Selecting the Best Portable Tools for Maintaining Your HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus devices

by | Oct 1, 2013 | Asset Management, Event

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Editor

20131001-095547.jpgEmerson’s Alan Dewey provided an overview of effective tools for plant smart devices. His abstract:

Handheld configurations, calibrators, loop validators, laptops, notebooks, tablets, mobile phones, and other specialty devices are just a few of the possible tools that today’s instrument technician may need to install a device or diagnose a problem in the field. Many of these tools have overlapping capabilities. Plant maintenance practices, budgets, and security are other factors that can affect what tools are used (or even allowed) in a plant. This session will address how to determine the right complements of tools for today’s digital plants using HART and fieldbus devices.

Al opened by highlighting some of the important tasks done and best practices with portable tools in the field.

Portable tools are important in part due to our increasing comfort using them. They are ideal for applications where visual inspection is required and for installing and commissioning new devices. The list of tasks that can be performed in numerous through the lifecycle of intelligent field devices.

Some factors to consider in selecting the right portable tool include its ease of use, its coverage of devices to maintain, weight, size and other convenience factors, single versus multiple tools, accuracy (especially in calibration), ruggedness, intrinsic safety for hazardous environment applications, results documentation, and cost.

Changes made without documentation can lead to frustration when trying to solve problems. Have changes easily captured and recorded helps to reduce these incidents.

Al stepped through a number of tasks. He began with device configuration to include ranges, damping factors, units, etc. Different tools can be applied from Field Communicators, AMS Device Manager on a PC with HART modem, AMS Device Manager with wifi connection to a host, HART caiibrator/configuration, and device local indicators. Versus the factors each method has advantages and disadvantages.

A second task is HART loop calibration to make the digital to analog converter is calibrated correctly. Tool options include a Field Communicator and multimeter, Field Communicator and loop validator, loop calibrator and radio to operator, HART speaking loop calibrator, HART calibrator / configurator.

A third task is HART and FF device calibration where you verify that a device is accurately outputting the correct current level. For valves, a common task is to verify the valve travels the correct amount. Loop calibrators and device calibrators are used.

For valve diagnostics where tests are performed, options include Field Communicator and ValveLink mobile software, mobile phones with bluetooth HART modems and ValveLink mobile software, and PC with HART or FF modem and AMS software, or a PC with a wifi connection back to a host system with the AMS Device Manager software.

Other tasks Al highlighted included FF physical layer diagnostics, communications diagnostics, and fieldbus device commissioning. Laptops with USB FF connections and bus monitor software of portable diagnostics modules are used for troubleshooting. This typically requires specialized expertise beyond the maintenance technician’s experience level.

Al closed with six best practices. Use combined tools when possible, use device rated for the location’s hazards, do no harm–keep operators informed of activities, document all changes made, synchronize portable tools with main database, and keep your tools up to date with device descriptions and firmware updates.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.