PROFIBUS Troubleshooting Tool Demonstration

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 31, 2016 12:06:42 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in General, Grid Connect, GSD, hardware, how to, Phoenix Contact, PLC, PROCENTEC, Products, PROFIBUS, Profibus Troubleshooting Toolkit Ultra Plus, PROFIBUS/PROFINET, ProfiCaptain, ProfiCore Ultra, ProfiTrace, Rick Rockershousen, Scopeware, software, tech, Technical Support, technology

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Hardware Setup (0:00):

This is a brief tutorial on how to operate the Procentec PROFIBUS Troubleshooting Toolkit Ultra Plus. For this tutorial, the PROFIBUS Troubleshooting Toolkit Ultra Plus is used. The PROFIBUS Training Kit will also be utilized; this is used for our troubleshooting and maintenance training using the ProfiTrace tools. In the PROFIBUS Training Kit, there is a PLC in the bottom of the case as well as five devices in the inner lid of the case. The last thing we will use is a Windows PC that is running ProfiTrace software.

Inside the tool kit, there is a ProfiCore Ultra, which is the black hardware module. This is the only piece of hardware needed. There are a couple of cables included to help interface this hardware to a PROFIBUS network. The tool kit also comes with a tap cable that connects to the ProfiCore Ultra. In addition to this, there is a USB cable that connects from the other side of the ProfiCore Ultra into a PC or laptop. The last thing included in the training kit is a user’s manual that explains how to use the software.

In order to connect the ProfiCore Ultra to a PROFIBUS instillation, attach the tap cable to the ProfiCore Ultra. Then take the USB cable and plug it into the other side of the ProfiCore Ultra, which will then be plugged into a PC or laptop. Once this is set up, simply take the tap connector and put it on the back of an existing connector on the instillation. In our example, the existing connector is a piggyback (PG) connector attached to the cable coming out of the PLC. Attach the ProfiCore Ultra to the back of that connector. In this case, we want to make sure that the terminating resistor is in the off position.

 

Software Setup (1:50):

At this point, the ProfiCore Ultra should be connected to the training kit and the ProfiTrace 2 software is ready to launch. On the computer being used, go to “Programs,” then select “ProfiTrace V2.7,” which is the latest version. Once the options within this folder are available, select “ProfiTrace V2.7” again. Do NOT select the one that says “ProfiTrace V2.7 for COMbricks,” it is for a different product. The blue start screen for ProfiTrace 2 will launch once it is clicked and it will then automatically redirect to the main screen for ProfiTrace. Across the top of the screen, there will be the typical drop down menu that is in most Windows applications. The buttons and screens specific to ProfiTrace can be found directly underneath this.

ProfiTrace has several optional components in the software. However, every package includes the main “ProfiTrace” page. Across the top of the screen the different optional components can be found. Another included component is the tab called “Network Manager.” “ScopeWare” and “Bar Graph” are sold as a single license together. Other optional components include “Topology Scan” and “ProfiCaptain.” The PROFIBUS Troubleshooting Toolkit Ultra Plus being used for this tutorial does not include ProfiCaptain, so it will not be covered in this walk-through.
Using ProfiTrace Software (3:28):

For now, stay on the main ProfiTrace page that is included in every kit that Grid Connect sells. To begin, click on the button that says “Init ProfiCore Ultra.” It will begin to initialize the ProfiCore Ultra, essentially it is checking the firmware that is loaded in the Ultra to make sure it is the latest firmware. Then it will begin to check the baudrate of the instillation. Once this is complete, there will be five boxes within the main matrix (grid) on the screen. These boxes will be green with a blue number in the center. There will also be a box with a white background and the number “2” in red. The matrix is what is known as the live list, which shows the addresses that are available in PROFIBUS. This means that we have PROFIBUS address 0 (Row 0, Column 0), located in the top left corner of the matrix, all the way down to PROFIBUS address 126 (Row 120, Column 6), located in the bottom right of the matrix. This is the maximum number of addresses available, according to the PROFIBUS specification.

Anywhere ProfiTrace is listening to the bus or anywhere it senses a device communicating, it will put it in the box that represents whatever address it is communicating from. In this case we have the five slave devices (located in the lid of the training kit) that were mentioned earlier in this tutorial. It is also important to note that the red “2” represents the master or PLC. The devices that are marked with the green box means that they are in normal data exchange with the master. Basically the master is writing outputs and reading inputs in a cyclical fashion to these devices and they are all in data exchange. This is a live list, meaning the things we see on the screen are the things actually happening right now.

To see how this works, we can simply turn off one of the devices in the training kit. We have small on/off switches to make this easy. Once the device is off, there will be a blinking red light in the top left corner of the device’s address box. The phrase “Phoenix Contact” will then appear on the screen when the box turns from green to yellow. The yellow color means that the device was on the bus communicating, but then it suddenly stopped, which makes sense because we turned the power off. Essentially the device is no longer communicating with the master, which ProfiTrace senses when it changes the background to yellow. Clicking on “Phoenix Contact” within the box will provide information in the section on the left of the screen titled, “Info Panel.” This is next to the live list, which is indicated with a heart image, that includes the matrix we worked with moments ago.

