Design News, April 2013

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Automation & Control How Ethernet Is Expanding its Role To manage risk effectively, any company needs to implement a solid, well-designed infrastructure because that makes it is much easier to secure the network versus an installation that has been developed ad hoc. By Al PreSher, ContriButing editor T SouRcE: BEldEn he move to Industrial Ethernet for factory networking has been an evolutionary change. In the past 10 years, motion and I/O networks have embraced these new approaches, and companies have leveraged the technology to gain improvements in machine control networks, data collection, stronger connections to business systems, and the ability to perform remote monitoring and maintenance. But now it looks like we're in the midst of an additional wave of development that is targeting stronger, even more unified, networking solutions. "What we have seen in factory networking is a rapid move from a wide range of fieldbus and proprietary networks to solutions based on Industrial Ethernet that has really been a surprise," said Brian Oulton, director of Global Vertical Marketing at Belden. "If you look at the analyst's reports, in the years since 2001 when Ethernet was introduced to do I/O and drive control, growth and adoption rates have been very high with compound annual growth in the 30 percent range." One factor Oulton cites that has been driving growth is that Ethernet network implementations are incredibly forgiving. With other fieldbus technology, reaching 10 to 20 nodes on the network would often require rethinking the system architecture, adding communication modules, and sometimes even configuring a second network and figuring out how to commu- nicate between the two networks. But with Ethernet, companies just kept adding hardware and expanding their networks. Oulton said that, in the beginning, it was easy to work with because the technology provided a big, wide pipe and could handle the complexities of moving to larger, more sophisticated network architectures. Instead of viewing Ethernet as a fieldbus substitute, many companies started successfully creating these larger networks. Where a PROFIBUS DP or ControlNet network might include 30 to 40 nodes and DeviceNet networks might reach 10 to 15 nodes, large user companies expanded their one Industrial Ethernet network to as many as 1,000 nodes and beyond. With industrial networks continuing to develop and companies implementing networks in different ways, Belden has tried to understand the role of mission-critical communications for manufacturing and has identified four themes that are driving this expansion. The first key benefit that companies are seeing is the efficiencies of moving to one network technology and fewer networks. Where an application in the past would extract information from a specific machine and, with a lot of work, push it into their accounting system, one network is dramatically reducing the amount of work. Companies are using these efficiencies to move volumes of data that would have been prohibitive in the past. A second trend has been a demand for more agility to make quicker business decisions based on plant floor information. Companies that have cobbled together a plant network are now building more robust Industrial Ethernet infrastructures that improve reliability and efficiency. More agility provides an ability not only to access data but also to make dramatic changes in the manufacturing process by moving machines and making larger production changes because of the solid communications infrastructure even though the single network is this infographic explores the role of mission-critical communications for manufacturing and identifies expanding to extremely high four key benefits that are helping to drive this expansion. number of nodes. Agility S26 D es i gn n ews A pr il 2013 [www.designnews .com]

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