Industrial Ethernet Basics - Part III

Industrial Ethernet is enjoying increasingly larger popularity in housing as well as in commercial new buildings. The question now is why Industrial Ethernet and Ethernet in general are being deployed and used more and more.

The answer is rather clear: Ethernet is one of the most intelligent, decentralized control and automation concepts under the modern (industrial) communication systems. If the system were a little bit more intelligent, it could ask itself: Why Industrial Ethernet? Or: Why not use Industrial Ethernet?

Why Industrial Ethernet is being used by more and more users:

The trend towards building automation is very clear. Why is Industrial Ethernet being used with this? It just has advantages over other systems. And not only that. When required, transparent transitions between Ethernet and fieldbus systems are no problem at all. Special Ethernet adapters exist for this. The trend towards building automation is caused by the fact that all private - and often also government - enterprises are under increasing efficiency pressure because of the ever accelerating globalization processes. And as they all operate profit-oriented, they all have the same goal: They want to produce a product which is as good as possible with the least possible costs and, in regard to this, in the shortest time. The question should rather be why Industrial Ethernet should not be used.

Why Industrial Ethernet can lower the costs

Commercial users have the following opportunities for saving of resources through the use of Industrial Ethernet:

  • Primary energy: Ethernet is an intelligent technology that can considerably unburden the central control of plants with corresponding programming.
  • Raw materials: Here, Ethernet can make sure that the dosaging processes within the production can be adjusted to become considerably more sensitive than before, which leads to less waste.
  • CO² certificates: In the scope of the new environment policy, Ethernet in machine engineering consequently can also lead to a lower CO² emission because of the savings in primary energy. As a result, Ethernet not only contributes to environment protection, but makes it possible for plants to spend less money for purchasing of CO² certificates.

Furthermore, plants can expect the following from the use of Ethernet:

  • Improved capabilities for monitoring of tolerances and measuring values can lead to a general quality improvement.
  • Short-term planning abilities permit a reduction of stocks because of short-term acceptance of orders. In connection with this, longer downtimes can also be avoided.

Why Industrial Ethernet is an intelligent system

The actuators of the production process are connected to the modules of the Ethernet system from which they receive their commands. These modules can be connected to a central control via collective lines. The modules are called slaves and the central controls are called masters. Accordingly, the master-slave principle is often mentioned when talking about Ethernet. The following is the reason why Industrial Ethernet is more intelligent than other systems:

The masters can communicate with each other via a network. This is just like in the human body, where all nerve stimulations are processed in the brain. However, there is one more fact in the case of the Ethernet: If it increases the efficiency, the individual slaves can also exchange data with each other. That is as if the nose, when it is itchy, could send a command to scratch to the hand without having to take a detour via the brain. This sharply reduces the load for the central control of an installation.

However, Industrial Ethernet not only thinks more efficiently than other industrial communication system, which is another reason why Industrial Ethernet enjoys growing popularity, for example in machine building. It also thinks faster: The vertical construction of the system structure enables multiple modules to transfer and to process data at the same time. The real-time Ethernet technology, also called Fast Ethernet, enables transfer rates of up to 100 Mbps - naturally without the risk of data collision. Furthermore, several signal routes are available, so that a spare connection can be used in the case of the failure of one connection.

Why Industrial Ethernet is a less expensive system

Industrial Ethernet can be installed and maintained very easily. The advantages are:

  • Troubleshooting is less complicated than with other communication systems and can be done faster. When required, it can even be done during ongoing operation.
  • Only one cable must be laid for the base installation
  • The costs for the training of maintenance and installation personnel are relatively low.
  • There are uniform configuration tools, certified and approved as operating resources, which are compatible with the systems and field components of all manufacturers.

If the programming of the system provides for it, all information collected in the system can be made available to all parts of the system and can be processed if required/possible.

Why Industrial Ethernet can be maintained easily:

Why can Industrial Ethernet be maintained easier than other systems? The reason for this can be found in the actions of major Ethernet vendors, who, because of the needs of their users, look for simple and if possible standard maintenance in the highly complex systems. Accordingly, the vendors have developed three procedures that can be used for all field components of all Ethernet systems (and the systems themselves). Their names are:

  • TCI (Tool Calling Interface)
  • FDC (Field Device Control)
  • ECCL (Electronic Device Description Language)

For the future, the vendors want to work towards use of a single technology. The name of this is: FDI (Field Device Integration).