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Technology developments for PROFIBUS and PROFINET

29 October 2013

At a PI (UK) conference held in the summer to celebrate 20 years of PROFIBUS and PROFINET in the UK, Karsten Schneider, PI chairman, spoke about PROFIBUS and PROFINET technology developments.

“Currently,” he began, “there are around six million PROFINET nodes and, although PROFIBUS is still strong we have seeing some weakening here. We are unsure about whether this is a continuing trend or whether it simply demonstrates the technology’s maturity.”

“PROFINET is now a mature technology,” he said. “It now contains everything needed for factory automation applications and there is not much that needs to be changed on the specification going forward. It is stable and what we really now need to focus more on now is how to use the technology.”

Schneider has been particularly pleased with the uptake of PROFIsafe. “In 2012 the number of nodes sold increased by 50% over the 2011 figures, ” he said. Indeed, it is the profiles, such as PROFIsafe, that makes the PI offering different to many other fieldbuses. “These profiles simply sit on top of the basic telegram and contain some preconfigured information which makes it easy to deploy in an application. Profiles are really key to the technology because they make it so easy to deploy the technology,” said Schneider.

The latest profile to be released is PROFIenergy, and Schneider explained more about this. “PROFIenergy was originally driven by demand from the automotive industry. It supports energy management in the plant by providing a profile that can achieve transparency and shutdown.”

Having system transparency offers an easy way to collect data from devices. The bigger focus for PROFIenergy, however, is usually its shutdown capability. “Monitoring energy is nice, but what good is it if there is no automated energy saving?” questioned Schneider. “This is what the shutdown part of the profile offers. It can not only shut down an application but can also make sure that it is automatically started up again at a certain time. This works for short breaks as well as longer shutdowns and we are now focusing on breaks of less than one minute – for example in robot cells, where the robot may be idle, waiting for something to happen for up to 40% of the time it is in operation. We have discovered that it is possible to make 30% energy saving in such applications, if we are able to shut down the robot, in a controlled manner, for very short periods.”

Moving focus to the process automation sector, Schneider explained that the continuing dominance of 4-20 mA has hampered uptake of PROFIBUS PA despite the profile offering a better solution, in Schneider’s opinion. “PA offers simplified diagnostics, can provide the right information to the right person at the right time and offers simplified commissioning with faster parameter transmission. It can take process automation to an entire new level. To get better uptake of PROFIBUS PA we need to educate people that it is far superior to 4-20 Ma,” he said.

“Currently PROFINET cannot be used in hazardous areas and there is no standardised technology that can achieve this today,” said Schneider. “We do not want to create a proprietary solution ourselves and, at present, there is no intention within PI to develop one.” He did acknowledge, however, that there is work going on, at the international standardisation level, in this area.

“PI is now working on putting the PROFIBUS PA profile onto PROFINET to give seamless communication which will allow it to displace PROFBUS DP in process plants,” he said.
Schneider concluded by updating the audience regarding Field Device Integration (FDI) – the new technology for device integration. “Traditionally there were two technologies,” he said. “EDDL and FDT, both of which carried device information. However, the two technologies are incompatible with each other. So, if you wanted to use both technologies within a plant it could cause problems.”

The FDI technology has been driven by end-users, who have demanded a better solution. This resulted in a group of manufacturers and fieldbus organisations coming together to, finally, devise a single technology solution. This has resulted in the formation of the FDI Corporation. “In the future every device manufacturer will only have to supply one device package for their devices,” said Schneider. “Currently we are working on conformance testing to ensure that the device package is universally compatible, and the specification should be released before the end of 2013,” he predicted. “FDI is now moving towards the market in big steps.”


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