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The following is the first of a two-part discussion between Peter Thomas and Keith Armstrong that took place in December 2017.
Peter Thomas is Chairman of the PROFIBUS and PROFINET International Training Centre Workgroup (PITC) and a member of the PROFIBUS UK Steering Committee. Keith Armstrong has chaired the IET’s Working Group on EMC and Functional Safety since 1997 and is an EMC expert. The pair discuss EMI/EMC issues that take place at industrial plants across the UK. The second part of the discussion can be read in the upcoming March edition of PBSI.
(Note: The bold text is Peter, whilst the regular text is Keith)
Peter: I have spent today visiting an industrial plant in the UK. Whilst there I took the opportunity to look at several areas from an EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) point of view. I wondered what you thought of the following following observations I made. These comments are not a detailed analysis of the installation but simply based on observation. They are also made from a future-proofing point of view in the knowledge that switching devices like variable speed drives (VSDs) will employ higher switching rates which will lead to greater emissions if not adequately controlled.
1. Vessel Control System
This consists of a PLC that communicates with remote IO using the EthernetIP industrial Ethernet protocol. The following observations were made:
1.1 - The EthernetIP network cables appear to be unscreened. In an environment containing several variable speed drives this is surprising. Rockwell provide advice on choosing the most appropriate cables for use with EthernetIP and generally recommend unscreened cable for office environments or light industrial installations only.
If this were a PROFINET installation, which is just another form of Industrial Ethernet, screened cables would have been mandatory.
Keith: I often see this sort of thing. Either people don't bother to read the EMC installation instructions for the equipment, or if they are quoting for a project they ignore the instructions to help quote the lowest price.
For example, I know a major European manufacturer of VSDs with excellent EMC and excellent EMC installation instructions, but I've seen their own salespersons in the Near East quoting their VSDs for projects whilst ignoring all of their own company's EMC installation guidance - to get the price down to try to get the job!
The emphasis of most buyers is on cost of purchase, whereas cost of ownership is arguably as important. The cost of ownership could even be overwhelmingly important, if the low cost of purchase was achieved at the expense of adequate EMC, so that whatever was purchased doesn’t work properly, or at all!
Also, unfortunately, because most Salespeople are paid commission on the raw value of a contract, they make money even if the project loses money for their employers!
1.2 - Several of the motor cables between the drive and the motor appear to have at least one end of the cable screen disconnected, instead of being terminated at both ends. This will allow high frequency EMI to escape from the motor cables that may impact on other systems.
Of course it will! But the electrical installation business worldwide believes that the most important thing ever is to prevent "ground loops", and connecting a cable screen at both ends causes a "ground loop"!
I've even heard of installers refusing to terminate screens at both ends despite the equipment supplier and the customer literally beseeching them to follow the equipment's installation instructions to do so!
I have several case-studies where incorrect cabling (including incorrect type of cable, not terminating screens at both ends, etc.) cost both supplier and customer many millions of GB Pounds, which could not be recovered from the company that performed the installation because they were not worth much and simply went bankrupt when they were sued.
1.3 - The international standard IEC 61000-5-2 (EMC - Earthing and Cabling) recommends a minimum vertical and horizontal separation of 15cm between sensitive cables like PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EthernetIP etc. and single phase power cables and a minimum of 30cm between them and 3 phase at all points along the length. Where cables cross they should do so at 90 degrees. This approach does not appear to have been taken.
BS IEC 61000-5-2 also says that cables that are more than one class apart should cross at 90 degrees and be spaced well-apart from each other.
People may not realise that, where stage payments are being made, a common reason for refusing to pay the final payment (often the one that contains all the supplier's/installer's profit on a project) is that the new cabinet/system/installation causes/suffers EMI, and the supplier had better fix it at his own cost. Quite likely, these claims are completely spurious and are just a delaying tactic for the final stage payment.
But where the claims of EMI are valid, and if an independent consultant such as you or me is called in to review the new cabinet/system/installation, the consultant is quite likely to point out what you have just done, whereupon the supplier/installer is in serious legal trouble. This is because BS IEC 61000-5-2:1997 is the UK's national standard on system/installation cabling and "earthing" for EMC, and if a UK company does not apply it when it is applicable they make their legal defence very difficult indeed!
The valid EMI claim might have nothing whatsoever to do with the system's/installation's cabling and "earthing", but who is going to be able to say that with any certainty until the EMI problem has been bottomed and the real reason found?
And it is the supplier/installer who is being sued who has to pay for the independent expert to solve the EMI problem. It is particularly difficult to afford their fees and costs when they are having to pay their legal team as well, and when their senior engineers are busy fighting this fire instead of working on new projects that will produce much-needed income!
It can easily become a 'perfect storm', that could quickly ruin any debt-financed company (when their Bank hears about the problem, they foreclose as quickly as they can to minimise their financial exposure). I have seen this ruin the wealth of all a company’s Directors to the point where their company was on the brink of bankruptcy.
And to think that companies are put at such huge risk by people fairly low-down the seniority ladder who imagine that by cutting corners they can save a few quid and their Directors are going to thank them for it! If Directors only knew what risks their companies were being exposed to, by people they employ who are supposed to know what they are doing, they would probably sack them all on the spot!
The larger problem, the 'elephant in the room' if you like, is that technical people aren't taught about financial risk management, and management people aren't taught anything technical (or have forgotten it).
The result is that in most companies it is impossible to have any meaningful debate about whether it is worth the risk to the company's very existence, to save a few pounds cutting corners by not fully applying BS IEC 61000-5-2:1997.
Another problem is that until they get snared by a legal complaint, most of us tend to assume that 'the law' tries to be fair. But in fact, even basic common sense and 'what everyone knows' (e.g. Ohms Law) immediately go out of the window the very second that lawyers get involved.
In reality, 'the Law' is just a way for people with more money to take advantage of other people. Often there is no respect at all for what's fair or right, only who has the bigger stick (i.e. the more expensive legal team). I've seen all this for real. And it's not pretty! In fact, it can be shockingly sickening and disgusting, even to engineers who think they are already very hardened, cynical, and world-weary.
The second part of this discussion between Peter and Keith will be pubslihed in the upcoming March edition of PBSI and will touch on further EMI/EMC issues in the Water Processing Area and Server Room of the aforementioned industrial plant.
About the authors:
Peter Thomas is a Chartered Engineer (C.Eng)/(Eur Ing), Chairman of the PROFIBUS and PROFINET International Training Centre Workgroup (PITC), a member of the PROFIBUS UK Steering Committee and an Instructor at the Application, Training & Engineering Centre of Endress + Hauser. He is a Certified PROFIBUS Engineer, Certified PROFIBUS Designer, a Certified PROFINET Engineer and a Siemens Certified Network Professional - Security. He has 30+ years of practical experience in several areas of Process & Manufacturing Automation, the last 24 of which have been with Control Specialists Ltd.
Keith Armstrong has been a member of the IEE/IET since 1977 and a member of the IEEE since 1997 and was appointed IET Fellow and IEEE Senior Member in 2010. Keith started Cherry Clough Consultants in 1990 to help companies reduce financial risks and project timescales through the use of proven good EMC engineering practices. Keith has chaired the IET’s Working Group on EMC and Functional Safety since 1997, and is the UK’s appointed expert to the IEC committees on 61000-1-2 (the basic standard on EMC for Functional Safety), 60601-1-2 (risk management of EMC for medical devices), and 61000-6-7 (generic standard on EMC for Functional Safety).
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