Vision sensors, the brain and intelligent data processing

At a certain age, around 70, our bodies begin to show signs of wear. What becomes apparent is that our built in control loops and data processing software steps in to compensate, and covers the gaps in the best way possible, working with the degraded sensors and equipment still functioning.

Dual sensors – the eyes!

J3827This was first obvious to me when I started to try to monitor the effects of glaucoma, which results in blind spots in the areas of sight for each eye. This is not apparent in normal life, as what you see is the brain-processed image from two eyes. Where one eye has a blind spot, data from the second eye is used to complete the single image in the mind – and this is how we do not notice the normal blind spots everyone has where the optic nerve leaves each eyeball. With the early stages of glaucoma, the smallish blind areas are only obvious when one eye is closed, so that your brain only works from one sensor. But our own sophisticated data processing fills in the blind spots with a plain area in the same colour/style of image as its surroundings, so you think that you see the whole panorama. With luck, opening the other eye will add detail from the second sensor, to complete the picture.

 

The brain as an image store…

When glaucoma gets severe, the blind spots from each eye begin to overlap, meaning that the processor has no data coming in from either of its two sensors for certain areas of your view, so the processor moves up a gear and fills the area with sort of a plain colour, the same as the surrounding areas. But actually it tries harder, and if you were viewing an array of books on shelves, the mind can insert a sort of composite image of the books there, and fill the blind spot: it almost tries to fill the space with past image information, when it last had an input from that area – when you were looking at that spot maybe. But the brain is not so good at this, and anyway it is old data. The driving authorities do not allow glaucoma sufferers to drive cars, as a child, or animal, or bollard, can disappear in a blind spot, replaced by an image of the surrounding tarmac road surface.

Astronomers already use this approach to refine telescope pictures of planets: getting the sharpest bits of multiple repeat images, disturbed by atmospherics, vibration etc., which can then be processed to produce an unblemished image.

Cataract operation – a sensor upgrade

Cataracts affect the vision, basically by making the image less precise, almost by adding a fog. I have just had the right eye operated on, and a ‘clean’ plastic lens inserted to replace the old cloudy lens. This does not help the glaucoma, but it gives the processor a whole new set of problems. Having worn glasses for myopia for 60 years, these were discarded as the new lens can see perfectly at distance. The brain now still uses the two sensors, but presents preferentially the sharply focused image from the right eye for distance viewing, supressing the fuzzy, out of focus image still available from the left eye. For close up views, maybe when reading, the left eye image is used, as the muscles of the right eye have lost some of their strength, and cannot focus up-close. So the brain switches sensors. All this happened straight away, no learning time needed.

Lazy muscles?

It was more of a problem when my glasses came back, one lens replaced with plain glass. Maybe they had been distorted by the optician, but the two images were displaced vertically with respect to one another. This requires the eyeballs to not move together, as they do when moving from side to side, but for one eye to move up with respect to the other. Not easy, particularly as the processor called on muscles not accustomed to such work to operate separately. So there was a mechanical delay in the control loop, of around a second, whenever I moved my gaze onto a different subject. The brain was doing the job, it was just the body complaining! However, a better option here is to adjust the frame of the glasses to restore normal operations…. maybe I “Should have gone to” ….a better optician!

The next step?

But do I need to wear glasses at all … or can the brain do the job without them? People use this technique with contact lenses, working with one for long distance sight, and one for close-up work.

The above is based on an article supplied for the Journal ‘South African Instrumentation and Control’, published October 2018 by technews.co.za

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Italian Pharma co selects Emerson to enable a digital transformation…

FIS – Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici, a leading active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturer, has selected Emerson to digitize operations and work processes at three manufacturing sites in Italy. With these $20m (€16.1m) contracts, Emerson will provide automation technology to help create a fully electronic manufacturing environment for increased efficiencies, quality and regulatory compliance.

“It is vital that FIS develops the right relationship to help it expand operations in a measured and prudent manner,” said Franco Moro, general manager of FIS. “Working with Emerson provides FIS with a trusted partner as we digitize work processes and invest in automation to improve production and efficiency.”

