The ACTOReX™ /e-ACTOReX™ survey.

The process control concept implies an intentional interaction between a real physical world process and a managing entity. The process supplies information under physical parameters appearance and supports actions from the managing entity.

In-between the process and the managing entity - in this case, the computer - interleave a process interface that acquire information, transmit it to the host computer and convey the decisions to the process under the appearance of actions.

A more detailed structure of the interface block allows specifying the ACTOReX™ product place and role in the process control feedback loop.

The physical parameters must be converted to electrical signals appropriate to be translated to the computer understanding. Transducers perform the conversion of physical parameters into electrical signals. The transducers supply, generally, analog signals dynamically conveying quantitative information (as temperature, force, displacement, speed, etc.) and steady signals conveying status information (as impact, position, threshold reaching, success, failure, etc.).

The actuators, conversely, are able to receive information in electric format, analog (as brake force, displacement, rotation, light intensity, etc.) or steady (as ring alarm, valve opening, relay contact closing, etc.), conveying them to the physical process as appropriate action parameters.

The signals produced by the transducers, as well as the electrical signals accepted by actuators, range in a wide diversity of electrical properties. In other words, these signals are non-standard.

The signals conveying status information are of steady-state nature, namely status information, as well as of the nature of "how many time a particular status occur into a determined lap of time", namely counting.

Devices as ACTOReX™ are standard oriented in order to accommodate a large assortment of transducers, actuators and computer types. They accept standard signals to process in order to transmit them to the host computer and provide standard signals to the actuators. The accommodation of transducers and actuators electrical signal to standard electrical signals is performed by the signal conditioning circuitry.

The role of devices as ACTOReX™ is to transmit signals, analog (quantitative and status) to the computer in digital format and receive the computer commands in digital format and forward them to actuators, via signal conditioning, in analog (quantitative and status) format.

The conversion of the quantitative expression of acquired signals in digital format is called analog-to-digital conversion. The conversion of digital quantitative expression of command to analog format is called digital-to-analog conversion. The conversion, forth and back, of steady state information between process and computer is called digital input/output and, respectively, counting.

ACTOReX™ and comparable devices perform analog-to-digital conversion of input analog signals, seize status and count events from the process. They also perform digital-to-analog conversion of quantitative commands, forward status information and status commands to the process.

ACTOReX™ and comparable devices do not only convey data forth and back. They are called "intelligent" because they are capable also to process raw data and present it to the computer as logically interpreted information. They can even facilitate the task of the application running on the host computer by closing decision loops and elaborating response commands without the computer implication. At the limit ACTOReX™ can perform, by its own, process control.

Another intelligent task of ACTOReX™ is to manage its hardware resources (analog-to-digital converters, digital-to-analog converters, counters, input/output information registers, a.s.o.), understand the computer requirement of data and action, and manage the data communication with the computer.

The ACTOReX™ is microcontroller driven and programmable, has several channels of data analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion, counting, and logical input/output processing. It communicates with the host computer via the high-speed serial USB port.

In order to perform all its tasks, actually, ACTOReX™ has two major components: the acquisition and action subsystem and the microcontroller subsystem.

The acquisition and action subsystem comprises all the data acquisition and command initiation circuitry. The microcontroller subsystem manage all the hardware facilities, manage the communication with the host computer and perform the piece of program that understand the host computer requirements and, if any, the piece of program that made or help to the control of the process.

The ACTOReX™ use in the PC OS environment implies the interaction, through the operating system, between the application software and the ACTOReX™ specific device driver. In the MS Windows environment the interaction technology is based on ActiveX device specific control.

In both cases, MS Windows as well as Linux, the application software is written in Object Oriented high-level programming language. The application software calls the device specific driver objects methods.

The e-ACTOReX™ version uses a micro-PC type controller on the ACTOReX™ data acquisition and action generation device. The ACTOReX™ general features are still available on e-ACTOReX™ version, but the presence of the local micro-PC module allow the following extended features:
  • the "host computer" can be a remote PC but, as well, the micro-PC itself running the high level OS controlled application software;
  • the presence of local human interfaces as monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. at the e-ACTOReX™ controlled process place;
  • the Ethernet connectivity of the e-ACTOReX™ device with a remote computer or server in order to establish complex networked process control setup's;
  • the remote controlled web-based application hosted on the e-ACTOReX™ micro-PC.
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