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Case Study: How ASTI incorporated a Maple PLC, I/O modules, and HMI display into their HiQDT Smart Digital Sensor solutions.
 
Read a Q & A with Advanced Sensor Technologies, Inc. (ASTI) Vice President Thomas Patko about why they chose Maple Systems as part of their HiQDT smart digital sensor solution. The HIQDT smart digital sensors have integral industry standard RS-485 MODBUS RTU communications allowing them to be connected directly with a very wide array of devices thus ushering in a new era in industrial field measurement where the brand of data acquisition and control device is altogether decoupled from the manufacturer of the smart digital sensor giving true freedom of choice back to the customer.

 
1: What’s Your Background?
Analytical and theoretical electrochemist specializing in design and optimization of analog and smart digital sensors for measurement of pH, ORP, ion selective, conductivity and dissolved oxygen parameters.

2: What Problem Were You Trying to Solve?
Required a robust HMI & PLC with certifications for use in hazardous locations (if required for customer installation site) to interface and control the smart digital HiQDT MODBUS RTU sensors for measurement of pH, ORP and dissolved oxygen parameters.

3: How Was the Problem Affecting You/Your Company’s Bottom Line?
Expanding the market for the smart digital HiQDT MODBUS RTU sensors beyond just the OEM and system integrator to also support typical end-users requirements by providing complete turn-key solutions by including the mating MODBUS RTU master device to control the smart digital HiQDT MODBUS RTU sensor slaves. Typical key features and functionality requested by end-users were scalable 4-20mA analog outputs, programmable contact relays, full remote access over ethernet to minimize on-site field visits as well as email notifications for trigger events. Some OEM and system integrators also desired a local display as well as MODBUS TCP (a.k.a. modbus over ethernet) instead of the MODBUS RTU available directly from the HiQDT smart digital sensors.

4: There Are Always Multiple Ways to Solve Any Problem, What Possible Solutions Did You Consider?
A variety of potential HMI and PLC suppliers were considered. Evaluation was conducted on the basis of weighing the available features, price and certifications for use in hazardous locations. The ability to have more cost competitive versions for non-hazardous locations is a bonus if the software can be binary compatible between the hazardous location version and the safe non-hazardous location version.

5: Why Did You Choose Our Product?
The model HMI5070L was chosen as the HMI for the six (6) channel and three (3) channel touchscreen controller assemblies due to the following key features and functionality:
  • Dual isolated serial ports. One serial port serves as RS-485 MODBUS RTU master to the 2-wire RS-485 MODBUS RTU HiQDT sensor slaves. The second serial port is used for RS-232 communications to the PLC.
  • Ethernet port with full remote access capabilities and support for modbus TCP
  • USB port for datalogging of all process, analytic and calibration information from smart digital HiQDT sensors
  • Large responsive 7.0” color touchscreen suitable in size for desired enclosure

The model HMI5043L was chosen as the HMI for the two (2) channel touchscreen controller assemblies due to the following key features and functionality:
  • Dual serial ports. One serial port serves as RS-485 MODBUS RTU master to the 2-wire RS-485 MODBUS RTU HiQDT sensor slaves. The second serial port is used for RS-485 communications to the PLC. Since there are not two separate isolated serial port an RS-485 isolator/repeator was employed before interfacing the HiQDT D+ & D- communications to the serial port on the 5043L
  • Ethernet port with full remote access capabilities and support for modbus TCP
  • USB port for datalogging of all process, analytic and calibration information from smart digital HiQDT sensors
  • Cost effective 4.3” color touchscreen suitable in size for desired enclosure to serve projects that require smaller form factors and more price sensitive needs

The MLC1-E0808Y0402T PLC was chosen as the core PLC module for all of the touchscreen controller configurations (2 channel, 3 channel and 6 channel). The 2 each isolated analog outputs and 6 each programmable contact relays are employed for all controller configurations.
  • For the three (3) channel configuration the MLE-A0004 - I/O Expansion Module is added with 4 Analog Outputs to increase the total number of configurable analog outputs to 6. For the 3 channel configuration both the process parameter and temperature from each sensor is sent via the analog output.
  • For the six (6) channel configuration the MLE-D0016R – I/O Expansion Module with 16 each relays is added. This increases the number of relays that are used from 6 each to 18 each. Each of the six channel has a separate high & low relay and each channel shares a relay for the low & high alarm condition.

6: What Would Have Happened If You Had NOT Made This Purchase?
ASTI would have been limited to only OEM & system integrator clients. In addition the ability to construct a robust and complete software for use with the HiQDT sensors has served as a good template for other prospective OEM & system integrator to develop their own versions leaving out any features or functionality that is not required for their own usage or they wish to leave to be performed by the ASTI Windows software or handheld communicator for the HiQDT sensors.

7: What Risks Did You Consider?
For any new product there is the risk of damage to reputation if there are problems with commissioning or ongoing field use and maintenance. As we were not familiar with Maple Systems before this project there is always some concern about the risk of starting up business with a new vendor.

8: What Reservations Did You Have?
Lack of resources to perform HMI & PLC programming. This was solved by a recommendation to a very proficient programmer that was quite familiar with the Maple Systems development tools and hardware. This allowed for all core features that were deserved to make it into the commercialized version of the touchscreen controllers.

9: What Measurable Benefits Have You Seen?
Inquiries from companies that are focused on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have increased since adding the HiQDT product platform. This includes those that wish to have full remote access capabilities to these measurements for both environmental compliance as well as process control purposes.

10. Anything Else You Think We Should Know?
Plans are in place to add conductivity and ion selective measurement parameters at some point in the future. There is no firm timetable, but we have confirmed that sufficient flash memory is available for all controller configurations to add these additional sensor types.

For more information on ASTI and their Smart Digital HiQDT MODBUS RTU Sensors visit their website at https://www.astisensor.com

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