As part of its growth strategy, FIS constructed a new $123m (€100m) unit at its Termoli site, doubling capacity to produce active pharmaceutical ingredients. Emerson will implement its Syncade manufacturing execution system at the Termoli site, as well as the Montecchio facility, providing automated workflows and paperless procedures and record-keeping. Paperless manufacturing improves production efficiency and offers widespread benefits in compliance, product quality, inventory and document control, which are critical in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry.

These two leading companies have partnered before; Emerson provided its DeltaV distributed control system to monitor and control manufacturing at the Termoli site in 2017. As part of this latest agreement, Emerson will expand the automation system to incorporate additional measurement and control instrumentation. By standardising on DeltaV across its Termoli, Montecchio and Lonigo sites, FIS aims to improve efficiency and ensure consistent operations.

“This project reinforces Emerson’s strong relationship with FIS, and, as a trusted advisor, we will continue to support its business objectives on a long-term basis,” said Mike Train, executive president of Emerson Automation Solutions. “Our expertise will help FIS further automate work processes and boost profitability across these three sites as part of a company-wide digital transformation strategy.”

The contracts are part of a 10-year strategic framework agreement signed with Emerson for the supply of its DeltaV and Syncade systems, measurement instrumentation and control valves, as well as a 10-year service agreement that covers the control systems at all three sites plus the new MES systems at Termoli and Montecchio.

Plant control systems and the internet

The following is my personal view of the business planning quandary faced by the major automation companies, first expressed in a Comment page published by Technews.co.za in the South African Journal of Instrumentation and Control, SAIC, March 2018 issue:

It is a common saying that the pace of technology change accelerates with time: although possibly as the observers get older, they become set in their ways, and cannot keep up.

This is certainly true, in my experience: I am getting older, set in my ways, and struggle to keep up. However:

It is not only the pace of such changes, but the speed at which the changes are spread across the ‘world market’, that makes new technologies so rapidly applied and, sometimes, profitable. In consumer markets, the effect is most evident, with the spread of mobile phones and mobile computing: possibly this would all not have come to pass without the availability of the Internet fuelling the spread of information. But for automation, and industrial sensors, has the technology change been rapid? I believe it has, and believe it is now accelerating ever faster, taking advantage of the advances made to meet the demands of other users. This has been evident, and mentioned in these columns, in referring to wireless sensors, batteries for self-powered devices, and self-power from solar or vibration or heat energy. There are many more developments that should be included in that list.

The problem for Automation companies

But how are the major sensor and automation companies driving this growth into their businesses using advances in technology: what are they researching? Where are they investing to get a business advantage? I think that their business planners are having a difficult time at the moment.

Around ten years ago, the big new technology coming to the fore was wireless communication from battery powered sensors. The large automation companies, like Emerson and Honeywell, invested heavily into this technology, and there was the inevitable confrontation between two rival systems – WirelessHart and ISA100. The automation marketplace thrives on such confrontations, for example the spat between Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus. It happens in other markets too; think of Blu-Ray and standard DVDs, PAL and NTSC TV systems etc.

Other perceived growth areas

After the wireless investments blossomed, the Internet was looming, and everyone believed they had to take advantage of the data that could be collected, and networked. Certainly Emerson and ABB went heavily into power network control systems, but ABB had major product availability and systems installation capability in the power industry and has made real progress. Emerson eventually sold out of this network power business, but retains the Ovation DCS used for thermal power station control on site.

Automation companies also bought into the long-established, relatively dormant and slow market of condition monitoring systems, by acquiring the companies quoted to be ‘active’ in the field, who had the ‘black art’ knowledge of industrial condition monitoring. Personal experience, back in the ‘70s, has taught me what a hard sell and difficult market even the simpler condition monitors offer, monitoring bearing wear etc, and that hardly suits the major project potential that might be of interest to big contractors. Complex systems, such as those applied to turbines in power stations, did offer potential, but needed real specialist back-up.

Additionally, the people in the business, such as Schaeffler perhaps (once again the product suppliers with the customer base), slowly developed their own bearing monitoring systems, ranging from portable hand-held units to bigger wired/wireless systems – these are the ones that I believe will succeed in this market. An alternative approach adopted was based on wireless technology developments, which needed a central monitoring system, the ultimate goal for the automation guys. Sensors for steam trap monitoring were designed by majors such as Emerson, to expand their plant control systems into condition monitoring for the plant engineers.

