Solidifying Gains; Diversifying Methods

Networks are continuing to move beyond traditional communications into all areas of control and automation, mostly due to adding networking and intelligence to devices, migrating toward digital communications, and tying plant-floor to enterprise and administrative systems. Serial and 4-20 mA communications will see fewer new installations; some digital networks are expected to increase.

By Jim Montague March 1, 2004


Motion, robotic, machine control, CNC-based applications use more networking

Fewer applications connect to networks

Some fieldbus methods advance, others decline

Networks are continuing to move beyond traditional communications into all areas of control and automation, mostly due to adding networking and intelligence to devices, migrating toward digital communications, and tying plant-floor to enterprise and administrative systems. Serial and 4-20 mA communications will see fewer new installations; some digital networks are expected to increase.

In November and December 2003, Reed Research compiled and analyzed 236 qualified responses to a Web-based survey of Control Engineering subscribers involved in specifying, recommending or buying industrial networking products.

More than half (55.2%) of the qualified respondents to the Control Engineering /Reed Research 2003 Industrial Networking Product Focus Study report that their primary applications for networks are supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, a decline from the two-thirds of respondents using networking for SCADA in 2002.

Network solutions were also used by 40.5% of 2003’s respondents for diagnostics, testing and maintenance and by 37.5% for continuous and batch processing, about the same as a year earlier. Another 28.0% uses networks for motion control and robotic equipment, and 25.4% use them for machine control and CNC equipment, each about four percentage points over 2002.

Just under half of participants (49.8%) use system integrators or third-party consultants to help implement their networks, a result that’s unchanged from 2002. Those who used integrators and consultants in 2003 spent an average of $72,066.

Network connection plans shrink

Though users presently link numerous types of devices to industrial networks, fewer did so in 2003 than in 2002, and even less are planning to connect devices to networks in the next 12 months. [See “Present and Future Use of Products Tied to Networks” chart.]

For example, 80.3% of respondents presently connect PLC hardware to networks, and 90% did it in 2002, only 66.2% are planning to do it in the coming year. Likewise, 71.1% of users now link I/O products and systems to network, while 79% did it in 2002, but only 61.6% are planning to do it in the next 12 months.

Only users of vision system hardware plan on greater connectivity in the next year. Presently, 36.2% of respondents link vision hardware to network, but 39% plan to do it in the next 12 months.

Protocol ups and downs

While fewer of the 236 respondents are connecting devices to networks or plan to use some of the well-known networking protocols, some users plan to use more of other protocols in the near future.

For example, while 80.8% use Ethernet TCP/IP now, 84% used it in 2002, and only 68.8% plan to use it in the next 12 months. Similarly, while 43.6% use DeviceNet at present, 54% used it a year earlier, and only 40.9% plan to use it in the coming year. Also, while 31.4% currently use HART, 37% used it in 2002, and only 23.1% plan to within 12 months. And, while 39.6% use Modbus, 47% used it a year earlier, and only 27.7% plan to in the coming year.

Still, use of several networking protocols is expected to gradually increase. For instance, 17.4% are now using FOUNDATION fieldbus H1 and 10.1% are using FOUNDATION fieldbus High-Speed Ethernet, but 18.6% and 13.3%, respectively, plan to do so in the next 12 months. Likewise, Modbus TCP/IP is expected to increase from 23.9% to 25.7%; Profibus-DP is expected to increase from 22.2% to 24.6%; Profibus-PA is expected to increase from 11.9% to 13.2%; and AS-interface is expected to increase from 6.3% to 7.7%.

Industrial networking products

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Linking device connects EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet

To help users share data between networks and controllers, the Allen-Bradley EtherNet/IP-to-DeviceNet linking device, 1788-EN2DN, acts as a bridge for explicit (information) messages, and allows data collection and configuration to take place from any PC with an Ethernet interface.

Rockwell Automation

Ethernet cables made for tough environments

DataTuff Category 6 and 5e copper Ethernet cables and TrayOptic fiber-optic industrial Ethernet cables are made for tough industrial environments. DataTuff cables feature Belden’s patented Bonded-Pair construction, which affixes the conductors of the cable pairs along their longitudinal axes to ensure that no performance-robbing gaps can develop between conductor pairs.


