HMI/SCADA: Microsoft Fluent technology helps enhance Proficy iFIX 5.0

Ribbon tool bars (see photo) and nine other classes of upgrades improve functionality of the latest version of GE Fanuc's Proficy HMI/SCADA iFIX 5.0 software without requiring an operating system change.

08/05/2008


Charlottesville , VA – With newly available iFIX Version 5.0, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms , a unit of GE Enterprise Solutions, has updated the look and feel and provided nine other classes of improvements to its Proficy HMI/SCADA software. “This is a major release within a year's time, and provides a new image for iFIX,” said Prasad Pai, GE Fanuc’s iFIX product manager. “We’re updating the look and feel with the Microsoft Fluent interface. Its ribbon toolbars change when you go through different options. It gives more a more efficient and fresher look to someone who is configuring applications.”

The Microsoft Fluent user interface technology follows the Ribbon Bar concept, which allows users to easily access tools during application development, and configure Quick Access Toolbars to access frequently used tools. iFIX 5.0 is operating system neutral, meaning that users operating on any Microsoft platform, from XP to Vista, can take advantage of the upgraded features.


iFIX 5.0 "ribbons" are new, more intuitive toolbars based on Microsoft Fluent technology.

Beyond the new interface, said Pai, important technological advancements in this release include failover enhancements and new database synchronization. This capability enables users to synchronize real-time data, including every aspect of the tag database and alarms across the entire network. “The synchronization network can be separate from the SCADA network, and I can prioritize network cards, so synchronization also has failover capability,” added Pai.

Customer requests met

“This major release of iFIX has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback throughout its development and its Beta program,” said Pai. “The product includes many Voice of Customer requests which have translated into major features and minor enhancements.”

  • Changes to alarm functionality helps users know when an alarm was acknowledged and if it was escalated once action was taken

  • A library of loadable function blocks—blocks created by customers and system integrators—is now included on the product CD, instead of just on the Support website.

  • Event trapping is supported for iFIX’s VBA scripting commands.

  • iFIX 5.0 comes with more than 500 new graphics, all with the dynamic linking function introduced last year in V4.5. A new converter wizard to converts older custom Dynamo preconfigured objects to the newer linking technology

  • Discover and Auto Configure 3.0 reads PLC configuration data from third-party PLCs, including Siemens PLC 7 and Rockwell Automation PLC 5, SLC 500 and Micrologix. “It supports an OPC agent and lets me open an EAS file from a Rockwell PLC, for example, and populate a spreadsheet. It lets me choose the attributes I want to populate in my iFiX database and eliminates retyping. From that spreadsheet I can add data to the Historian as well,” said Pai.

Historian integration

Proficy Historian is now integrated with iFIX, and the installation uses one CD for both products. Tags created in iFix can configure Historian tags, and there is a continuous, two-way link between the two. Each program looks for existing tags in the other and populates itself. In addition, VisiconX, an enterprise-wide analytical tool based on ActiveX controls, lets users connect to a database without knowing SQL. “Users wanted us to extend [VisiconX to allow them] to create reports from Historian tables, “said Pai. “It creates SQL query, [which] some users want to use it for on-demand reports.”

Charting

The charting tool in iFIX 5.0 supports advanced graphics (CGI) cards. It expands the software’s capability to display X-Bar, R-Bar, S-Bar, Histogram and Logarithmic charts, in addition to the more traditional real time and historical charts. “Customers have asked to be able to embed a chart next to critical parameters in the field; that means operators don't have to go off screen to get trend information for PID tuning, for example. They can compare a setpoint and output trend to see if things are operating properly,” said Pai.

Customers also like to do runtime SPC on their products, said Pai. “That's usually means going into a different environment. Now, they can take a sample and have it be charted right there,” he said. “I can also create a snapshot of an SPC chart that shows a zoomed view of a particular trend and send it, share it, etc. This gives users much greater functionality.”

Overall, this release gives iFIX next-generation visualization, control and real-time information management functionality for multiple industries, including pharmaceuticals, water, and oil & gas,” said Claire Cerrato, director of GE Fanuc’s Proficy HMI/SCADA software products. “Our new look and feel enables companies to be more efficient in their configurations, enhanced failover provides increased reliability, and charting and Historian integration offer more analytic tools than ever before.”

iFIX 5.0 www.gefanuc.com/ifix www.gefanuc.com

Renee Robbins , senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk
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