During a recent project for a nuclear power plant, our consultants were tasked with converting more than a hundred HMI screens to Honeywell. These screens had varying degrees of complexity, from simple status screens to crowded, dynamic process graphics. The fact that this changeover took place as part of a nuclear project also required strict documentation, validation, and testing for all process shapes, graphics, and objects.
Honeywell’s basic functionality can easily handle most of the normal HMI screens that are developed, and that was the case with this project as well. However, there were a few screens which contained some custom functionality that basic Honeywell functionality could not match. In this project, certain screens contained plotting graphs: X-Y plots where both the X-value and the Y-value were dynamically linked to different real variables. The values of these tags changed independently and constantly, requiring fast updating and 30 minutes of history to be saved. The source of the links could also be changed with a simple click of a button to the side, completely changing the plot. The result looked like a game of ‘Snake’, with an ever-updating line weaving its way around the plot, changing colors and triggering alarms or warnings as it moved in and out of different regions within the plot. Those areas could also be defined by the user. To convert those plots, basic Honeywell simply did not have the tools to produce this same functionality. The necessity of accomplishing this conversion led us to discover the ActiveX plugin software - Gigasoft plots. Using this already built-in tool, it became possible to accomplish any complex plotting graphics that were needed with some simple scripting.
For starters, the Gigasoft plot plug-in is already configured to work seamlessly with Honeywell HMI. With the right licensing, it may already come included with some software packages. Once installed, the user only needs to click and drag a placeholder object into the Honeywell DisplayBuilder window. This object will then contain all the scripting needed to create the plot in runtime.
The scripting itself is no different than the usual VisualBasic Scripting found in Honeywell DisplayBuilder, so no new programming language or syntax needs to be learned before starting. From this script, the customization options are almost limitless. Plotting can be done through arrays. So, it is important to specify the length of your arrays and the update time. It is also possible to change the amount of data that is kept for a specific length of time. Adding text and different colored regions that are specifically bounded by different functions is also an exciting part of this software. The most recent (leading) data point can be customized separately from the rest of the data being graphed, so that the present value is more evident. Obviously, titles, labels, and axis configuration can also be customized. The figures below show the result of some of this customization. The first figure demonstrates visually what the data could look like as it moves across the plot. Again, the plotting style is completely configurable and customizable.
The second figure shows the added text and arrows, the changing of the color of the current data point (the blue dot), and it offers a visual of what a more complete plot could look like using this tool.
All this customization is done within the HMI object itself, or in the case of some global functions, within the actual general graphic scripting. This means that there is no limitation to producing only one of these plots per graph. Since this script lives in the object, once one plot has been scripted, then that object can be copied and pasted wherever you like and it will have the same configuration as the original. From there, it is possible to change links and titles and have new plots within mere seconds. The figure below demonstrates this functionality. All the plots are shown on one graphic that is constantly updating and acting independently. Depending on how the script is created, there will also be no lag or memory issues.
As you can see, this Gigasoft plug-in was extraordinarily useful for producing the nuclear graphic plots we were tasked to create. But the application of this software is certainly not limited to simple 2D plots. Gigasoft boasts the ability to create 3D plots, scientific plots, bar graphs, and pie charts with all the same customizability that has been shown above and more. This software can be used in any type of industry for any type of plotting that is needed.
Whenever this functionality is needed in the future, we now have the ability and the tools to accomplish whatever the customer would like to see created. Often, the most difficult part of implementing new software is the testing and validation of the software. However, since Avid has extensive experience with the documentation and testing required in the nuclear and life sciences industries, we can satisfactorily meet any regulations and requirements for any related industry. Our knowledge and utilization of the plotting software of Gigasoft now offers us the ability to satisfy user HMI demands to create unique and special displays that meet and oftentimes exceed customer expectations.
In the automation world, we touch so many different industries, platforms, technologies, and standardization's, that it is important to know the most up-to-date, relevant information to help our clients get ahead. Whether it is industry-specific information, the most pertinent practices, or just looking to increase your knowledge, there are a number of places to look. Below is a list of the top four places to seek information to help you reach your automation goals:
Automation World is a magazine, newsletter, and website that offers a multitude of controls information. The magazine has their metaphoric hands in both factory and process worlds, and their knowledge base regarding products – from controls and drives to energy management, is extensive. They offer information about engineering, IT, and operations, making Automation World a news outlet worth subscribing.
International Society of Automation (ISA)
ISA is a global non-profit organization that helps standardize, educate, and certify the automation industry and its professionals. They host conferences and exhibitions and strive to help their members through networking and training. This is a great way to link up with other professionals in the industry and learn what they have gained through experience.
Control System Integrators Association (CSIA)
CSIA is a community of system integrators that pool together their experience and expertise, creating a library of best practices that is shared through extensive networking. Through CSIA you can attend webinars and podcasts, get certified, find integrators, and attend conferences, all to increase your personal knowledge while helping to drive modernization in the automation industry.
Avid Solutions Consultant
Sometimes, the best way to find information is by just asking an expert. Here at Avid, we have a wide variety of expertise and industry knowledge that literally spans a millennium. We offer automation solutions, information solutions, and managed services to drive industrial processes and reach our client’s needs. What’s better, we are just a phone call or email away. Our consultants can take your processes further and help you run better.
Most of us would agree that the future is important. We make many decisions every day that affect our future - from what we eat, to how much we exercise, and even to what we buy. For example, when it comes to buying a car, the desire may be to purchase a Porsche, but the car’s value does not increase over time. The wiser choice would be to purchase a more reasonably-priced car and to invest the money for future use.
The same can be said of a manufacturing facility. Plant operations managers need to make the right decisions today that will ensure the viability of their facility for decades to come. They owe it to themselves and their future employees and colleagues to make the right decisions now to sustain the facility for the future.
The following are some questions that plant operations managers should consider as they look five, ten and even 20 years down the road:
Operators of aging manufacturing plants need to make decisions now that keep changing technologies in mind. It is possible to extend the life of the facility by keeping an eye to the future. Think about the future in every decision that you make. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it’ll save you time in the end.
Replacing aging manufacturing equipment can result in the following benefits:
Involving a knowledgeable system integrator can help to guide your company so you can make the right decisions today to ensure a strong future. A successful integration firm has the ability to collaborate with clients to identify and select best-in-class platforms, design and implement systems, and provide verification and validation documentation and services. It's also important to have a knowledge of programmable logic controllers (PLC), human machine interface (HMI), distributed control systems (DCS), and information applications.
At Avid, we are committed to providing unique answers to our manufacturing partners through our process of Outcomes-Based Engineering (OBE). By listening to the needs of our clients, we provide independent and unbiased answers and recommend best-in-class technology solutions that meet and often exceed expectations. We have developed a process batch documentation and implementation library that greatly streamlines batch configuration, troubleshooting, and maintenance.
Whether it’s retirement planning, saving for your children’s education, or planning for the future success of your manufacturing facility, there’s no time like the present to get started. As with most things in life, keeping an eye to the future is important.