Network interoperability, process digitalization

Think Again: Time sensitive networking helps advance communications in seven ways; digital transformation enables process industries in five ways.

By Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering August 10, 2018

IEEE Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) Ethernet technology will bring additional capabilities to industrial Ethernet networks and industrial communication software. Digitalization is accelerating efficiencies in process industries. These were among topics discussed by experts at the Siemens Automation Summit in June. 

TSN advances networking

Profinet industrial Ethernet network protocol (IEC 61784-2) and OPC Unified Architecture (UA, IEC 62541) will integrate TSN (IEC/IEEE 60802 TSN Industry Automation Profile selects features from various IEEE802 and IEC standards), adding capabilities to each and allowing Profinet and OPC UA to operate on the same network physical layer, explained Rainer Brehm, vice president for automation products and systems, Siemens AG.

At Hannover Fair in April, the TSN integration into OPC UA was demonstrated as programmable logic controllers communicated using OPC UA publish-subscribe (PubSub) capabilities with TSN; Profinet communicated with drives, robotics, and input/output devices; OPC UA communicated to a cloud platform; and a video camera used Internet protocol to communication on one industrial network. A PubSub network design results in less network traffic because only changes are communicated, as compared to a polling architecture where every node is asked repeatedly whether or not anything has changed. Brehm said:

1. When Profinet uses TSN, it:

  • Becomes more future-proof thanks to IEEE standardization of TSN • Increases bandwidth to 1 GBit
  • Has real-time capability with standard chips- even for isochronous motion control applications. Present Profinet applications with hard real-time capabilities are via hardware with customized application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips.
  • Continues use of existing projects or programs by keeping the Profinet application layer.

2. OPC UA using TSN will help with networking of machines through:

  • Open exchange through global standards (OPC UA, IEEE)
  • Robust TSN network infrastructure
  • Real-time communication with OPC UA
  • Use of client/server, PubSub, and PubSub TSN architectures.

As interoperable networking products using TSN emerge, automation vendors continue to work with others to complete and update standards likely to advance communication capabilities from controller to controller and down to field devices, suggested Brehm. Additional efforts include ensuring existing Profinet investments are preserved and the future development of Profisafe industrial Ethernet safety network over OPC UA, explained Brehm.

"Although PROFINET based on TSN will be our mainstream solution on field level, Siemens, as founding and board member of OPC Foundation, is committed to driving OPC UA with TSN forward within the OPC Foundation, not only for PLC/PLC communication but also down to field level," emphasized Brehm. "This includes, for example, the standardization of necessary application profiles, standardized OPC UA information models for devices, and the definition of certification procedures." 

Digitalizing a DCS

Digitalization of a distributed control system (DCS) brings added capabilities to process control applications, according to Hartmut Klocker, vice president of automation and engineering systems, and Axel Lorenz, vice president of sales and verticals process automation.

Digitalization can help meet the needs for process industries: intuitive user guidance, combining real and virtual worlds, horizontal plant integration, life-cycle compatibility, modular automation, scalability from small units to large plants, and global collaboration.

Digital transformation happens by:

1. Collaboration to enable a secure connection of all users and external suppliers at the same time.

2. Integrated digitalization to enable seamless plant design and engineering, simulation, and automation.

3. Usability with clear and easy system interactions via a highly intuitive user interface so as not to distract from operations and other business decisions.

4. Scalability to supply small units or manage a production site that can be upgraded seamlessly and expanded during operation.

5. Mobility to give experts immediate access to engineering projects and operation processes from anywhere using only a secure web connection.

Advanced hardware and software help throughout the process industry workflow: design and optimization, engineering and commissioning, operations and training, and operations and optimization. Digital transformation tools include:

  • Process control systems with a small footprint, single-point configurable, high-availability remote input/output devices, plug-and-produce capability, and easier commissioning
  • Dashboard software for visualization, navigation, integration, context, and key performance indicators
  • Process design and simulation software to enhance design, reference, maintenance, reliability, and operations, lowering design risk and integration time, providing early warning on performance degradation, mitigation advice, and create fast and efficient project execution
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality software for 3-D and spatial viewing, combining computer-aided design with reality models to enable the 3-D digital twin for immersive training and real-time information access
  • Cloud-based analytic software
  • Process modelling, methodologies, and workflows
  • Simulation platform software for virtual commissioning and operator training with hardware-in-the loop and software-in-the-loop modeling.
  • Following the principles of NAMUR Open Architecture, new applications such as cloud-based analytic software can be connected via OPC UA and field bus systems for use in legacy or brownfield applications, in addition to protecting relevant automation processes.

Smarter real-time, interoperable industrial networking and digital transformation are helping end users, machine builders, system integrators, and original equipment manufacturers to think again about communications and process automation capabilities. 

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

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