In terms of the error that occurred, the red blinking light in the top left corner of the box indicated that the device was sending a diagnostic message. Essentially what happened was that the Phoenix I/O block that we have in our training kit has some capacitive power that remains if it loses power. This allows it to last just long enough so that it can tell the PLC that it has lost power. In the Info Panel, it will say something that says “low voltage sensor supply US 1.” Basically it noted that it lost power, so it raised a diagnostic flag. In its messages, the master saw the diagnostic flag and asked for the diagnostic message. Then the device didn’t have enough power to keep living, so it dropped off the bus. This is what created what we now see before us.

Why did the Phoenix Contact suddenly appear? ProfiTrace is listening to the bus. Every device manufacturer assigns something that is called an “ident number” for each one of their types of devices. An ident number is just a way to identify each device of a particular type. An example would be a Siemens ET200S, each one of these devices has the same ident number. Each manufacturer creates a file called a GSD file, which contains all information about the device, how many words of input and output it has, information about what types of diagnostic messages it supports, information about the manufacturers, and so on. When a diagnostic message is generated, the ident number is included during that time. Once ProfiTrace sees the ident number, it will go look in its folder of GSD files to see if it has one that matches that ident number. Then it can know what device that was that just got its power turned off. When we plugged it in, the devices were all in data exchange when ProfiTrace started, so there wasn’t an ident number. ProfiTrace didn’t know anything except the address the devices were transmitting their messages to and from. It could not tell us that at that point it was a Phoenix Contact, it could only tell us it was a Phoenix Contact when it saw the ident number.

So now that we know this information, we can switch the device back on and simultaneously see the device turn green again. At the bottom of the screen, there is an isolated green box, which is a special device in our training kit from Acme corporation. Essentially it is a device that Procentec created for training purposes. For our troubleshooting classes, it is a way to let students discover that this device has power that follows another device when it powers off. It had a little power glitch from the other device. During that time, we saw the ident number for our fake device (Acme device) and were able to look up the GSD file and so on.

If we turn off any other device there will be similar results as the color changes from green to yellow. The Siemens works exactly the same as the Phoenix Contact. When we turn off the Brad device, the color will change yellow. However, there is no diagnostic at the beginning so this device is unidentifiable; this is because the device doesn’t have capacitive power. When it is turned back on and it starts back up as part of the initialization process, it provides its ident number, allowing the user to know what it was when it came back on the bus. The last device on the network we are using is the Turck. This device does have a little capacitive power and was able to send the diagnostic message before it totally lost power.

Now we can see the five devices in green with the device names in blue. As stated previously, if the names are clicked individually, the information about them can be accessed in the Info Panel.

Accesses GSD Files (11:00):

The next important thing to cover is the fact that there is a place where the GSD files are saved. In the “Settings” menu at the top of the screen, go to “Preferences.” At the bottom of the “General” tab in preferences, there is a section labeled “GSD directory locations.” This will provide the directory where the user can say where their GSD files are. This allows the user to add their own files. Let’s say that the user owned Step 7 software. They could use those GSD files to point ProfiTrace to their directory. Another option is to use the standard directory that is under the ProfiTrace software in “Program Files,” which is part of the Windows C-Drive.
Checking Device Statistics (11:40):

When looking at the live list on the main screen, the user is able to see real time updates of what is going on. If the user had just walked up to the instillation and saw that all of the devices are green, they would assume that there is nothing wrong with the instillation. In reality, they would be seeing a real time representation of what is going on right now. The user has no idea what happened five minutes ago, or even an hour ago by looking at the live list screen. Fortunately, ProfiTrace includes a statistics function. There are little tabs across the top of the matrix that change what is shown in the main window. For this tutorial, we have been in the live list tab. For this purpose, move over to the tab that is titled “Station statistics view” and click on it.

From this new tab, the user can see something called “Syncs” that is going on. The syncs statistics are measured. The boxes show how many times each of the devices took a sync message. Sync messages are sent out by the master whenever a device drops off of the bus and it is trying to bring it back. This is essentially an “are you there” message. Every time the master is attempting to talk to a device that is missing, it would just send a sync message instead of its usual write outputs and read inputs. Basically the device says “are you there?” When the device gets power back or is returned to the bus, it will answer and the master will put it back into data exchange on the next cycle. If there are sync messages, it lets the user know if there have been problems on their network because it means that a device has been missing. The Phoenix Contact that was turned off at address 15 in our demonstration was off for quite a bit longer than the other devices. In the few minutes it was off, it recorded 68,000 sync messages, which is substantially larger than the others.

