Industrial networks

Non-Ethernet networks might be specified for an industrial project for various reasons. See advice from five sources, including two system integrators, on what to consider when choosing an industrial network, including wireless.

By Mark T. Hoske June 9, 2013

Industrial networks coverage in Control Engineering June 2013 North American print and digital edition includes summaries of two longer online articles and references three other industrial communications articles, recently posted on the Control Engineering site. Descriptions and links to each follow, below, to help with industrial network selection.

7 reasons to consider a non-Ethernet industrial network

Here are seven reasons non-Ethernet networks might be specified for an industrial project, to help determine if an Ethernet, fieldbus, or a device or sensor-level network should be considered. These are simplicity, flexibility, familiarity, consistency, policy, experience, and compatibility, even if logic might suggest otherwise. Learn more about how each impacts network selection.

Industrial Ethernet alternatives

When choosing between an industrial network or another option, such as industrial Ethernet network or industrial wireless, sort out the cost and timing of legacy upgrades. Selection of networking solutions depends on how many legacy devices and networks are in the existing automation infrastructure and the effective remaining lifecycle of components within that infrastructure. This latter part is particularly important. 

ONLINE extras

Industrial wireless monitoring and sensing

Applying industrial wireless applications to monitoring and sensing can serve as a risk management policy. Strong communications address many challenges facility operators face during process transformations. Before taking on such a project, facility operators need to be aware of the challenges from rapid prototyping of wireless sensors in an industrial environment and the best practices for radio frequency (RF) design in complex or harsh RF environments, such as manufacturing, industrial, or power generation facilities. By leveraging wireless technologies, operators can acquire critical component monitoring data in significantly higher volumes, reduce staff impact of making collection rounds, and focus those resources on data analysis and prognostics of issues. By implementing a wireless infrastructure and using it for the rapid deployment of new sensor types, operators can create significant advances in critical component monitoring.

How wireless networks are changing industrial environments

IEEE 802.15.4-based wireless networks can be reliable, robust, and cost effective for many industrial, warehousing, and facility applications. These wireless networks transmit through walls and floors, reducing wiring and routing challenges, and making equipment placement more flexible and productive. Those working in warehouses, factories, and industrial facilities are discovering that wireless networks can greatly reduce network installation and maintenance expenses. Because IEEE 802.15.4 wireless can transmit data throughout a plant, penetrating walls and floors, it eliminates wiring costs and cable routing problems, while placing fewer restrictions on the location and placement of equipment.

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. 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. Examine all options before implementation. Look at performance capabilities and application suitability of network protocols. The also should understand the various environmental challenges, cabling types, and traffic issues to select the ideal networking solution for continuous, complete control over all production components. 

Control Engineering Wireless articles

More wireless coverage is available in the link above. 

– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.