Remote Control of Alicat Instruments with FlowVision SC

FlowVision™ SC

FlowVision SC is Alicat’s Windows® desktop application for controlling and logging data of our flow and pressure control devices. It is versatile and intuitive, with many capabilities—which you might also say about our instruments. It is separate from the COMPOSER™ and Gas Select™ firmware built into our main product lines, FlowVision apps expand and complement the built-in firmware.

The graphical user interface (GUI) of FlowVision SC allows for actions as simple as polling or displaying the Alicat’s measurements, or as involved as running complex scripts involving changing setpoints of, and datalogging from, Alicat devices. You can save these scripts for future use, graph your results, and log your data for later review.

FlowVision SC is capable of:

  • Remote setpoint and control loop commands
  • PID control loop tuning
  • Automatic configuration—automatically senses instrument’s type and current parameters
  • Session saving for easy configuration and experiment setup reloads
  • Data capturing and logging into common file formats
  • Graphing tool to see states and changes over time of instruments
  • Simple and advanced script building for automating meter and control command sequences
  • Software alarms
  • Serial terminal interface for direct commands, polling and data frame feeds
  • Communicates with up to 26 devices—gas and liquid flow controllers, meters and pressure controllers

Getting up and running

Connecting your Alicat device to a PC, and communicating with it through FlowVision SC:

  • Connect a serial cable to the RS-232 port on the device. RS-232 is the default serial connector installed on our instruments. RS-485 connections can also be ordered.
  • Connect the other end of the serial cable directly to the computer through a USB port, using an Alicat serial cable.
    • You can get help identifying COM ports on your computer with this video.
    • You can get drivers for serial communications cables here.
    • Not enough COM ports available? Use a BB9 breakout box, explained in the next section of this article.
  • Start the FlowVision SC software
  • Load the instrument(s) into the software through the Devices tab – choosing a designation and selecting the proper COM port for each – and you’re ready to start communicating with your device.

Adding multiple Alicat devices

Your PC might not have enough physical ports to connect all the Alicat devices you have in your process. In that case, a BB9 multi-drop breakout box will connect 9 devices to a single COM port. You can communicate with up to 26 devices on a single copy of FlowVision SC, by daisy-chaining BB9 boxes.

Try before you buy

Want to try out FlowVision SC before you buy? Contact Alicat for a 30-day trial key, and download the software on the page for  FlowVision SC software. A different application, FlowVision MX, is a gas mixing program, and has a very different set of features.

More remote communications options

If FlowVision SC software doesn’t suit your need for remote communications, consider:

  • PLC: Alicat devices can be ordered with PLC communication protocols (Ethernet/IP, DeviceNet, Modbus or PROFIBUS) and a choice of connector protocols.
  • Analog inputs and outputs: Nearly all Alicat devices (flow meters, flow controllers and pressure controllers) have built-in analog and digital communications modes—so you can choose which to use, when you want to.
  • On-board display and input buttons: Our main lines of MFCs, meters, and pressure controllers come with onboard LCD displays and input buttons for navigating the menus. It’s a convenient way to get an instrument up and running quickly without remote communications. Many users like to see what is going on at the instrument, even if remote communications are the ultimate plan.