At the top of the matrix, there is a drop down menu that is titled “selected statistic.” A variety of different statistics, including syncs, can be accessed from this menu. Let’s take a look at the “station lost” statistic, which is a little simpler than the sync statistic. This statistic simply shows the user how many times the device dropped off of the bus. There are about 20 statistical variants that are recorded by ProfiTrace. As long as it is plugged in and active, it will be recording these statistics so the user can look at things such as the slowest/fastest data exchange interval, I/O size, diagnostic messages requested by the master, and lots of other great stats. However, the main ones are at the top of the drop down list.
Messages (14:45):

Another thing that can be done with ProfiTrace is to look at the messages that are being sent on the bus. To access these messages, click on the “Messages” tab that is above the matrix. This will be in line with the live list and statistic tabs that we have previously used. The next think to do is click on “Start message recording,” which means that ProfiTrace is going to start recording the messages that are on the bus. One thing to notice is the blue line advancing across the bottom of the window. This is representative of the memory filling up with the messages that are being recorded. It fills up relatively quickly, so it won’t be long before the blue line reaches the end and it will stop recording messages. The user has the option to set the program to record to the last amount of messages rotating out of the buffer so they can see the latest messages. However, that may not be very useful if the user actually had a problem. This is because the messages that were going on at the time of the problem will be long gone by the time the user looks at the messages tab. For the purpose of this tutorial, click the message recording button again to turn it off.

We advise people to set up what is called a record trigger. There is a button just to the left of the start message recording button we referenced earlier. We can then go to the record trigger button and click on the “Enabled” box in the setup page. After this we can click on “Re-trigger,” which means if this event that we are triggering on happens again, it will record messages again. Then we can say for example, “let’s record 15 messages before the trigger, and 15 messages after the trigger.” This information can be entered on the setup trigger page directly below the enabled and re-trigger options. After all of this information is entered, click on the button on the right side of this menu that says “setup trigger.” In this case, let’s just say when the station goes lost, we want to record. Click “okay” to return to the initial trigger page, then click “okay” once more to return to the main window. Now we can click the start message recording button as we did earlier. This will clear out the buffer as it is waiting for a trigger event to happen.

To show what would happen in that event, we will power off the Phoenix device again. In a matter of seconds there will now be 15 messages before and after the event. The event being the one that is marked in the red text with the word “lost” after the last repeat message. When a device drops off of the bus, there is a bus parameter in PROFIBUS that says how many times the user would like to send a message if a device fails to respond, which is called a retry. Normally, it is defaulted to one, but we usually recommend a number a little bit higher than that. In our version, it is set to five. It really depends on the user’s PLC program, how fast it has to run, and things of that nature. If repeats are set to greater than one, it can help avoid some nuisance problems in PROFIBUS. In this case, it is set to five so the master sent the message five times after the Phoenix dropped off of the bus and on the fifth time the master said “okay you are lost.” The master would then start to send a sync message to that device on the next cycle.

If we were to cause another event, we could turn off the Siemens. If we scroll down in the message file, we can see the sync message from the device in address fifteen that was turned off. The messages are repeated to our Acme device, then the message is sent to the Siemens. There were actually three events in our situation because the Acme device follows the Siemens. In the column labeled “Service,” the user can see that the data exchange going on with the device. In the column labeled “Addr,” the user can see who sent the message and who received it. In this case, there is a message from address 2 (master) to the device in address 36. On the right in the column labeled “Data,” the 6A in hex is the data that was sent. It comes back as a bunch of zeros which is represented with the 36 coming back to the 2. Essentially it shows the write outputs followed by the read inputs all the way down the column. If everything is working fine it would do this over and over again for all five devices. In this case, we have lost one, so now it is sending a sync to that Siemens every time it’s his turn to respond in the cycle. Messages can essentially help the user figure out what is going on within their network.
ScopeWare (19:30):

Most problems in PROFIBUS are caused by physical layer problems. This essentially means there are cabling issues such as terminating resistors, shielding, rounding, and EMC. Things like this can cause problems with the high speed data communication cable, which is the PROFIBUS cable. One of the important tools in this program is called “ScopeWare,” which can be accessed on the upper left corner of the screen directly to the right of the ProfiTrace tab.

There is really no good way to tell what is going on in a network without an oscilloscope. A majority of the problems previously mentioned can be seen as symptoms in ProfiTrace or messages being dropped (repeat messages, stations being lost and coming back). The user won’t be able to really find the source of the problem, if it is a physical layer issue, without an oscilloscope. When the user is on the ScopeWare tab, they will be able to see the live running scope in the scope screen. Underneath this screen there will be the familiar live list that was in the ProfiTrace tab with the scope running directly above it. A great feature is that any device in the live list can be clicked on, and it will trigger a message from that device, which will then be shown in the scope window. Every message that’s leaving the device is being triggered on and being shown on the screen. There will be a little movement or jittering within the scope window, which is due to the fact that the timing is slightly different on each cycle, but it is pretty much the same messages because of the way the PLC is programmed. They are the same bits going back and forth every time, so that’s why it looks relatively steady.

