infrastructure for a connected world

Industrial Networking: One Network for Full Enterprise Connectivity

Industrial networking goes beyond connecting the back office to the plant floor. Today’s networking technology delivers fast, secure, and reliable data transfer factory-wide, so users can proactively improve efficiency and productivity.

Control Engineering
Karie Daudt
2013-05-24
Copyright 2013 CFE Media LLC
Syndication Source: Control Engineering

This is the age of information, where having constant access to critical data is the key to improved efficiency, productivity, and even profitability. Industrial networking capabilities have become the gateway to achieving the enterprise-wide communication and connectivity necessary to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. Implementing industrial networking solutions ensures that users have immediate access to critical production data, providing the highest level of control and visibility.

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With the migration away from traditional point-to-point fieldbus, advanced networking architecture ensures connectivity, collaboration, and integration from the device level to enterprise business systems. To select the best solutions, it is important that manufacturers examine all options before implementation. For instance, users should analyze the performance capabilities and application suitability of protocols such as EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP, and Profinet. Further, they should also understand the various environmental challenges, cabling types, and traffic issues to select the ideal networking solution for continuous, complete control over all production components.

Networking beyond office

Industrial Ethernet is based on the IEEE 802.3 standard. Though originally created for Ethernet found in the office environment, the standard has been modified for use in industrial automation. For Ethernet to be used in the industrial environment it must be adapted to withstand the environmental conditions that are not found in traditional installations. Most standard uses do not include exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, vibration constant flexing, and noise that can be induced by drives, robots, or other equipment often found on the factory floor. Industrial applications have needs that are not associated with other types of applications

Before, Industrial Ethernet companies could not unite administrative, control-level, and device-level networks in one network infrastructure and were maintaining separate networks to support their factory floor and business operations. For example, the corporate IT network supports traditional administrative functions, while the control-level network connects control and monitoring devices and the device-level network links the controllers with the plant floor’s I/O devices. By combining the two functions onto one network, this allows for greater efficiency and control over the entire automation operation.

Industrial automation networks

As plants start moving to industrial networking solutions, it is important to consider some key factors, such as what network protocol to use, the network topology, and the overall environmental conditions the network will be subject to.

EtherNet/IP is a communication protocol that is supported by the ODVA for use in industrial automation and process control environments. It takes the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) and implements it onto the foundation of Ethernet. CIP envelops a wide-ranging suite of messages and services for a variety of applications. EtherNet/IP provides users with a means to deploy standard Ethernet technology for industrial applications. EtherNet/IP can be used with star, tree, or line topology, but a switched topology is preferred in industrial applications. The use of managed switches allows the network to be configured to perform as close as possible to a real-time behavior, which is often required in industrial applications.

Profinet is the open Industrial Ethernet standard of Profibus and Profinet International (PI) for automation. It uses TCP/IP and IT standards and complements them with specific protocols and mechanisms to provide real-time performance capabilities. Profinet enables the integration of existing Fieldbus systems like Profinet, DeviceNet, and Interbus, without changes to existing equipment. Profinet can be used with star, tree, or line topology, but each layout needs to consider the overall requirements for the application.

Modbus TCP/IP is the Modbus RTU protocol with a TCP interface running on Ethernet. Modbus is managed by the Modbus-IDA User Organization. TCP/IP refers to Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, which provides the transmission channel for Modbus TCP/IP messaging. Modbus TCP/IP is used often in the industrial environment due to its ease of deployment and maintenance, and because it was developed specifically for industrial applications. Modbus TCP/IP can be used with star, tree, or line network topology and can be implemented with Ethernet technology that has been adapted for use in the industrial environment.

Industrial networks

imageWhile industrial networking is a powerful tool for improving operations, it is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. There are several considerations, such as environment, traffic, security, and cabling, that must be taken into account before implementing the appropriate solution for individual networking needs.

With Ethernet originally being created for the office environment, it is crucial that users consider their environmental conditions when determining what type of cabling is needed. Industrial Ethernet cabling is designed to meet and exceed the requirements of industrial applications, and the environmental conditions will generally determine the type of cordset used. Cordsets are expected to perform in applications that involve everything including welding, high-flex robotics, washdown, or hygienic conditions. Cordsets must be designed to withstand shock and vibration, crushing and pulling, bending or twisting, dust and dirt, water, oils, chemicals, corrosive gases, or temperature extremes.

Along with the environmental considerations, industrial networks must be able to manage plant traffic and interface with existing systems. Traffic ranges from data transfers to mission critical transmissions, and being able to distinguish between the two, identifying high-priority traffic to ensure it continues to operate efficiently. Additionally, since many processes deal with sensitive information, manufacturers should use security mechanisms to avoid outside intrusion and protect internal communications.

Networks are layered and require filtering to allow information to pass through a system based on its source, application, and destination. Filtering can be done based on various parameters, such as IP address, port type, and physical parameters. Additionally, establishing network redundancy is also important because if a problem occurs, an alternate link will ensure production is back online automatically, preventing lost information.

Before implementation, plant managers need to consider network communications signal requirements, including CAT 5, 5e, 6, 6A and 7; two-pair or four-pair cabling; D-code or X-code cordsets; solid or stranded cabling; and shielded or unshielded cabling. This will enable users to select an appropriate solution.

Plant-floor networking

As demand grows and industries become more competitive, operation data must travel across greater distances, at faster speeds, and in larger quantities. Due to this, maintaining reliable enterprise connectivity is necessary for continued overall production. Therefore, protocols connecting the office with the plant floor must offer seamless interoperability among manufacturing enterprise networks. Implementing a complete, end-to-end networking solution provides a wide range of benefits, including a lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO), a higher return on investment (ROI) due to real-time visibility and flexibility, reduced network maintenance, and decreased labor costs.

When moving the network from the back office to the factory floor, manufacturers require high-level reliability and security, with sophisticated features that allow constant access to critical production information. The advances offered with industrial networking protocols now enable one, high-quality network that can control an entire plant operation.

By providing comprehensive integration with administrative-, control-, and device-level management, information moves freely throughout the entire enterprise, providing unparalleled visibility. This degree of simplistic, complete information sharing ensures a more seamless production by automatically updating inventory information, distribution data, and real-time status updates.

Additionally, deploying one factory-wide network eliminates excess costs, maintenance requirements, and time-consuming installations. By monitoring every aspect of product, industrial networking can work to identify any issues faster to minimize downtime and prevent costly lost production.

- Karie Daudt is director of marketing for Turck. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

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