Signal converters join the Ethernet party

03 May 2010

Ethernet-communications has reached down to a new low level in the factory pyramid. Normally industrial Ethernet, in its various forms, is used to connect devices in the higher levels of the factory hierarchy, such as drives, computers, and controllers. but at Hannover Fair, Weidmüller hit a new low: it presented the concept that: signal converters could be Ethernet-enabled just as well.

The unnamed prototypes appeared in Weidmüller’s ‘Future Zone’ area—a part of its stand devoted to future interface and communications technologies. The main objective of devices in the Future Zone, says Wiedmüller, is to ‘provide a basis for discussions with users, to take onboard, discuss and implement their suggestions and ideas.’

‘More process transparency with Ethernet’

The devices, working with both digital and analogue worlds, perform signal acquisition, conditioning, and standardisation of output. —and communicate these values, along with diagnostic information, on an Ethernet bus.

The new converters, says Weidmüller, demonstrate that it is possible to make networking of components in automation engineering simpler and more effective. If all devices deployed within an installation are networked to a single overall system utilising just one bus technology then it is possible to exchange process data and diagnostic functions across network stations no matter whose devices are deployed.

It’s the diagnostic data that are especially important.

The way Weidmüller sees it, event-controlled transmission of diagnostic information via the signal converter fulfils user demands for extensive and transparent process information. Ethernet-enabled diagnostic data generates a ‘significantly more exact image of the device, the sensor, and the process than would be possible utilising conventional converters.’

The prototypes Weidmüller were showing were continuously monitoring measurement values. They are capable of generating alarms depending on the status of the process, such as exceeding or falling below user-defined limits. As a result of this, diagnostic options that otherwise would be the reserve of complex process devices can now be extended to all measurements in an application.

The signal converters can also communicate with one another via a switch.

The company notes that, since most manufacturers already have Ethernet installed in both the office and the factory, installation of the new signal converters would be relatively inexpensive, and could take advantage of integration tools such as OPC and FDT/DTM.

Weidmüller did not say when the devices would be available as products.

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