of the paper chart recorder has clearly been an issue for the company, but rather than panic itself into developing a 'me too' replacement, ABB bided its time to see which way the technology was going, and then set about challenging some firmly held views about data recorders and their place in the scheme of things.
Solid state was obviously the way to go, so that was a given. The problem with electronic devices, however, is they have limitations as to where they can be installed. Like their paper counterparts, solid state videographic recorders often end up in control rooms unless, of course, you house them in a special enclosure for mounting closer to the measuring point. Was it conceivable that these devices could be located out in the plant, like a pressure or temperature transmitter, without secondary housing? The other consideration was size. Mobile phone makers seem to have clinched that one, so were there any lessons to be learned from that sector?
In designing the new four-channel SM500F videographic recorder platform, ABB's key goal was to produce a device that could be mounted almost anywhere. This challenged one or two preconceptions about data recorders: the case sealing had to be of an order not previously considered for this type of instrumentation, and its overall size had to satisfy requirements for minimal panel and mounting space without compromising screen size and visibility. That meant a complete rethink in terms of the interior organisation of the electronics and the types of devices that could be used to achieve the required reduction in volume. Moreover, if the instrument was to be truly field mountable, there needed to be a range of mounting options built into the housing that didn't require a plethora of accessories.
In the end, the SM500F has a panel depth of just 50mm - about a third that of its nearest competitor. The screen and associated driver electronics are contained within a completely sealed, lockable door that hinges out to reveal the electrical terminations, with four cable glands allowing cable entry through the base of the instrument. Installation is accomplished entirely from the front of the instrument. ABB has taken a cue from the mobile phone industry, by including up to 2Gbyte of secure data storage in the form of a removable SD memory card. Other 'mobile-like' features include the ergonomic 'smiley' instrument configuration keypad, which is becoming a common feature of ABB's instrumentation ranges. And then there's the environmental sealing. ABB has managed to achieve IP66 (NEMA 4X) rating for the instrument housing, providing full protection against dust and water ingress. ABB believes this feature, alone, sets it apart from all other current data recorder offerings.
Mounting flexibility is provided by a neat, reversible bracket arrangement on the back cover that can be configured for panel or wall mounting, while a quick-fit option enables the recorder to be clamped to a pipe.
The SM500F is available with a choice of colour or monochrome displays, and process data can be presented in various formats, including chart, bar graph and digital indicator views. Historical logs also provide access to alarm, totaliser and audit trail data. A web server is included for remote monitoring, and the unit can be configured to send an email message when an alarm occurs. An integral Ethernet link is provided for data download and connection to a SCADA system via MODbus, if required. The SM500F supports all common process input types and is even able to perform local, logic-based control functions such as the switching of a fan or pump.

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