Low-cost field control network

International: CC-Link IE Field Basic is an option for smart factory network architectures where low-cost control networks are needed.

By Stone Shi February 3, 2019

To realize the “one-network for all” smart factory network architecture, more industrial equipment is using real-time Ethernet as control network to realize the interconnection among devices. Is there a more economical and simpler industrial control network?

CC-Link IE Field Basic is an optimal choice for realizing low-cost control equipment network according to several sources.

Before the release of CC-Link IE Field Basic, which was the earliest Gigabit industrial Ethernet released in the industry, CC-Link IE has been widely applied in industries such as automobile; liquid crystal display (LCD); rubber; computers, communications, consumer electronics (3C); and others. Its biggest characteristic is it seamlessly fuses high-speed large-capacity communications and the system, guaranteeing stability and real-time data performance.

CC-Link IE has two types of network protocol: CC-Link IE Control used for communication between controllers, and CC-Link IE Field used for communication between controller and field equipment.

Lower cost, ease of use

With the development of industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the traditional low-end equipment and small-scale equipment often isn’t networked because of costs and other networking demands. However, compared with high speed networks, such equipment focuses more on the low cost and convenient use of networking.

Users always hope for more economical products to build lower-cost systems such as small-scale equipment that can meet control requirements with 100 Mbps communication performance. Even for small-scale equipment, visualization for connected equipment and connections with higher-level information systems are also needed, explained Gan Shuang, senior engineer of CC-Link Partner Association (China).

Equipment manufacturers hope one hardware device can work with multiple networks while providing lower development costs. Low-cost slave station equipment and simple and low-cost master station functions are under development.

The bus network, CC-Link IE Field Basic, based on standard 100 Mbps Ethernet, provides a low-cost control network for small-scale systems that do not need high-speed control.

“CC-Link IE Field Basic can realize the real-time communication needed for equipment control via software at network protocol application layer while communication with CC-Link IE is ensured,” Gan Shuang said. “No matter for master station or slave station, special chip and interface board is not needed. For standard Ethernet equipment, the corresponding CC-Link IE Field Basic communication can be realized only by installing the corresponding software, which can largely reduce the development time and reduce the development cost.”

Gan Shuang, continued: “For users, it is simple to build CC-Link IE Field Basic network; cycle communication can be performed only by setting network parameters, and communication programming is not needed. The parameters of connecting equipment also can be set by engineering software, and mixed communication can be performed with TCP/IP of standard Ethernet, building the field network that is compatible with standard Ethernet communication. Through carrying of web server function, remote protection of equipment and sending of tracing data of information system can be performed. This is the reason why CC-Link IE Field Basic has simple setting, simple connection, simple diagnosis and simple development.”

Expanded basic networking

Since CC-Link IE Field Basic was released in late 2016, many equipment manufacturers and product manufacturers have supported the product. It also has gradually showed its advantages during actual application to industrial equipment.

Mingling, a computerized sewing machine company of Mitsubishi Electric and the inventor of industrial electronic sewing machine, first installed CC-Link IE Field Basic. To reduce hardware costs and development cycle, Mingling selected CC-Link IE Field Basic as the control communication network to develop the first set of industrial sewing machine with industrial Ethernet in the industry.

The sewing machine’s motion control is run through a special controller via CC-Link IE Field Basic. the number of axes controlled is increased to seven from five, realizing higher quality sewing. Difficult curved sewing or big-size sewing also can be realized “beautifully, quickly and simply.” In addition, the sewing machine had the highest sewing speed and sewing capability at that time.

“Through programming of software, the built-in Ethernet port of controller CPU can realize real-time communication. It not only saves the special chips, but also largely accelerates the development and debugging, and communication module is not needed. 100 Mbps band width is enough to meet the control requirements for sewing machine,” said Fukuda Toshinori (responsible for the control network design of sewing machine) when he first discussed use of CC-Link IE Field Basic.

CC-Link IE Field Basic in China

During the last two years, some manufacturers in China started developing CC-Link IE Field Basic products. Tianjin Sentinel Electronics, a manufacturer of sensors, encoders, bus communication protocol I/O modules, and connector assemblies has products for metallurgy and automobile manufacturing applications. Sentinel Electronics developed remote I/O module of CC-Link IE Field Basic.

Yao Jinlong, the engineer at Tianjin Sentinel Electronics responsible for product development, said CC-Link IE Field Basic was only a program of application layer with no requirements for the type of processor. This means a universal processor may be adopted and used, which saves the cost of protocol chip.

The development difficulty and development cycles also are largely reduced. CC-Link Partner Association provided development documents, source code template, and sample programs. This reduced source code development (using C language to 2 months), and the consistency test has recently been passed.

Gan Shuang said for member companies, the CC-Link Partner Association provides development code for free and exempt the consistency test fee for compatible products. Many international manufacturers (such as Balluff, CKD, Hilscher, Mitsubishi Electric, Molex, and Phoenix Contact) have successively launched CC-Link IE Field Basic products in China.

For example, Xu Wei, from the servo products department of Mitsubishi Electric, said all new FA products from Mitsubishi Electric including programmable logic controllers (PLCs), controllers, servos, frequency converters, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), remote input/output (I/O) and industrial robots support CC-Link IE Field Basic. This expands CC-Link IE Field Basic’s product ecosphere and lays the groundwork for wider CC-Link IE Field Basic implementations.

Stone Shi is executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.


KEYWORDS: Industrial networks, device networks

Device networks can be lower cost and easier to implement.

Using a standard processor decreases networking cost.

Having source and sample code available eases product development.


What devices or systems still need networking to increase value?

See links to international editions at www.controleng.com/international.

CC-Link Partner Association provides more industrial networking information.

Author Bio: Executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China