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Mixed architecture diagnostics down to the last device

What started with a request from a colleague from the Support Department, resulted in the development and testing of the Diagnostics slave functionality of PROCENTEC’s ProfiHubs. With this brand-new functionality PROCENTEC delivers diagnostics of networks with a mixed architecture of different protocols, down to the last device. Dave van Cappelle of PROCENTEC’s Research & Development (R&D) team explains: “With this new functionality we can track down and pinpoint occurring errors and events in an industrial network very precisely, which helps in preventing downtime. Also, the data collection from the ComBricks and ProfiHubs can be done quick and easy by using our mobile diagnostics tablet PROCENTEC Mercury.”

Receive and read diagnostic data from ProfiHubs with ComBricks

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A support engineer from PROCENTEC who just returned from a troubleshooting job at a water treatment plant in England, requested a functionality to look even deeper into a network without having to reprogram the software of a programmable logic controller (PLC). His support job involved a very large network that consisted of PROFIBUS and PROFINET protocols. If it would have been possible to collect data from the installed ProfiHubs through the ComBricks on this job, he would have been able to find the location of the corrupted cable faster than in the current situation. The R&D department immediately recognized the potential of this concept: with such a functionality industrial automation engineers and maintenance managers would save a lot of time signaling possible events and errors in their industrial networks.

ComBricks and ProfiHubs: a powerful combination

For many years, end users around the world have been relying on PROCENTEC’s ComBricks and ProfiHubs. Therefore it was very important to develop and comprehensively test this new functionality. 

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Dave van Cappelle

ComBricks make it possible to monitor PROFIBUS and PROFINET networks 24/7. The status of the installation can be checked remotely and over Ethernet via a web browser. The ProfiHub is a multichannel network component that is used to create reliable star / tree networks and complex branches. ProfiHubs are used as signal repeaters and to segment networks, making them more stable and reliable. By combining the strengths of ComBricks and ProfiHubs it would be possible to look through the ProfiHubs’ channels using the ComBricks web browser all the way through the entire network.

The programming of the new software for the ComBricks Head stations and the ProfiHubs went smoothly. With many years of working experience at PROCENTEC, the R&D team was able to complete the programming without major setbacks. Programming is one thing, but how do you know if you have thought through all possible scenarios that might occur? Dave and his team had to think of a fitting setup that would test this new functionality profoundly.

The largest network in the world, doubled! 

The most important stakeholders were asked for their input to come to the best test setup. The biggest network that the stakeholders had ever seen existed of 20 ProfiHub Repeaters. To be sure to really test the components, the R&D team decided to double these numbers: the test setup would be created with: 1 PLC, 6 DP slaves in the form of ComBricks and 40 Diagnostic ProfiHub Repeaters from different types.

The resulting test setup consisted of dozens of meters of purple cables, power cables and flashing PROCENTEC components might have looked a bit confusing, but for Dave, this network had no secrets. “We created this test setup to know for sure the Diagnostics slave functionality we have developed works according plan.” The R&D team decided on five test cases that would push the components and the new designed functionality to the maximum. 

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Test setup

The various tests that Dave and his team had carried out on the ComBricks and ProfiHubs were passed with flying colours. Even the test case where all 40 ProfiHubs were connected in cascade was completed successfully: through the ComBricks web browser it was possible to click through the ProfiHubs, and receive and read all their data until the very last device.

After performing the successful lab tests the Diagnostics slave functionality was ready to be tested in the field. Also in the harsh environment of real life situations the ProfiHub Diagnostics performed as anticipated. By completing the lab and field tests the R&D team got confirmation they had managed to provide a globally respected product with an innovation that is leading in the market.

The Diagnostics slave functionality is available from January 2019. 

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