The importance of digitisation for actuators and valve automation

Control Engineering Europe, April 2023

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The importance of digitisation for actuators and valve automation

Rotork has been recently featured in Control Engineering Europe magazine, where we discuss the importance of digitisation for valve automation and control.

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) technology, which uses devices equipped with sensors, electronics, and software to enable them to gather and share data, is the foundation of an approach that enables a site to run as efficiently and safely as possible.

Modern technological innovations are not just about the flow control products themselves; it's about the data they generate and retain, which enables rapid, informed choices, saving time and money while also enhancing performance and safety.

The value of data provided by the digitisation of systems cannot be overstated. However, in order to receive data, a site needs to be fitted with the appropriate equipment that can retrieve useful information. When operating hundreds of valves on a site, having an intelligent actuator that can provide advanced data logging capabilities is vital to a functional digital asset management network. An actuator like the Rotork IQ3 gives the operator access to the data both in the field and in the control room via an integrated network.

Network Control

Comprehensive data communication is an essential element in modern actuation. A network control system for valve actuators allows the site operator to control the operation at all times, 365 days a year, while monitoring up to 240 actuators on a single fault tolerant field network, and up to 20 Kilometres long without repeaters.

To meet these requirements, engineers incorporate field communication networks that enable plant equipment to be controlled and monitored by a Distribution Control System (DCS). For a DCS to function effectively it requires a master station. This provides an essential link between field devices and the central DCS.

A master station is usually available in either single, dual or hot standby configurations. The single option provides redundant host connections and redundant field network loops while the dual configuration sees two fully isolated independent units installed side by side. The hot standby variant offers full redundancy, and every interface is replicated. In the event of a fault occurring, the changeover to the standby is seamless without loss of data and control.

Intelligent Asset Management

The maintenance and management of assets digitally through a cloud-based system also has major benefits. An intelligent asset management cloud-based system like Rotork’s iAM can analyse information from the data loggers within the intelligent actuators. Having a user-friendly operating system with an intuitive layout can help condense complicated statistics into simple images.

For decades, intelligent actuators like the IQ3 have been able to capture useful data (torque, operations, temperature initially, and later vibration with the latest product range), and keep this data stored in the actuator. The challenge then was that this data was not really used for the benefit of the plant operation. Now, with new technology available, we can process and make sense of the data to analyse not only actuator performance, but also valve performance.

The focus now is on how to retrieve this data in the most efficient way, process it, and present it in a streamlined and simple way. That way the operator can have a holistic view of what is exactly occurring on site, allowing for faster and informed decisions when it comes to maintenance and minimising downtime.

All the elements of modern intelligent electric actuation, from cloud-based intelligent asset management to DCS and master stations provide simplified, secure, and economical solutions to support long-term efficiency and asset management.

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