If a problem were to be introduced, such as turning off a terminating resistor, we would see what is called a reflection in the bits. This will appear in the form of small ripples at the end of the bits on the screen. It is representative of the energy that is being reflected back from the far end of the bus whenever the device sends a message. So when the device sends a message, bits are bouncing back from the other end of the bus and coming back, it shows up in the device’s bits now. Everything should still be green in the live list. The PROFIBUS is pretty good technology so it is robust and able to handle a missing terminator, but we are using a pretty small network as it is just the training kit. On a larger network or with more cable, it might be causing problems. What we look for in the scope is if the reflections go towards the zero-volt line (horizontal line in the center of the scope window). The other yellow horizontal lines represent different bits. If one of the reflections were to get close enough to zero, the device’s UARTs will test these bits they check four times per bit to see if the sample is a one or a zero. When the reflection gets close to zero, if any one of those samples is off, it will cause a bit error and there will start to be problems on the bus.

In our example, the reflection is not harmful, but we would like to figure out what it is and how to get rid of it. A cool feature is accessed when the “freeze” button is clicked, which is found above the scope window. Right above the freeze button, there are options to change the time scale, which is essentially just zooming in or out on any one of the bits. We can zoom in on a bit to further analyze it. From here we can turn on “cursors” which is located directly to the right of freeze. When this is clicked, cursors will pop up on the scope window. When looking at a zero bit, drag the bottom cursor and line it up with the straightest part of the bit where the reflection dampens out (typically on the right side). Then we want to adjust the vertical cursors so that they are lined up with any point at which the yellow line crosses the horizontal cursor we just laid down. It is difficult to be completely exact, but it’s possible to get very close. In the panel on the left side of the screen, the distance is read out in meters away from the device we are looking at. This means that the problem is 4.6 meters away (in our example) from whatever device being examined. In this case we are looking at address 15, which is the Phoenix Contact. This shows us that the problem is not at the Phoenix device but it is 4.6 meters of cable away.

When doing troubleshooting on a PROFIBUS network, the bus-fault light goes on when there is a problem. What happens in most places is people will run down to the device that has the red LED and start changing things. They’ll change the connector, the cable, the car, and so on, and no matter what they do, the red LED will stay lit. This is because the device that has the LED on is not the problem, but it is suffering from the problem. In this case, the problem is on the other end of the bus, but those reflections, by the time they get to the device on the other end, are so bad that the device is no longer able to communicate with the master. This device is basically just putting on its bus-fault light and telling us “I can’t talk anymore, there is too much noise on this bus,” but of course it’s not really telling us this. This issue can be determined using the ScopeWare. This is another fantastic part of ProfiTrace that really allows the user to nail down where any problems in the network may be. We will now turn the terminating resistor back on, unfreeze the scope, and zoom back out. It should look similar to how it was when we first opened up ScopeWare.

Bar Graph (26:55):

The next thing we will take a look at is the “Bar graph” tab, which is directly to the right of the ScopeWare one. The bar graph is measuring the amplitude of the signal coming from each device. On the graph, there is the signal and address on the far left in which the ProfiCore Ultra is connected to in order for it to be the strongest. Devices further away have a little bit less strength in signal. When we were looking at ScopeWare, we were really measuring the top of the one bit to the bottom of the zero bit. If we were to look at our address 15 in ScopeWare, we would see that the top of the one bit is at about 3V and the bottom of the zero bit is about 2.5V, so there is roughly 5.5V. When we go back to the bar graph and look at address 15 this number will be represented. This is important because it was mentioned earlier that if there are reflections they cause problems when they get close to zero. So we’ve drawn a small, red horizontal line drawn through the bar graph at 2.5V. Basically that’s 1.25V on either side of 0.

Going back to ScopeWare again, we’ve drawn a red line that represents a signal that might be 1.25V on either side of zero. Remember the reflection that was observed when the terminating resistor was turned off. If the signal level for this device were down that low, then that reflection would have caused bit-errors and all kinds of problems. The bar graph is a nice graphical way to monitor the signal level of all devices to see if there are any potential problems lurking. In our small network, everything is working well as they are well above the 2.5V line. If a bigger network is being used and things are starting to get down there, it might be wise to consider doing some things to boost voltage back up, which might be to add a repeater or shorten the cable lengths.
Topology (29:05):

The last part that is included in the troubleshooting kit Ultra Plus is the tab called “Topology,” which is located directly to the right of the bar graph tab. This can be used to calculate the topology, which is basically a drawing of the instillation. It tells the user who is connected to who in this daisy chain of PROFIBUS cables. When starting this up, it is important that the user selects where on the bus they are connected. In this case, we plugged the ProfiCore Ultra onto the PG connector on the PLC/master. So on the drop down menu, we would select master. There will also be a few warnings presented in the topology detection settings. The one that is really crucial to note is that this topology detection only works on 500 kbps and 1.5 Mbps. If the network being used is faster or slower than that then this tool will not work very well as it is a very difficult task to measure the topology. There has to be a pretty clean network in order to run this scan, but once it is complete, the results are very reliable. If there are reflections and noise on a network when a topology scan is running, it will get confused by those reflections because it is trying to measure the distance in much the way the ScopeWare did, but without a human helping. When we run the topology it will begin to calculate the distances between the devices. Again we are using a small training kit so there is not a lot of cable, maybe seven meters total. This will generate a map of the instillation. Then, a report can be generated using the report function. This allows the user to print all of this information out and save it for future reference. When there is a problem, the ScopeWare is used to determine the distance of the problem, then the diagram will help direct the user of where exactly to go.

