Lafarge monitors critical instruments remotely with wireless adapters from ABB

Lafarge Plasterboard can monitor critical field instruments remotely from the plant control room following the introduction of FieldKey wireless adapters from ABB.

“We would previously have had to physically go to each instrument and pull off the information onto a laptop,” says Electrical Technician Matthew Pepper. “Now we can interrogate instruments remotely, which is especially helpful where access is an issue.”

The Bristol factory took part in a successful trial of prototype wireless adapters from ABB early last year, and has now followed up with the installation of several commercial FieldKey units. These are used to check the performance of critical instruments, and are moved around the site to monitor any instruments that engineers suspect may be experiencing a problem.

“We’re using the adapters to check that there are no system faults on the instruments, check calibrations and make fine-tuning adjustments,” says Mr. Pepper. “We’re not currently looking to use them for process control on our existing production operations but we’ll be considering them in any new installations in future.”

FieldKey adapters are quick and easy to fit to any instruments equipped with 4-20mA HART communications. On the Lafarge site, for example, they are used with equipment from at least three different manufacturers.

The adapters are small and have a rotating antenna, enabling them to be fitted into extremely tight spaces if necessary. They also use energy harvesting, taking power from the 4-20mA loop, so they don’t need batteries. With no need for hardwiring to the network, each FieldKey can be installed in under three minutes, eliminating the need for a plant shutdown and any consequent impact on the existing control system.

The FieldKeys transmit the data from the instruments to a Wireless gateway. The wireless gateway has an Ethernet port to allow process recorders such as ABB ScreenMaster SM500F and also asset management systems such as ABB Asset Vision. In the case of Lafarge, the FieldKey adapters are integrated with the company’s existing PACTware asset management system.

“We’ve had brilliant support from ABB,” says Mr. Pepper. “The Lafarge site is a challenging place to install a wireless solution because it’s very big. We also have a lot of high-level steelwork that could disrupt the signal between the FieldKey units and the wireless gateway. We could always contact ABB for help when we needed to. I’m very pleased.”

The ABB FieldKey adds WirelessHART to any 4-20mA HART instrument, providing remote access to new levels of process, maintenance and configuration information. Its small size and just two wires to connect allows quick and easy installation, its default parameters are set to unlock the information held within the target instrument. Joining a wireless network is simple, connect the FieldKey via a spare cable entry gland then wire it to the loop.

For more information about ABB’s Fieldkey wireless adapter, email: moreinstrumentation@gb.abb.com or call 0870 600 6122 ref. ‘Fieldkey’.

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