Accelerated growth of industrial Ethernet and fieldbuses

10 May 2011

Michael Volz, managing director of HMS Germany, discusses the latest trends in industrial communication.

The latest trends confirm an accelerated growth for both industrial Ethernet and fieldbus networks. In 2010, nearly twice as many network-enabled devices were installed as in 2009. Industrial Ethernet networks like Modbus-TCP, Profinet, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT show growth rates of more than 50% and interestingly, fieldbus networks such as Profibus, DeviceNet or CC-Link also report significant growth of installed nodes during last year. For example, the installed base of Profibus devices increased by 4.2 million in 2010 to a total of 35.6 million while 900,000 Profinet devices were added in 2010 giving Profinet an installed base of 3 million nodes.

All these figures confirm that the changeover from fieldbus towards industrial Ethernet takes longer than expected. Twenty years after the market introduction, fieldbuses have still not reached their peak and continue to beat industrial Ethernet in volumes.

We see a clear trend to use industrial Ethernet in technology-driven applications such as automotive manufacturing. While fieldbuses serve the basic needs of industrial communication and are widely used in standard machinery, industrial Ethernet provides more functionality and helps users to reduce the total cost of ownership of a complex network infrastructure.

New features for energy management and control extend the application range and help system integrators to combine all control functions of a complex automation system into one single PLC. Industrial Ethernet has the capability to transmit real time signals (I/O) and IT-data (files, webpages, E-mail) over a single cable and has proven its applicability as the preferred solution for modern complex automation systems.

The parallel use of fieldbus and industrial Ethernet increases the need for gateways to ensure a transparent flow of information throughout the entire plant. Moreover, the increasing variety of industrial networks forces device manufactures to equip their industrial devices with a multi-network communication interface.

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