Simulating analog

Is it possible to use digital tools to simulate an analog environment?

12/10/2010


Dear Control Engineering: I was reading a story about a new simulator at a nuclear power plant. The photo included with the article shows an old-style analog control room. Is that still operating? How do you build a simulator for that?

The article you mention from November 16, discusses how Omaha Public Power District is updating the simulator at its Fort Calhoun nuclear plant. The photo with the story is not dated, but looks like it could go back to 1970. According to the folks at L-3 Mapps, who will be providing the simulator, that photo is about two years old, and is not an actual control room, but the simulator. Nuclear power plants typically built a duplicate control room to use for training. The photo is included here again, cropped a little tighter and larger so you can see more detail.

An analog power plant simulator.The control room of the plant reportedly does still look like that, so the simulator retains its accuracy. This brings up some interesting thoughts on implementing such a project. If you’re dealing with more modern digital control architecture with computer driven HMIs, it isn’t all that difficult to create a platform that looks just like the real thing. You can use all the same graphics to retain the look and feel. However, if you’re creating a simulator that has to drive analog meters, chart recorders, and panel annunciators as output devices, it’s a bit more complicated. Your system has to generate whatever kind of signal is required to get that device to display the correct values. That requires some interesting I/O capabilities. It’s sort of like having to build a robotic horse to pull an old wagon rather than simply replacing it with a truck.

Many of the devices that were common 30 or 40 years ago when these plants were being designed and built aren’t so easy to get any more. However, some companies continue to build specialty items that these legacy nuke plants depend on. For example, Invensys Operations Management recently announced a partnership with Curtiss-Wright Flow Controls to continue manufacturing the old Foxboro SPEC200N line of analog control system equipment. These products date back to 1976 but are still working in many power plants.

That’s not to say that all nuke plants are museum pieces. Many have updated their automation and control infrastructure, however there are many differences from location to location. Analog is still alive and well in many.

--Peter Welander, pwelander@cfemedia.com



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
World-class maintenance: The three keys to success - Deploy people, process and technology; 2016 Lubrication Guide; Why hydraulic systems get hot
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me