Valmet announces first major upgrade of its D3 DCS post-acquisition

By Del Williams   

Products Valmet

Version 16.3 of Valmet’s D3 Distributed Control System significantly improves the reliability and performance of the automation platform

Using Valmet’s D3 Distributed Control System (DCS) automation platform, industrial processors can now integrate numerous reliability and performance enhancements in the first significant update following its acquisition from NovaTech Automation last year. The latest D3 version 16.3 from Valmet, a worldwide provider of process technologies, automation, and services, showcases the company’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the widely used DCS in various industries including specialty chemicals, agriculture, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals.

Serving customers since 1982 as D/3, the D3 DCS provides a comprehensive automation solution for process industries. This includes system-wide redundancy, robust I/O modules, advanced process controllers, fast Ethernet connectivity, efficient HMI tools, and customizable application programming for batch and continuous processes.

According to Mike Davis, senior manager of product management for Valmet Automation Systems North America, this update includes a variety of improvements, bug fixes, security, and usability enhancements, and new features that increase the automation platform’s reliability and performance.

“We are committed to providing existing D3 customers with continued product development, support, and maintenance. Our goal is to provide a seamless forward migration path so processors can keep their systems running for decades to come,” says Davis.

When the acquisition of the DCS from NovaTech Automation was first announced, there was significant anticipation regarding the potential added value Valmet could bring to the D3, based on their extensive expertise in batch, continuous, and hybrid process automation.

Valmet is a leading provider of process technologies, automation, and services with headquarters in Espoo, Finland, and has over 220 years of history in the industrial sector. It can provide almost all components of an automation system except for general instruments like pressure or temperature sensors. The company introduced its first digital automation systems in the late 1970s, and today the company’s Distributed Control System (DCS), Valmet DNA can be utilized for process control, machine controls, drive controls, quality controls, and condition monitoring across many industries.

According to Davis, the new release includes enhancements derived from Valmet’s existing product suite and new features developed by the company’s product development division.

To maintain a secure and reliable automation environment, it is necessary to update to the newest server and desktop operating systems. D3 v16.3 is among the initial major DCS versions to support Windows Server 2022. Windows Server 2019 is also supported for the system servers. Operator consoles and small display servers use Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021 or LTSC 2019.

Valmet D3’s core HMI system, the ProcessVision Console (PVC), has also been upgraded with additional features, further improving user-friendliness. Engineers, technicians, and operators use PVC to control industrial processes, view and troubleshoot detailed system and IO information, as well as monitor trend data.

Davis notes that in D3 v16.3, PVC supports Display Edit functionality for Faceplate, Current Trend, and Historical Trend groups, and changes can be converted to D3 Architect configuration input files. PVC also supports a floating toolbar that offers operators a simpler, easier way to make process control changes and navigate their displays. The toolbar also provides easy access to the Console Settings Editor to personalize the look and feel of PVC and to PAAC displays to view and control Dynamic Alarm Management behaviour.

According to Davis, integrating Valmet’s PID Loop Optimizer into D3 is one of the most significant value-added improvements – one that came directly from Valmet’s portfolio of existing automation solutions.

“There are PID tuning parameters that affect how a valve will behave, for example, whether it reacts aggressively or slowly to the changing process. Getting that tuning correct can impact the material, the process, how much energy is consumed, and how tightly it is controlled,” Davis said.

Unfortunately, in many plants, process engineers must essentially estimate PID tuning numbers. To resolve this issue, Valmet replaced a third-party software solution and integrated its own PID Loop Optimizer. The optional layered product supports tuning PID and PRF loops and can be launched from Valmet ProcessVision.

“By having the PID loop tuning software directly embedded in the D3, the operator can call up the loop tuning software directly from their workstation, and it will analyze the performance of the loop and make recommendations for tuning that can be copied or downloaded directly back to the controller,” explains Davis.

“Operators can now tune PIDs with confidence with accurate parameters for the required process response,” added Davis. “Mistakes are reduced since no math and no manual copy-pasting is required. The software recognizes the controller, its algorithms, and all the unit conversions, so loop-tuning activities are expedited. Operators have total control over the tuning selection and can even tune specialized loops like cascade, pH control, and level controllers.”

In addition to the PID Loop optimizer, two new prompts have been added to the digital input (DIN) block type to support an alarm delay when the alarm is triggered and upon a return to normal. Alarm delays can be placed on the change from normal and change of state (CFN and COS) alarms.

“This specific improvement was based on requests from multiple customers, and we were able to bring the feature into the product,” says Davis.

Reliability and futureproofing
D3 v16.3 also supports the newest controller in its PCM4 line, the PCM4100A.

The PCM4100A has a 5-slot backplane rather than the 4-slot backplane of the PCM4100, providing room for an additional I/O card. The additional PCI slot allows up to four I/O cards to be installed in a non-redundant controller or up to three I/O cards in a redundant controller configuration. Otherwise, the PCM4100A has the same dimensions, power requirements, and I/O type support as the PCM4100 [first introduced in 2002], allowing it to replace any existing Valmet PCM4100 in the same chassis.

“The big advantage for D3 customers is they can now upgrade a 20-plus-year-old Robo CPU to new hardware without losing any I/O slots in a redundant controller configuration,” explained Davis. “This is all part of the effort to help customers maintain long-lived systems at their plants.”

Whether a processor receives DCS upgrades as part of their maintenance agreement or chooses to do so when it suits them, implementing the latest process automation software today has a host of benefits.

Industrial processors can retain peace of mind knowing that Valmet is fully committed to keep developing and improving the D3 DCS automation platform far into the future, incorporating the latest technology while maintaining backward compatibility for their longtime customers.


Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.

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