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A single network technology for all requirements

As manufacturers around the world recognise the importance of networking as a means to drive up productivity and reduce costs, Associate Editor John Jackson outlines the benefits of EtherNet/IP.

When ODVA announced that Bosch Rexroth had become a principal member of the organisation alongside Cisco Systems, Omron, Rockwell Automation and Schneider Electric, it highlighted even more strongly just how important open communications standards are to drive and control technologies and to the wider automation environment. In the modern manufacturing enterprise, seamless integration and a flow of data between the plant floor and the higher level enterprise are vital if companies are to achieve the highest levels of productivity with reduced costs.

Industrial Ethernet is now firmly entrenched as the technology of choice for enterprise-wide networking, yet even within this seemingly narrow umbrella there are choices to be made. There are key benefits, however, in choosing a solution that embraces all the essentials of configuration, diagnostics, information, control, synchronisation and motion, while delivering an open technology and multi-vendor support.

EtherNet/IP, based on the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP), has proven to be that solution for an extensive assortment of applications. EtherNet/IP was introduced in 2001 and today is the most developed, proven and complete industrial Ethernet network solution available for manufacturing automation, with the largest sold base of nodes, as confirmed in the IMS Research report 'The World Market for Industrial Ethernet - 2009 Edition'. It uses standard Ethernet (IEEE 802.3), standard TCP/IP suite and software components, and standard switches and other infrastructure products, allowing users to select best-of-breed products to increase productivity and reduce costs.

EtherNet/IP offers several unique advantages for manufacturing automation applications:
  • Complete producer-consumer services let you simultaneously control, configure and collect data from intelligent devices over a single network or use a single network as a backbone for multiple CIP Networks
  • Compatible with standard Internet protocols - eg HTTP, FTP, SNMP, and DHCP - and standard industrial protocols for data access and exchange such as OPC
  • Compliance with IEEE Ethernet standards provides users with a choice of network interface speeds - eg 10, 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps - and a flexible network architecture compatible with commercially available Ethernet installation options including copper, fibre, fibre ring and wireless
  • Options for industrially rated devices incorporating IP67-rated connectors (RJ45 or M12) with module and network status LEDs with device labeling for ease of use.

Furthermore, EtherNet/IP is based on the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP), a media-independent protocol encompassing a comprehensive suite of messages and services for the collection of manufacturing automation applications-control, safety, synchronisation, motion, configuration and information. CIP offers seamless bridging and routing without the added cost and complexity of gateways or proxies, and CIP provides the freedom to deploy interoperable, multivendor systems, even providing the architecture to seamless integrate Modbus devices without special gateways.

CIP includes extensions for motion, synchronisation, and safety applications through CIP Safety (providing high-integrity safety services and messages for CIP, approved IEC 61508 - SIL3 and EN 954-1 - Category 4); CIP Sync (defines time synchronisation services using standard IEEE-1588); and CIP Motion (provides users with a real-time, deterministic closed loop motion control for multi-axis controller-to-controller synchronisation and controller-to-drive communication).
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