[embed]https://youtu.be/oulY6e0TvlU[/embed]

For product information and to purchase, visit http://gridconnect.com/industrial-protocols/profibus.html

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The Importance of Good Hardware and Software Documentation

[fa icon='calendar'] Jul 11, 2016 3:37:03 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in audience, content, data sheet, design, Developer, document, documentation, engineer, General, hardware, hierarchy, Nathan Rockershousen, organization, outline, project, reader, software, style, task, technical writing, The Importance of Good Hardware and Software Docum, user manual, writer, writing

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

Technical documentation can be intimidating because it needs to include technically complex information in an “easy to digest” fashion. Having reliable documentation is crucial in helping users figure out how to use a product as well as aiding writers and developers in creating work of consistent and high quality. Whether the documentation is software or hardware oriented, it is essential that it focuses on a diverse variety of user experiences. This may seem like a daunting task, but there are a couple of things that writers can do to formulate a well-rounded and efficient document. Here are a few key steps in writing and creating quality documentation:

Understanding the Task: Before the writer even begins to construct their document, there are a couple of things they need to do. The first thing the writer needs to do is establish the type of document they are creating. There are a variety of different technical documents that can range from something like a user manual to a data sheet. It is important to coordinate with anyone else working on writing the document in order to establish the design, organization, and style. In addition to this, creating a time-table and an organized outline are ways of keeping the project moving and holding writers accountable for producing content.

Considering the Audience: Once the formatting and guidelines for the documentation are complete, it is important to understand who the audience is before beginning to transcribe any ideas. Being able to comprehend the background of the reader is critical because it establishes the way the content is written in terms of language, detail, and organization. It is important to know if the audience is technical or not in order for the writer to use appropriate references. Whether the writer is writing for a group of engineers within their company, or for an external group with no technical experience, the different audiences need different levels of detail. Regardless of who the audience is, it is critical to determine what information not to include, what information will confuse readers, and what information will make it difficult for a reader to digest the main points.

Writing the Document: When writing a technical document, one of the most important things to consider is the hierarchy of the information being used. Adding levels of hierarchy to categorize information can allow for a very coherent and granular organization system, but over-categorizing information can lead to confusion. Another simple thing that can be done to make important information easier to understand is writing paragraphs in a short and concise manner. The main point of a paragraph should be stated almost immediately so the reader knows if they are looking in the right place. Other beneficial things to do to make a document more user-friendly include reducing the amount of redundancy, providing tables and examples with explanations, avoiding jargon, and using clear sentences.

Even though the task of writing can be managed under the right instructions, proper documentation is often something that is neglected among developers and engineers. This is due to the fact that engineers are not natural technical writers. Writing documentation is tedious and requires a lot of attention to detail. Often these developers and engineers are the experts on the technical language and concepts, but being able to translate that knowledge into something that is coherent to someone who doesn’t understand the complexity of the technology can be difficult. The main issue with documentation is that it can go out of date very quickly. Having to constantly update software or hardware documentation can slow down engineers and developers in doing their actual jobs of creating new content. Even though there are negative connotations associated with engineers and their documentation ability, there are potential fixes to these issues. A potential solution can be training engineers how to communicate the simplicity found in complex ideas through technical writing training. In addition to this, having technical writers work with engineers to produce documents and update them can help ease the task of writing documents.

The time and cooperation it takes to write great documentation can be very beneficial for a business. Poorly written documentation will deter customers because the information they might need to use a product isn’t easily accessible. If engineers and developers cooperate to make proper documentation, there can be improved sales because the product information is much easier to reference. In addition to this, a well written document can provide adequate training on how to use a product, which will prevent customer errors. A well written document will attract customers and make it much easier to sell products.

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PROFIBUS Troubleshooting Tool Demonstration: Software Setup (1:50)

[fa icon='calendar'] Jul 6, 2016 11:41:29 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in General, Products, PROFIBUS, PROFIBUS/PROFINET, ProfiCaptain, ProfiCore Ultra, ProfiTrace 2, Scopeware, software, Technical Support

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At this point, the ProfiCore Ultra should be connected to the training kit and the ProfiTrace 2 software is ready to launch. On the computer being used, go to “Programs,” then select “ProfiTrace V2.7,” which is the latest version. Once the options within this folder are available, select “ProfiTrace V2.7” again. Do NOT select the one that says “ProfiTrace V2.7 for COMbricks,” it is for a different product. The blue start screen for ProfiTrace 2 will launch once it is clicked and it will then automatically redirect to the main screen for ProfiTrace. Across the top of the screen, there will be the typical drop down menu that is in most Windows applications. The buttons and screens specific to ProfiTrace can be found directly underneath this.