Diagnostic Repeater speeds Profibus troubleshooting

Simatic Diagnostic Repeater delivers online diagnostic Profibus information about RS-485 Profibus cable during operation. More than a pure RS-485 repeater, Diagnostic Repeater detects physical problems during operation by measuring time it takes for a signal to travel through the network, and then evaluates the data.

Siemens Energy & Automation

High-speed memory sharing aids reliability

PACSystems Control Memory Xchange allows multiple devices to share large amounts of control data over a fiber-optic deterministic network at speeds up to 200 times faster than Ethernet. Increasing automation performance and reliability, this high-speed memory-sharing application operates in parallel to the main logic CPU with virtually no effect on the scan time of the control processor.

GE Fanuc Automation Americas

‘Fault Tolerant Ethernet’ provides high-availability

Ethernet technology is combined with Honeywell’s expertise in designing robust networks in its patented Fault Tolerant Ethernet (FTE) solution. The controller or fieldbus-only chassis is connected with the FTE network through a newly designed FTE Bridge module placed in the controller/FIM chassis.


Field-mounted fieldbus I/O carrier solution

DeltaV Fieldbus H1 Carrier is programmed to accept DeltaV Classic I/O discrete signals, and transmit the signals over the fieldbus segment to the controller, which allows control in the field or in the controller for non-fieldbus devices. Fieldbus H1 Carrier also can be used as a remote I/O device to bring in 16 signals on one segment.

Emerson Process Management

Smart DeviceNet slave simplifies troubleshooting

DRT2 smart DeviceNet slave monitors I/O status and network communications, and allows users to remotely monitor and diagnose common problems, such as low network voltage, communications errors, and short circuits for connected devices, which aids preventative maintenance and troubleshooting.

Omron Electronics

Modular Switch for Ethernet Applications New Modular Managed Switch (MMS) makes industrial Ethernet setup easy while providing maximum options. This addition to the firm’s Factory Line family requires no complex IT programming. Simply plug in the needed modules, configure the browser-based interface, and the expandable switch is ready. With a head station and two side-by-side expansion modules, MMS allows expansion from two to 24 ports. Front or bottom cable access options provide unique distributed Ethernet capability in small junction boxes or panels. Simplified point-and-click diagnostics combined with intuitive LED indicators enable plant floor staff to easily install or perform ongoing device and network checks. Wire speed switched Ethernet features meet high performance application needs. Phoenix Contact

Analog I/O modules update at 1.7 kHz Compact FieldPoint analog I/O modules, FP-AIO-600 and cFP-AIO-600, deliver a balance of four input and four output channels and an internal update rate of 1.7 kHz, which makes them useful for LabView Real-Time advanced industrial control applications. Compact FieldPoint is ideal for high-vibration applications, withstanding 50 g of shock and 5 g of rms vibration, even when mounted on heavy machinery or in vehicles. Compact FieldPoint operates in temperatures ranging from -25 to 60 °C, so users can run embedded LabView applications in extreme environments where many industrial PCs fail. National Instruments

Controller works with Ethernet-based I/O controller To deliver faster, higher-volume processing for industrial applications, Opto 22 has introduced its Snap-LCE, which is a standalone, small-footprint, industrial controller designed for use with Snap Ethernet-based I/O units and primarily in industrial control applications. SNAP-LCE controller provides real-time control and is programmed with the included ioControl, Opto 22’s popular flowchart-based control programming software and part of the company’s recently announced ioProject software suite. In a rugged, compact design, SNAP-LCE includes a built-in 10/100-Mbps Fast Ethernet port for attaching the controller to Ethernet networks, to computers on the network running industrial automation software, and to Ethernet-based I/O systems, such as SNAP Simple, SNAP Ethernet, and SNAP Ultimate I/O units. Opto 22

Mesh network withstands multiple points of failure Foxboro Automation Systems’ new “mesh” network technology for Invensys’ I/A Series system uses commercial off the shelf (COTS) Ethernet switches, ports, and fiber-optic media in advanced meshed configurations that provide multiple communications paths between network stations. The new technology can configure ultra-high-availability, high-performance, 100Mbps/1Gbps, switched Ethernet process control networks and field networks for new I/A Series systems. The technology can also be used to efficiently extend existing I/A Series systems. This mesh technology also can be used to configure plantwide process control networks, and provide a secure, high-performance link between I/A Series Control Processors and their associated fieldbus I/O modules. Foxboro Automation Solutions