The Ethernet, as a communication protocol is no youngster, slowly edging its way to half a century in age. Developed by Robert Metcalfe and his team at Xerox in the early 1970s, it took a decade or so of competing with rival communication protocols such as Token Ring, ARCNET and FDDI before it rose to the fore.
Today, the Ethernet, although designed originally for office-based computer communication is the protocol of choice for the modern industrial installations. Known as the Industrial Ethernet, this new iteration is finding its way into installations in the petrochemical industry, heavy industry, food and beverage and factories all over the world.
The Industrial Ethernet, with its high network communication speed, versatility, durability and cost-effectiveness are perfectly suited to motion control, monitoring and safety applications within industrial scenarios. Obviously, an industrial environment can be a tough place so the need for durable RJ45 connectors and cabling with a more substantial resistance to wear and tear is required and there are many options available to the discerning design and installation engineer.
Determinism? An essential ingredient in the Industrial Ethernet recipe, brings real-time control and safety functionality of Industry-specific protocols including PROFINET and EtherCAT, combining digital traffic with regular traffic in one Ethernet network. Scheduled traffic is partitioned from all other data traffic meaning it is immune from disturbance. Add to that the very fast communication speeds offered by fibre, it can provide a robust and electrically isolated data transmission service over incredible distances.
Where guaranteed latency is vital, Deterministic Ethernet is used in a growing and varied range of applications either for operational efficiency or functional safety. Some of these applications include autonomous driving and machine-to-machine communication.
Fitting in with the IIoT and Industry 4.0
The Industrial Ethernet is a perfect fit for the IIoT and Industry 4.0 and the driving factor for this is the need for process data concerning automation, safety and real-time control as well as process planning and trends. Certain aspects of the monitoring of an industrial process have existed for a while but never within a real-time seamless network infrastructure that’s easily accessible by anyone who needs the data.
Suppliers of process equipment are providing Ethernet-enabled devices including motors, inverters, encoders, sensors etc, simplifying the user’s ethernet network process. Ultimately this adoption is leading ever more to entire IIoT based smart factories, where the precision monitoring of processes, exact service and repair schedules based on performance data and a self-evolving process improvement methodology is the norm.
Industrial Ethernet isn’t encapsulated by the constraints of a mere building, the data gathered in real-time from process sensors can be shared at all levels within a business whatever the location. From the processing plant itself to a subsidiary on the other side of the world where a service engineer can use valuable data to fine-tune another process line. It also allows traditionally separate systems to interact such as energy infrastructures, industrial process and building management systems.
The demand for seamless interconnection from the smallest industrial process sensor via an IO- link master to a system-level computer system, with no need for expensive cabling networks it is clear to see why Ethernet has become the main choice for industrial installation. This middle-aged system is certainly still punching its weight and with iterations such as the IoT, the IIoT and Industry 4.0 adding yet more strings to its bow of communication versatility, Ethernet communication is destined to remain with us for a while to come.
Kempston Controls stocks a wealth of industrial Ethernet products, ideal for whatever your application requirements demand. Call our sales and technical teams on +44 (0) 1933 411411 or email email@example.com to discuss your Ethernet system requirements.