Sure enough, after a slower start, steam trap companies such as Anderson (US) and Spirax Sarco (UK) developed their own systems, and had the market entry with the customers using their traps. The opposite approach was adopted by Yokogawa, which is the pioneer of ISA100 industrial wireless systems. They created alliances with people like Bently Nevada, the bearing condition monitoring sensor people, and with Spirax Sarco on steam traps. Maybe this was to be able to reverse sell them the back-up products and technology for wireless systems, or maybe to hope for the potential of a plant monitoring control system supply.

Software systems

Most of the automation majors have alliances with the large software and computing companies, like Cisco and HP. The current approach seems to be to use these alliances to piggy-back a 24/7 plant monitoring system using the Internet, supplied as a service across the world. Again, I believe the companies with the product on the ground, the stuff that needs monitoring, will be the major players. Here it looks like GE, monitoring its own brands of refrigeration compressors, large pumps and gas turbines at power stations and offshore etc. are best placed.

The future

The quandary is where the Internet will help the industrial control systems and sensor suppliers expand their businesses in the future. The answer deduced above is stick to what you know and what you are known for. The irony is that the major with the best potential now is Rockwell Automation, with its systems based around Ethernet communications, interfacing with anything, plus their onsite Ethernet hardware, with control systems already configured to deal with such varied inputs. Maybe this was why Emerson made an abortive take-over offer for Rockwell late last year. The potential has also been seen by Profibus, who are pushing forwards with their Profinet, and where they go, Siemens will always be in the background.

Cybersecurity and Biopharma in Ireland

Cyber-attacks are an inevitable part of modern life, so cyber-security is a major focus for process control and automation systems on plants everywhere, and particularly in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. The ISA in Ireland is organising a one-day conference in Cork in April, to explore the solutions and concerns which uniquely affect control and automation systems used across Ireland today. The conference will also cover automation systems within the manufacturing, transportation and other critical utilities.

ISA Ireland has assembled some of the world leading speakers on this topic including those from some leading Control and Automation suppliers.

SIEMENS – ROCKWELL – EMERSON – YOKOGAWA – ABB

They all agree that the growing threat from cyber-attacks on the control systems running your manufacturing plants and critical infrastructure is not going to go away, and the threats are continually evolving. Such systems that cannot be shut down when under a cyber-attack need extra levels of protection.

This ISA Ireland conference will be held at the Rochestown Park Hotel, in Cork, on 13th April. It is focused on preventing or mitigating the damage that a cyber-attack will have on your control and automation systems. We will highlight the nature of the threat, how your systems and infrastructure can be better protected, and methods used to minimise attacks on your business. The presentations will give you an understanding of how the control system manufacturers are designing protections into the existing and future control system to reduce these threats, and explain practical steps that can be used to design-in safety measures.

Emerson biopharma investment at NIBRT Dublin

Emerson Automation Solutions is providing automation software and Delta distributed control systems valued at USD 1 million to Ireland’s National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) to help train next-generation workers on the latest technologies designed to optimise pharmaceutical production.

Mike Train, executive president of Emerson Automation Solutions, explained “NIBRT is leading the way in helping Ireland, its universities, and Europe meet the demand for the skilled biopharmaceutical manufacturing workforce the industry needs.” This collaboration with NIBRT follows a 2016 NIBRT study of the biopharma manufacturing industry in Ireland that found more than half of respondents have a high degree of difficulty recruiting and developing bioprocess engineers.

The planned Emerson Room at the NIBRT facility will simulate an innovative bioprocessing environment and feature a fully operational DeltaV system to provide real-life training in a safe environment.  Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA Ireland, said: “The biopharmaceutical industry is extremely important to Ireland, and is worth over €uro40 billion in annual exports. It is essential that we continue to provide the appropriately skilled workforce capable of operating these state-of-the-art processing plants for many years to come. Emerson’s significant investment will help us support this continuously evolving industry.”