ProfiTrace has several optional components in the software. However, every package includes the main “ProfiTrace” page. Across the top of the screen the different optional components can be found. Another included component is the tab called “Network Manager.” “ScopeWare” and “Bar Graph” are sold as a single license together. Other optional components include “Topology Scan” and “ProfiCaptain.” The PROFIBUS Troubleshooting Toolkit Ultra Plus being used for this tutorial does not include ProfiCaptain, so it will not be covered in this walk-through.

[embed]https://youtu.be/oulY6e0TvlU?t=1m50s[/embed]

For product information and to purchase, visit http://gridconnect.com/industrial-protocols/profibus.html

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CAN FD – The Next Big (Fast) Thing

[fa icon='calendar'] Oct 26, 2015 9:52:30 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in arbitration process, automotive, automotive industry, CAN, CAN 2.0, CAN FD, CAN protocol, CANbus, CANopen, Classic CAN, DeviceNet, engines, factory automation, Fast Data, Flexible Data, General, Germany, hardware, in-vehicle communication, internal machine communication, ISO 11898, J1939, PEAK, Peak-System, Products, protocol, software, Technical Support, vehicle, White Papers

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The CAN protocol (ISO 11898) has remained relatively unchanged since it was introduced in 1993 as CAN 2.0 A/B. In the last few years, CAN FD (for Flexible Data rate or “Fast Data” as we like to call it) was introduced and is now defined as ISO 11898-1. The CAN FD protocol is backward compatible. Any CAN FD device can understand CAN 2.0 frames (now known as “Classic CAN”). However, the opposite is not true. If a Classic CAN node encounters a CAN FD frame, it will destroy the packet with an error frame.

Classic CAN has been the de facto standard for in-vehicle communication for the automotive industry since the 90s. CAN has also been used as the lower-layer protocol for a number of other “higher-layer” protocols such as CANopen, J1939, DeviceNet and more. This has resulted in the CAN protocol being widely deployed in factory automation, heavy-duty vehicles and engines, and internal machine communication – such as elevators and medical equipment.

The automotive industry is the main driver behind the adaptation of CAN FD. The complexity of software in automobiles has increased over time, and the number of systems that communicate with each other via CAN bus has also increased. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of in-vehicle bus nodes went from about 10 nodes to more than 40 systems. This trend has continued into the 21st century, as in-vehicle communication demands have put further and further strain on vehicle design, causing an ever increasing number of CAN bus networks in the vehicle. Through the adaption of CAN FD, in-vehicle communication architectures will be able to accomplish more with less!

The basic idea of CAN FD is to speed up the bit rate during the “payload” part of a CAN frame. In this way up to 8 times more payload (64 bytes vs. 8 bytes) can be delivered in the same amount of time. So the beginning and end of the frame are transmitted at “Classic CAN” speeds, and the CAN transceivers just flip a switch and speed up for the payload part of the message. When you consider that the rest of the frame is at slower speeds, the overall increase in speed is about 6 times faster. Not all messages need 64 bytes of data of course, so the diagram below shows how a CAN FD message of 8 bits and 64 bytes compare to a Classic CAN frame of 8 bytes.

CANFDdiagram

The question is why didn’t CAN FD just speed up the whole message? Why just the payload? The answer requires a slightly deeper understanding of the CAN protocol. A basic element of the CAN protocol is its arbitration process. When two nodes transmit at the same instant, their messages “collide” and they must both “back-off” and retransmit at different intervals according to priority. Another basic element of the protocol is that nodes on a bus must be reached within a “bit time” during this arbitration. The notion of a “bit time” has implications on the length of the bus – the actual cable, since electrical signals have a finite propagation speed. Therefore, a CAN bus running with 1 Mbit/s has a maximum length of 40 meters by rule of thumb. If CAN FD sped up the whole bus, the higher bit rates would shorten the bus cable to unsuitable lengths.

The automotive industry is readying itself to start initial implementation of CAN FD in its designs for 2016, with vehicles hitting the market with CAN FD hardware the following year. As this industry ramps up and more and more ECU’s (in-vehicle “Electronic Control Units) and sensors and actuators also adapt CAN FD, more companies with ties to automotive (suppliers, service companies, dealers, OEMs, etc.) will need CAN FD-capable interfaces. Luckily, Peak-System from Germany is one of the first companies to introduce a CAN-FD interface, (PCAN-USB-FD), and it has been fully tested to the standard. Additional hardware and software supporting CAN FD are on the way. Grid Connect has Peak’s CAN FD products in stock now – we are ready for the next big (fast) thing!

