Although portable diagnostic solutions for use with air-operated valves (AOVs) have been around for over 20 years, the word "portable" typically has meant "transportable" or "luggable." Hauling suitcases, cables, tables and sensors out to evaluate a troublesome valve, though, does not really lend itself to integrating diagnostics into common maintenance practices. This is especially true if a valve is on a tower or jammed behind a boiler. Even with advances in "smart" positioners (also called digital valve controllers) that incorporate the diagnostic capabilities of portable tools into onboard electronics and software functionality, getting to crucial diagnostic information while in a process plant environment is just plain difficult. There also can be issues associated with the robustness, hazardous-area certification and battery life of laptops used for this work. What a nightmare. Fortunately, with newer computing technologies and wireless, all that is changing—fast!
The future is now
Emerson 475 Field Communicators are now being delivered to users with a dedicated valve-diagnostics software package called ValveLink™ Mobile Software. Designed specifically for Fisher® FIELDVUE™ instruments, this new software solution allows maintenance personnel to do far more than simply view current diagnostics alerts. They can also run, review, save and export a full suite of advanced valve assembly diagnostics—including valve signatures and step response tests—then import them onto a PC for archiving or further evaluation. This data is key in determining issues such as worn valve seat/stem/trim, excessive friction, broken stem, incorrect benchset, tuning effectiveness or adequate air supply. Simple tasks like uploading or updating a valve-assembly spec sheet on the instrument are easily accomplished during a preventive maintenance session (PM) without significantly impacting current work practices.
Yes, you can
ValveLink Mobile has you covered: Designed for the way you work, it can be installed on a PDA or smartphone. The product comes with a Bluetooth modem and has the same capability as that installed on Emerson's 375/475 Field Communicator. This means that if a user has questions on diagnostic results, he/she can easily and quickly e-mail a test (via a smartphone) to an expert for immediate evaluation and direction. MT