NIBRT and Emerson Picture Conor McCabe Photography

Dominic Carolan of NIBRT; Mike Train of Emerson Automation Solutions; and Martin Shanahan,  of IDA Ireland, at the NIBRT facility in Dublin

ARC report confirms ABB continuing DCS market dominance

ARC Advisory Group is one of those typically American consultancy organisations that produces reports describing technology trends and competitive analyses that are then sold to the suppliers in the industry. Undoubtedly they are also employed to produce specific reports at the request of single specific clients, but the main reports publicised for public sale are the overall market surveys. Without paying a lot of money, the general public don’t get to see these.

All the data from the reports is generalised, and as ever, subject to interpretation, so hopefully each client can find something that reinforces his optimism about his company’s place in the market. So they are essential sources of backup data for Board presentations and the like.

The ARC DCS market study

The recent ARC report on the “Distributed Control Systems Global Market 2016-2021” report provided ABB with sufficient confidence to issue a Press Release stating that the ARC had confirmed ABB to be the ‘#1 supplier of Distributed Control Systems Globally’, with a 20% market share ‘across industries’, making ABB the leader of ‘digitally enabled control and automation’. This is a continuation of the position they have held according to ARC since 1999.

Peter Terwiesch, President of the ABB Industrial Automation division echoed these findings: “With our installed base of over 70 million connected devices and 70,000 control systems, and an annual investment of $1.5 billion in research and development, ABB is leading the digital transformation of industry.”

Such reports and statistics were the bread and butter, and even the honey, for the reports written for the Industrial Automation Insider newsletter that your editor produced from 2010 to 2015. The focus for such a report would have been that with at most seven major suppliers competing for the top slot, a 20% market share would imply the dominance margin is (still) fairly slim!

The ARC report provides a competitive analysis of the market shares of leading suppliers by geographical region, and broken down into eleven major industry groups, as well as equipment type, project size and style. The ABB release specifically mentions the ABB activity as delivering sustainable progress for power, water and process industries.

The ABB Profile

More interesting in many ways were the specific project examples picked out by ABB as the prime examples of their expertise in several sectors, viz:

“ABB’s leadership in DCS stems from countless ground-breaking projects around the globe. ABB Ability System 800xA plays a key role in securing the success for Sadara, the world’s largest chemicals complex built in a single phase. The monitoring and automating of the entire production process is fully integrated with System 800xA, all coming together in 18 control systems and 260 operator work stations. The integration capabilities also helped the Garpenberg mine to become one of the world’s most cost-effective and modern mines in the world. Hoists, mill drives, ventilation, dewatering, substations, conveyors, crushers, ore storage, and maintenance, as well as document management and communications are seamlessly integrated to the automation system. Very recently Emami Cement has chosen System 800xA to automate its new production plant which will help boost infrastructure growth in India.

“ABB Ability Symphony Plus is, for example, the core solution for integrating new emission control technology at a power plant in Wisconsin, US; for protecting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Venice, Italy from high water by controlling the city’s MOSE flood barrier system; for providing the automation and electrification solution for Adani, the world’s largest solar power plant in a single location, in Kamuthi India; and for enabling the Vietnamese utility Saigon Water Corporation (SAWACO) to control and operate its infrastructure in real time, significantly reducing the amount of non-revenue water.”

Walt Boyes has expanded on this report in the December issue of the Industrial Automation INSIDER, which was published on 11 January 2018.

 

Diabetes plant for Novo Nordisk chooses Emerson

Another Novo Nordisk greenfield pharmaceutical project has chosen Emerson Automation Solutions to achieve a fast project start-up: this Emerson release gives the following information.

Emerson advises: “Global healthcare company Novo Nordisk has awarded Emerson a $40 million automation systems and services contract for a new US-based drug manufacturing facility to help battle the global diabetes epidemic. The largest project in its history, Novo Nordisk’s new $2 billion plant in Clayton, North Carolina, will leverage Emerson Project Certainty methodologies and automation technologies to help ensure the plant achieves a tight project construction schedule to meet a construction target of 2020.

The new 825,000-square-foot production facility will help the Danish drug company increase manufacturing capacity and meet its goal of doubling production of diabetes drugs over the next decade. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, with another 86 million living with prediabetes.

