Industrial Ethernet Manufacturing Solutions

01 April 2007

As the search for innovative solutions for the use of Industrial Ethernet products within the pharmaceutical market continues manufacturing success relies on high product functionality, reliable connections and the ability to meet global standards, according to Alan Mutch.

Over the last 20 years or so Ethernet has evolved to become the standard network technology for the office and IT environments. The interoperability of components from many manufacturers has contributed just as much to this development as has the technical performance and simplicity of this technology. This has resulted in a wide range of inexpensive and efficient components and systems, and hence significant benefits for users.

In historical terms, the majority of the Ethernet standards in use today are no longer that new ¡V the technology has indeed matured. A quick overview of the development of Ethernet standards might look like something like this:

„h 1980 ¡§Ethernet V1.0¡¨ standard (DEC, Intel, Xerox)
„h 1982 IEEE 802.3 standard. ¡§Yellow Cable Ethernet¡¨
„h 1986 ¡§Cheap-Ethernet¡¨ (10Base2)
„h 1991 ¡§Ethernet on Twisted-Pair¡¨ (10Base-T)
„h 1995 Fast Ethernet (100Base-T)
„h 1998 Gigabit Ethernet
„h 2002 10-Gigabit Ethernet

Industrial users have also recognised the advantages of bus technologies and network solutions. For example, the 1990¡¦s saw the development of fieldbus standards heavily based upon specific manufacturers specifications, and as a consequence they were not often compatible with each other. From the point of view of their technical development, these systems are without doubt very stable these days, but the user is restricted to one manufacturer, or at best just a few, when choosing a fieldbus system and its components. Switching to another system always involves high costs. Besides the cost of the hardware itself, the cost of training personnel often plays a role that should not be underestimated.

So why do we need Industrial Ethernet when the established systems still work? There are a number of reasons for this;

„h The universatility of the technology (vertical integration) enables system interoperability.
„h Production data is directly accessible in the office environment without the need for interfaces.
„h Simplified procurement and spare parts inventory.
„h Common expertise (operation and maintenance) ¡V knowledge of the use of Ethernet Networks is generally widespread and can be applied in the factory as well.
„h A higher speed and greater bandwidth create new options for diverse applications e.g. transmission of image data or the parallel use of network resources.
„h The TCP/IP standard used by the Ethernet enables Web interfaces for machine setup and maintenance, for example.
„h Geared to the future (Web-based technology) ¡V Industrial Ethernet will continue to benefit from new developments in the enormous IT network infrastructure market, and the possibilities for wireless LAN applications are certainly only a start.

Industrial Ethernet is evolving into the dominant standard for industrial networking technology. The ensuing added value is high for planners and operators of industrial systems. With a universally applicable technical standard as the basis, manufacturers can combine networks and their components.

To a large extent many applications, and their corresponding products, can be defined by way of communications standards, software solutions and applications protocols. However, there is still the challenge of providing an absolutely reliable physical network structure because 80% of all errors in an industrial network are, broadly speaking, caused by contact errors. Loose plugs, contact problems, moisture, broken wires, EMC problems or connection defects are just some of the more frequent causes of malfunctions. Weidmuller can provide users with long-lasting, maintenance-free electrical connections. Furthermore traditional products for switching cabinets are complemented with innovative and standardised components for Industrial Networks.

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