> Click here to download the complete CAN FD White Paper

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IoT Design Considerations: Features

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 26, 2015 3:34:02 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 10 IoT Design Considerations, General, Internet of Things, IoT, software

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The IoT allows companies to add features to their product that were never possible before. These features have a wide range of benefits and functions including automatic software updates (over-the-air), smart home and office connectivity, reminders for maintenance, special offers, recall notices and upgrades, remote or local access and control. It is also important that designers work with their marketing team to be sure the features desired are not limited by the hardware and networking technologies selected.

These features extend new benefits to manufacturers as well. The features that consumers use can provide manufacturers with valuable insight about the application of their products. For example, a washing machine may have 20 different functions on it, but because it is connected to the IoT, the manufacturer can learn which functions the consumer uses and improve the washer’s product design. This same connected washing machine can also contact its owner when a part is starting to fail and needs to be fixed. These new features also open the manufacturer to additional revenue streams presented by the data collected from the smart device. A company that sells a connected washing machine can sell data on detergent use to the companies that carry those products.

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here: http://gridconnect.com/10-internet-of-things-design-considerations

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Grid Connect is a World Class Manufacturer

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 17, 2015 9:59:54 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 900MHz, BLE, Bluetooth, CANbus, chips, connection, Custom, development, DeviceNet, Ethernet, firmware, General, Grid Connect, hardware, I2C, Illinois, manufacturer, manufacturing, modbus, modbus tcp, modules, Naperville, network, NRE, packaging, private-labeled, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, software, SPI, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi

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Grid Connect Inc. is an ISO 9001-certified, world-class quality manufacturer. Our chips, modules and products are used by thousands of companies around the world to provide a network connection to their devices. All of our products are designed, assembled, programmed and tested in Illinois, USA. All final tests, firmware loading and packaging is done at Grid Connect in Naperville, Illinois.

All Grid Connect products can be customized and private-labeled to a specific customer’s requirements. It can be as simple as a software change to increase buffer sizes or as complex as a new hardware and software design. In all cases, Grid Connect will provide your company with a fixed price quotation for the NRE/development work and the production cost for the final product. We are happy to private label your product and ship it to you with the correct labeling and documentation.

Some networking and protocol technologies that Grid Connect specializes in, include:

  • Ethernet
  • Ethernet/IP
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • ZigBee
  • 900MHz
  • PROFIBUS
  • PROFINET
  • CANbus
  • DeviceNet
  • Modbus
  • Modbus TCP

Grid Connect also specialized in all serial standards, including:

  • RS-232
  • RS-485
  • RS-422
  • SPI
  • I2C


For more specific detailing of the various hardware and software options we provide, call the Grid Connect office at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

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Grid Connect is an All-Inclusive Development Partner

[fa icon='calendar'] Jul 20, 2015 9:52:42 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 900 MHz, Android, app, applications, apps, BLE, Bluetooth, build, CE, certifications, Cloud, connectsense, design, embedded, encryption, engineer, engineering, Ethernet, FCC, General, Grid Connect, hardware, iOS, layout, networking, OS, prototype, RoHS, security, Serial, smart phone, software, SSL, UL, web page, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi, Wireless

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A Complete Development Partner for Hardware, Software, Apps and Cloud Services

Grid Connect Inc. has one of the best engineering teams in the world. Our strong development team can quickly and effectively implement your partial or complete networking/cloud-based or embedded product. For more than 20 years we have been helping customers put networking technology into their products. In the past the focus has been Ethernet, serial and propriety networks. Now days, the focus is on wireless networks like Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth/BLE and 900 MHz.

A few of Grid Connect’s many development capabilities include:

  • Designing, layout and quick turn prototype hardware
  • Designing, programming and debugging embedded software
  • Designing and building iOS and Android smart phone and tablet applications
  • Designing, building and rolling out complete cloud/web applications
  • Embedded Linux or Real-time OS driver development
  • SSL security and hardware and software encryption option
  • Production of custom hardware
  • Embedded Web page development
  • Pre-loading of custom/customer firmware on to standard modules
  • Complete diagnostic testing of hardware and software prior to shipment
  • Work with test labs to complete FCC, CE, UL, and RoHS certifications
  • Custom labeling

 

The ConnectSense Case Study

With the ConnectSense brand of products, we took Grid Connect’s embedded networking expertise and put it to use in the consumer home automation/Internet of Things marketplace. In creating ConnectSense, we built a full end-to-end solution, which incorporated custom hardware, embedded Linux development, a custom cloud solution, and custom enclosures and sensors.

Since releasing ConnectSense to the market in 2013, we have continued to move our technology forward. With the ConnectSense Smart Outlet we have made great strides in easy setup and provisioning of devices, smaller and more affordable designs and development of apps for iOS. The ConnectSense Smart Outlet also represents the first generation of devices that are Apple HomeKit-enabled allowing for great features such as Siri voice control, end-to-end encryption and ease of use.

The ConnectSense product line allows Grid Connect to prove out its technology at scale and improve it over time. This allows us to then take that same great technology and help customers implement IoT solutions in their own products. Rather than starting from scratch, our customers benefit from our wealth of knowledge developing IoT products. This allows for quick time to market, lower cost implementations and less custom work required on projects.