“Our extensive experience in the life sciences industry and integrated offering for capital projects and automation perfectly positions us to help Novo Nordisk deliver its largest project in history,” said Mike Train, executive president, Emerson Automation Solutions. “Together we can design and deliver this world-class manufacturing facility to be ready on time, and to quickly deliver these important diabetes medicines.”

Novo Nordisk will implement elements of the Emerson Project Certainty approach to help reduce project complexity and achieve the tight project schedule. This transformational approach leverages automation technology, which serves as a central nervous system in a plant, and new methodologies, to reduce costs and complexity and accommodate late-stage project changes.

Novo Nordisk selected Emerson’s integrated portfolio of automation technologies and services, including its DeltaV distributed control system (DCS) and Syncade manufacturing execution system (MES). Emerson will also provide smart automation technologies including valves and measurement instrumentation.”

ABB automation increases capacity 10x for Tate & Lyle food additive plant

When Tate & Lyle acquired Biovelop, a Swedish manufacturer of oat based food ingredients in 2013, the factory in Kimstad, Sweden was modernized and expanded by installing automation systems, variable speed drives, motors, motor control cabinets  and valve positioners from ABB Automation. In 2016 the remodeled plant celebrated the first anniversary of operations with the new systems and significantly increased production capacity.

The global market for specialty food ingredients, including health and wellness products, is growing, with annual sales of $51 billion and annual growth rate of 4-5%. Oat ingredients have been actively involved with this trend as they offer some key nutritional and functional benefits. In particular, oat contains beta glucan, a soluble fiber that has been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce post prandial glycaemic response – claims that have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In fact, it was these properties of the grain that made the sector an attractive one to Tate & Lyle, and triggered the decision to diversify its portfolio into this sector.

“We have seen a more than tenfold increase in capacity with the same number of shift operators compared to four years ago,” said Annika Werneman, Tate & Lyle plant manager. “It’s a huge change in such a short time, and it means that we’ve gone from a low-level facility to one that can deliver high quality product to our customers globally.”

Advanced automation technologies in the plant run critical food processing equipment -including pumps and decanters: material handling machinery is also used to transport the dry food products. ABB delivered automation equipment that included 85 variable speed drives (VSDs), with power ratings ranging from 0.37 kW to 55 kW, as well as ABB MNS 3.0 motor control cabinets and low voltage motors. ABB also delivered 44 Digital Electro pneumatic positioners (TZID-C) , which use the Hart protocol to communicate with the control valves.

“We needed a process that was highly automated and could run 24 hours, seven days a week, all year long,” Werneman continued. This meant building a system that enabled Tate & Lyle engineers to digitally interact with the system, commission (start) devices, and diagnose performance deviations or failures from anywhere in the world. This not only helps ensure operational consistency, but also reduce the total cost of ownership by enabling staff to manage the processes without being physically present at each site.

Such interactivity was enabled by the ABB fieldbus automation for the drive controls, providing flexibility as well as remote monitoring of the plant performance. “I like that ABB designed the system so that the fieldbus responsible for device control is split from the fieldbus used for asset management,” explained Leo Dijkstra, power & controls team leader Europe at Tate & Lyle. “This ensures that I can make any changes to the configuration of the devices without the risk of the whole network going down.”

At Tate & Lyle, they place great importance not just on what they do, but how they do it. “We are working continuously wherever we can to reduce the environmental footprint of our operations,” said Dijkstra. ABB was well placed to help as it has developed a portfolio of products and solutions that improve industrial energy efficiency.

“In our pump applications alone, we are using up to 50 percent less energy thanks to the variable speed drives, and these have been running non-stop for the last two years without a single failure,” Dijkstra continued. “What’s more, ABB was so quick to deliver products that we even had the first VSD delivered in just a few days.”

Although the nearest ABB support is only a ten-minute drive away from the Kimstad factory, the fieldbus flexibilities in the drives enable Tate & Lyle to rely on its own staff to handle the ABB equipment remotely. “Our work with Tate & Lyle illustrates the benefits of digitization, which can yield immense productivity and output gains from existing facilities,” said Petter Hollertz, area sales manager at ABB. “The improvements at this plant also show what great teamwork between the equipment supplier and the user can accomplish, as we worked together as true partners on this project.”