March 3, 2004
The large variety of device types and device vendors, and the optimized adoption of complex devices in the plant continue to result in difficult and expensive device configurations that trouble contractors and end-users alike. In 1988, the ZVEI (Central Association of Electrical Industry) initiated a working group with the objective to specify a vendor-independent Field Device Tool (FDT) interface, aimed at solving engineering problems of field devices in both production and process automation. PROFIBUS International (PI) adopted this concept 4 years ago, developed it further and integrated it into PROFIBUS technology. Since FDT is based on open interfaces and applies to production as well as process automation, it is the concept of the future whenever devices have to be configured for operation connected to a system or provide data during operation to asset management in a plant.
FDT was conceptualized at inception to be communication-independent. A group of well-known manufacturers has now formed the FDT Joint Interest Group (FDT JIG) to develop solutions for other communication protocols as well. The FDT JIG will soon re-organize with the objective of continuing to develop FDT for other protocols, test and certify FDT products, and press ahead with joint common marketing for FDT technology. As early as December 2002, PROFIBUS International adopted a close relationship between PI and the future FDT JIG for retroactive-free development and for investment protection of PO members. PI supports the work of FDT JIG by diffusing open solutions. “We are confident that the work of FDT JIG will also strengthen our engineering concept,” explains Klaus-Peter Lindner, member of the PNO management board. “Leading companies have recognized that FDT technology fully meets the expectations of users and manufacturers alike and began participating in FDT JIG. PI, as initiator, is proud to have recognized the demand of end-users at a very early time. We believe in the uniformity of our engineering solution for process automation and production automation.”
FDT defines interfaces between device-specific software components provided by device manufacturers, called Device Type Managers (DTM), and the engineering system provided by system manufacturers. DTMs are shipped together with the device. A DTM is comparable to a printer driver, which allows interactive configuration and diagnostics. This allows the FDT/DTM concept to open up the interfaces of asset management solutions which, up to now, are largely manufacturer-specific interfaces. Since FDT standardizes the interfaces, it allows devices from different manufacturers to be integrated in any automation system, regardless of the fieldbus system.
Today, PROFIBUS provides end-users with a segmented and structured engineering solution using the specifications GSD, EDDL and FDT