To discuss development partner solutions for your company, please call the Grid Connect office at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

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New Product Alert: CloudGate 3G/4G LTE Cellular Kits (Serial, Ethernet or WiFi)

[fa icon='calendar'] Jul 13, 2015 9:27:32 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 3G, 4G, ablet, cellular, cellular networks, CloudGate, CloudGate Universe, Ethernet, gateway, General, GPS, hardware, home servers, LAN, Local Area Network, LTE, monitor, PCt, Products, Serial, smartphone, software, Wireless Wide Area Network, WWAN, watchdogs, wifi

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cgThe CloudGate Kits (Serial, Ethernet, WiFi) provided by Grid Connect are comprised of all the CloudGate components required to move local data to the cloud via 3G/LTE cellular data.

The CloudGate Gateway provides cost effective Local Area Network (LAN) to Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) routing with GPS functionality built in. The CloudGate base unit is a compact, reliable, secure, and flexible solution to move critical data to the cloud. The CloudGate Gateway supports both 3G and 4G LTE wireless data interfaces and is certified on all major US cellular networks.

The Gateway is also easy to configure locally or remotely from a PC, tablet or Smartphone. CloudGate automatically resolves common problems associated with wireless machine to machine connectivity. Built-in software and hardware watchdogs continuously monitor each component of the product and its connectivity to home servers. In the event an issue is detected, the product proactively takes steps to re-establish connectivity. All software and configuration images are protected with digital signatures and have dual rollback images that allow the product to revert to previous working settings if an issue is detected. All management functions are protected by certificate and/or password based security mechanisms and all management actions take place over hardware-assisted encrypted links.

The CloudGate Gateway is supported by the CloudGate Universe provisioning system. An automated cloud provisioning system means that each CloudGate can be set with its own custom configuration and image that is automatically loaded from the cloud when the unit initially connects to the Internet.

For more information, and ordering options visit our website by clicking here.

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Grid Connect is Connecting the Internet of Things

[fa icon='calendar'] Jun 22, 2015 9:25:54 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in app, Cloud, connection, connectsense, Consumer, custom engineering, General, Grid Connect, hardware, home automation, Internet of Things, IoT, knowledge, manufacturer, networking, OEM, serial to wi-fi, software, technology, white paper, White Papers, wifi

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Connecting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) is essential to manufacturers looking to stay competitive within their industry. Adding IoT capabilities gives consumers more features. It also allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customers while discovering new product use cases and applications that open them up to new revenue streams.

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a phrase used to describe making everyday objects “smart” by adding networking and connectivity to them. Grid Connect Inc.’s DNA has been IoT from the very beginning.

Grid Connect can supply your team with technology, custom engineering, expert knowledge and support at all levels of the IoT pyramid. We provide end-to-end solutions starting with your existing product and ending with a truly smart device.

All of our solutions are designed to fit your company’s needs and can include:

  • OEM solutions
  • Custom hardware
  • Custom firmware
  • Cloud development
  • App development

To further illustrate Grid Connect’s knowledge and abilities within the IoT marketplace, consumers can purchase our own product line of IoT-connected devices. ConnectSense is a family of wireless sensors for your home or business. Each sensor uses the Wi-Fi network in your location and communicates to the ConnectSense cloud application. The ConnectSense cloud stores data from your sensors and generates notifications when a rule you have set applies to your environment. For example, if the ConnectSense Water Sensor in your basement detects water, the sensor will communicate this change to the cloud application. From here, the cloud application will then determine what to do with this new information, such as send you a notification so that you can react appropriately.


If you are looking to add connectivity to your product, download “10 Internet of Things Design Considerations” and call Grid Connect at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

 

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Join Us at IoT DevCon 2015!

[fa icon='calendar'] Apr 23, 2015 9:45:35 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in data, Events, General, Hubs, Internet of Things, IoT, IoT DevCon, M2M, machine to machine, monitoring, security infrastructure, smart fusion, software, technology

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When:
 May 6-7, 2015
Where: Hyatt Regency - Santa Clara, CA
Table #: S6
Silver Sponsor

Machine-to-machine methods, (or M2M), intelligent embedded and/or smart fusion have been around in some form for many years. The Internet of Things (IoT) goes way beyond this capability and interconnects virtually unlimited numbers of smart objects and changes the way we interact with our environment. To help rein in the vast world of IoT, the IoT DevCon will focus on technologies ranging from the ultra-low power microcontrollers to the multicore-enabled aggregation hubs to the software and security infrastructure required for monitoring and management of the enormous bundles of data.

Conference Website: http://www.iot-devcon.com

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Session Title: IoT Standards: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
When: May 6, 2:15pm-2:40pm

The Internet of Things (IoT) was named the most hyped technology of 2014 by Gartner, and designers are responding by feverishly working to add connectivity to products in all industries, especially in the connect home, medical devices, industrial automation and transportation. Connected products require a new approach to design. This session will dive into the 10 things designers need to consider when developing IoT devices.

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