Product Spotlight: Micro DCS - Small to Midrange Process Control

August 27, 2008
By Bill Lydon - Contributing Editor

ABB Freelance 800F: Compact Process Control System

I recently had the opportunity to review the newest hardware and features of the ABB Freelance control system and it is an impressive Micro DCS product.  The ABB Freelance control system meets the needs of small to midrange process applications where a large DCS is not required.  The Freelance system has its roots on the original Hartmann & Braun Freelance product, but with significant ABB investments to improve the system.  ABB is committed to continuously improving and enhancing Freelance to meet user's changing needs.

Engineers evaluating possible solutions for small to midrange applications will do well to consider the Freelance system.  The Freelance system combines easy engineering with open system architecture.  ABB describes Freelance as a small footprint DCS for small to medium sized plants in the process industry and for applications requiring DCS functionality in a compact system with intuitive and efficient engineering tools.

Freelance is scalable from small to large system (click images below to enlarge them).

A system can be small and scale up with more controllers.

Freelance system enhancements have embraced open architecture with a fieldbus centered architecture supporting PROFIBUS PA, PROFIBUS DP, HART, and Foundation Field bus. Using the AC800 controllers systems can be configured for full redundancy. 

IEC 61131-3 Programming
Freelance conforms to the IEC 61131-3 programming standard for controls programming.   An integrated systems approach is used to configure control and process automaton using a large library of over 200 predefined functions to save engineering time and improve quality.  ABB indicates that the Freelance 800F controller is proven in more than 14,000 applications.
Field Display Panels
The ABB Panel 800 family of displays provides options to meet a wide range of operator interface requirements.  There are 5 touch panel displays ranging from 4 to 15 inch displays and 4 function key panel displays with screens up to 10 inches.

Software Features
Control Builder F engineering software is used to configure the systems and the DigiVis operator console software is used for HMI. Key software features include:
  • Integrated Alarm and Message Handling
  • Readymade Faceplates per Tag
  • Integrated Configuration – Database
  • Cross References
  • Extended SFC-Control (Start, Resume, Monitor, Wait, …)
  • Trending, Historian and Archiving
  • Redundancy Option
  • Integrated Control System Diagnostics
  • System Level Diagnostics
  • Easy Configuration, 3D Libraries & Pre-defined Displays
  • Trend/Archive Analog and Digital Process Variables
  • Historian


FDT Support
Freelance now has built-in Fieldbus management using the FDT standard for HART, PROFIBUS, and Foundation Fieldbus. These capabilities are built into the systems engineering tool for online and offline configuration, calibration, and parameter access.
OPC Interface
Freelance has servers for open connectivity with OPC DA (Data Access) and OPC AE (Alarm & Events).
AC 700
The AC 700 is the newest field hardware that is based on ABB’s proven AC 500 hardware platform.   The AC 700 has I/O modules with detachable terminal units and can support up to 8 I/O modules.  The AC 700 processor is a Motorola Power PC and can be configured with up to 2 MB Battery-backed SRAM, 8 MB SDRAM and 4 MB FLASH memory.  The unit has a local display for control and diagnostics, 1 Ethernet Port, and two RS-232/485 ports.  The initial I/O modules available support:
  • Digital Inputs: 24 volt DC
  • Digital Outputs: 24 volt DC
  • Analog Inputs: Milliamp, Voltage, and RTD
  • Analog Outputs: Milliamp and Voltage

Application Engineering Advantages

  • Single database for all controllers
  • Quickstart Computer Based Training on DVD
  • S88 batch control only requires user to configure it for applications
  • Diagnostics in DigiVis Monitor Field Equipment Health
  • OPC Interface
  • IEC 61131-3 Language Standard
  • Control Builder supports FDT simplifying engineering and commissioning
  • Time synchronization of nodes with master
  • Pre-engineered displays
  • SOE option card for rack based I/O with 2millisecond resolution
  • Redundancy Options

Is it a PAC?

I asked ABB if the Freelance controllers are PACs and this is their view:
“The PAC term has been created by PLC vendors who would like to put more functionality into their PLCs trying to add things that have been in our systems for years like an integrated database, full communications between all controllers, integrated alarm messaging, and an integrated HMI.”
               Gero Lustig, Gero Lustig, Freelance Business Development, Americas, ABB Inc.
“The hybrid market is the one we are targeting with the Freelance offerings.  Freelance covers small to medium size applications and has the features of a DCS system.  The release of the AC 700 puts the Freelance system into the PLC arena with a Micro DCS!”
               Alicia DuBay, Director, Global Systems Marketing, ABB Inc.
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