Fluid Flow Machinery: a two-way conversation

The general trend towards automation in process engineering also has an impact on pumps, compressors, controls and valves. Sufficient versatility must be designed into these products to ensure that they fit seamlessly into the overall automation strategy, and the communication capabilities need to be enhanced.

To an increasing extent, manufacturers are responding by offering system solutions or package units which go beyond the basic functionality of a “process pump”, “compressor” or “control valve”. While all relevant technology is connected to centralized process control systems, components are fitted with distributed intelligence. This reduces the load on the central control systems and makes it easier to adapt the equipment when changes are made to the process. The individualization of production, shorter product lifecycles, fluctuating sales and faster time to market are cited as underlying reasons for this trend.

Industry observers expect that substantially more intelligence and functionality will be migrated to the field level. Modular design is an additional factor. Subsystems are designed to fit together like Lego bricks. Components can be combined in different ways to meet application needs, and it should be possible to swap them in no more than an hour. Versatility must be built into the equipment to allow rapid adaptation and integration into a variety of systems.

To provide connectivity to higher-level control systems, manufacturers must design enhanced communications functionality into the equipment (based on real time enabled Ethernet bus technology, etc.). In addition, on-board microprocessors and stored algorithms must be capable of autonomously executing a defined set of functions. Bidirectional data transfer must be supported. The “Industry 4.0” concept – meaning the shift towards an automated, “intelligent” manufacturing and processing apporach -  is built around the flow of information from high-level control systems to field devices and between different devices (for example between a pump and a valve or a compressor and a valve).

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