Remote I/O Upgrading Process Plants with Remote I/O

Author / Editor: Sabrina Weiland / Dr. Jörg Kempf

When an existing process plant calls for a major upgrade, it makes sense to introduce new technologies while keeping established infrastructure components. Remote I/O represents an intelligent technology to fully integrate existing field instrumentation into any modern PCS.

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LB System with enclosure for Zone 2 from Pepperl+Fuchs
LB System with enclosure for Zone 2 from Pepperl+Fuchs
(Picture: Pepperl+Fuchs)

Sooner or later, any process plant will reach the point when it’s time for a major upgrade. With most plants, it is the process control system (PCS) that triggers such a decision. One reason is the problem with getting spare parts for a system that was installed many years back. Another is the increasing difficulty of finding a service technician still familiar with such outdated technology.

Many older process plants work with a heterogenous control system consisting of multiple proprietary solutions, which do not really interact seamlessly. This means that control room staff has to deal with different user interfaces. There is also no way to fully control all aspects of the process plant, which means that process automation has its limits.

PCS technology has seen dramatic developments, especially in recent years. Process automation with today’s technology not only provides an unlimited view of the complete process plant down to each field device, it also allows real–time communication with the company’s ERP system. The benefit is a seamless communication infrastructure from order processing through production planning to the automated control of each individual process. Nobody needs to explain to a professional what tremendous impact this has on the flexibility, agility, and efficiency of an organization.

Maintaining the I/O System

The various procedures in a plant usually have gone through a continuous process of development, improvement, and fine tuning. Losing this know-how carries a high risk. Changing proven processes involves high development and installation efforts. For this reason, most companies refrain from installing a totally new system and instead choose a soft upgrade. This means that existing field instrumentation will be replaced only where it will lead to higher process security and plant availability.

At Pepperl+Fuchs, R&D engineers have come up with a highly cost-effective technology to enable plant operators to seamlessly integrate existing plant instrumentation into one of the modern PCS solutions with their fieldbus infrastructure. The manufacturer’s range of Remote/IO products falls into two categories: FB Remote/IO components match the requirements for Zone 1 and Zone 21 operation and convert analog signals coming from hazardous areas for communication with a fieldbus-based infrastructure. LB Remote/IO components are their counterparts for Zone 2 or Zone 22 installation. The LB Remote/IO components are known for their extremely compact design. With a width of only 16 mm and reduced overall dimensions, they require very little space in the switching cabinet. Status LEDs for each channel are a practical feature for fast on-site verification. These LEDs indicate a range of operating and error conditions.