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Engineers are called for help

On May 25, 2016, the VI Specialized Conference "APSS-Siberia" (Automation: Projects. Systems. Tools) was held in Novosibirsk. Judging by the composition of the participants and the proposed topics, the meeting of the “machine gunners” promises to be productive. Russian high-tech companies go to the science city with developments, the introduction of which at domestic enterprises, in theory, will increase their competitiveness.

Of course, any innovative specifics of our engineers, in contrast to the projects of the authorities, gives hope for a way out of the crisis. But if you adhere to the principle of maximum return with minimum investment, then the greatest effect is presented by technical solutions aimed at reducing the energy intensity of industry, including through the optimization of energy. For example, the developed APCS for a CHP plant can pay off in a couple of years, and at the same time reduce fuel consumption by a third.

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Moreover, there is no need to purchase expensive robots and CNC machines, build new buildings, establish logistics, and so on. The task is to ensure the most optimal modes of continuous technological processes of already operating enterprises with the help of, in principle, inexpensive means of automation.

Meanwhile, not long ago in Russia managers “went crazy” with imported automation, using standard and, as a rule, redundant solutions. In reality, the struggle for energy efficiency was under pressure, if only because the inflated tariffs and "light" petrodollars did not dispose top managers to painstaking work.

Now, in the face of Western sanctions and a shortage of currency, we have to pay attention to domestic digital automation. In this regard, industrial computers are of fundamental importance. By the way, at the VI Specialized Conference "APSS-Siberia" a report was announced on the use of the first Russian industrial computers IPC Gridex, which a year ago began to be serially produced by a resident of the Novosibirsk Technopark - the company "Modular Systems Tornado".

Industrial computers  should have almost absolute reliability, which their office counterparts do not have, have low power consumption, and also work without problems in a wide temperature range: from -20 to +70 degrees, in an aggressive environment, in high humidity, in dusty conditions, and so on. Further. These requirements are due to the peculiarity of many technological processes. This fully applies to systemically important financial institutions. For example, all leading banks and stock exchanges in Europe and the United States use exclusively industrial computers.

Currently, the share of domestic manufacturers in the component base and software of industrial automation systems does not exceed 2%, everything else is imported. As a result, in the overwhelming majority of cases, engineering firms that fulfill orders, including in our defense industry, have to use foreign electronics and software.

Of course, it is good that industrial computers produced by Modular Tornado Systems will be able to replace foreign ones, but the situation resembles a game of “catch-up”.

Russia is lagging behind with the transition to the 5th technological order associated with a high level of digital automation. Moreover, the scientific and technological gap between our and American economies is growing (with the exception of some industries). This is evidenced by numerous studies. Obviously, in the field of automation technologies, domestic scientists need to work ahead of the curve.

That is why not so much the release of IPC Gridex computers is perceived positively, but the implementation of the National Industrial Automation Platform project on their basis . A team of specialists from Novosibirsk is engaged in its development. Judging by the existing developments, by 2018 in Russia the concept of "virtual controllers" should be implemented instead of the "physical" ones that are widely used now.

This opportunity has appeared thanks to the new ultra-high-speed data exchange protocol IEC 61850. Now it is possible to control technological processes with high quality just through industrial computers, whereas recently a multi-level system was used - controllers below, and computers above them. It is clear that in the implementation of the "virtual controllers" project there is no need for intermediate links, including special converters and software for organizing some fragments of access networks.

Without going into technical details, we note that the development of Novosibirsk scientists will save huge amounts of money while modernizing our economy. At the same time, the process of introducing industrial automation systems in Russia will be simplified and accelerated at times. For example, with the use of traditional schemes for the automation of a medium chemical production or an energy facility - taking into account the design time, it took from 3 to 5 years, while with the proposed unified approach it would take only six months or a year. If we take into account that the Novosibirsk platform will reduce the need for controllers and interface means, then the dependence on imported electronics will sharply decrease. If only because many current technical solutions will be replaced by software tomorrow.

It is clear that similar developments based on the IEC 61850 standard will be actively introduced abroad, in particular, in SIEMENS and Sprecher Automation, which already offer ready-made solutions. At the same time, the emergence of a new Russian automation platform on domestic industrial computers will equalize our and leading Western integrators in this area. Moreover, with a competent protective government policy, which one would like to hope for, there will be a huge need for a domestic component base. This potential demand, in turn, will provide the necessary profitability for Russian chip manufacturers. For example, the millionth production of Elbrus processors will reduce their prime cost to the level of American processors, similar in peak performance.

According to the forecast of Novosibirsk specialists, one can count on import substitution of at least one third of the national market for industrial automation equipment. In total, we are talking about Russian orders for 100 billion rubles, as well as about $ 200 billion of foreign contracts, since our contracts will be predictably more attractive in price. But even this is not the most important thing. The implementation of the project will allow the country to break out of the sanctions in the field of industrial automation, the massive introduction of which at domestic enterprises is currently hampered by the restriction of access to dual-use products.

If we talk about what the Novosibirsk people have done in the field of digital industrial automation, the concept of “virtual controllers” is embodied in the Tornado-N software and hardware complex. As for the project they are currently implementing, the experience gained, firstly, needs to be standardized by creating for this the normative and technical documentation in full. Secondly, the platform must receive a CAD (Computer-Aided Design System - author) for its scalability, as well as training programs for system integrators. Thirdly, all technical components and software that will be used in the future within the framework of the national platform should be produced only in Russia.

In this regard, the production of IPC Gridex industrial computers means that the national automation platform is beginning to be filled with import-substituting specifics. Despite the fact that the element base (microcircuits) for IPC Gridex is still purchased abroad, everything else, including electronic boards, is produced in Russia. And if we add to this the message that the manufacturer plans to switch to the domestic processor "Elbrus", then we can assume that the ice has broken.

And yet there remains a persistent feeling that scientific and technological progress in Russia is of a forced nature, and if the West suddenly takes and lifts the sanctions, the interest of oligarchs and officials in the developments of Russian scientists will fade away. That is why it is impossible to end on a positive note. After all, no one has canceled the lobbying of everything "Western" in our government.

Source: Soviet Siberia .


  • Engineers are called for help

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