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Designing networks for plantwide communication

Designing networks for plantwide communication

An integrated zone cabling plan can slash network deployment time up to 75%, cut down on material and labour costs, and allow for future expansion, as Paul Herbst of Panduit explains.

As rapid advancements in networking, computing, data storage and software capabilities increase the value of automation systems, engineers are under pressure to refresh machine and plantwide system designs with solutions that merge information and control data. To address this challenge, validated architectures and tested physical solutions that integrate information and control systems are growing in importance.

To get connected globally into industrial operations, users need validated logical diagrams of the functions in the network and the interface with enterprise systems. This logical networking architecture, developed by Rockwell Automation and its Strategic Alliance Partner Cisco, is commonly known as the Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) Design and Implementation Guide. This reference architecture describes the connectivity between the enterprise and industrial zones at a logical level.  

Key within the logical architecture is the identification of communications pathways from the Level 3 Site Operations to Levels 0-2 associated within Cell/Area zones on the plant floor. The physical layer architecture is the infrastructure required to achieve connectivity that addresses data throughput, environment, wiring distances and availability. A structured, engineered approach is essential for the physical layer to ensure that investments in network distribution deliver optimum output.

For physical architecture network support, Layer 3 switching is typically deployed in the Level 3 Site Operations (industrial data centre). Layer 2, or direct physical connections, are made into zone enclosures or control panels, or are connected directly to equipment located within the Cell/Area Zone plant floor.

The physical environment of plant-floor equipment and the distance away from the control room, which acts as an interface to the Level 3 Site Operations, determines the characteristics of the cabling solution needed. Assess environmental risks by leveraging TIA 568-C.0 "Generic Telecommunications Cabling for Customer Premises, Annex F: Environmental Classifications."      

When determining the cable solution, consider the mechanical, ingress, climatic and electromagnetic (MICE) conditions. This ensures the entire cable protection scheme - cabinets, pathways, grounding/bonding and cable selection - is appropriate for the environmental hazards present.

Traditional structured cabling deployed in CPwE automation networks involves multiple horizontal copper runs all the way from the Level 3 control room to each automation control panel within the Cell/Area Zone. This type of cabling is also called a 'home run'. For very small deployments this approach works fine. But in many environments traditional structured cabling can mean hundreds of lengthy copper cables that are difficult to manage, present electromagnetic interference (EMI) susceptibility challenges, become virtually impossible to change, and are arduous to remove when complying with building codes that require removal of abandoned cable.

On the plant floor, traditional structured cabling is routed from the micro data centre (MDC) to a control panel or zone box containing active equipment. Alternatively, a zone cabling approach involves a logically placed connection point in the horizontal cable, routing it from the MDC to active zone boxes. Shorter cable runs then extend from the zone box to each device in that zone.

A number of factors must be addressed when connecting the Cell/Area Zone to the Level 3 Site Operations control room. Users must decide on architectures, physical media and connectivity to distribute networking that's cost-effective while ensuring enough flexibility, environmental ruggedness and performance headroom to hold up to current and future manufacturing needs.

In applications where switching equipment is used on the plant floor, it's necessary to place the switch in a protective zone enclosure. The zone enclosure also houses other ancillary equipment required for the switch, such as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), copper and fibre connectivity.

Following a zone topology allows a highly scalable and flexible physical deployment of the CPwE architecture. Managed cabling reduces abandoned cable and the number of home runs throughout a facility, helping make the workplace run more efficiently and safely. An integrated network zone system is used to deploy plant-wide EtherNet/IP networks and helps ensure that management and network control won't hinder the most effective use of data available. An integrated system incorporates all active and passive equipment required for deployment.

Features and benefits of using an integrated solution system include:
* Reduced deployment time by up to 75% with a pre-engineered, tested and validated solution
* Touch-safe and UL508A-rated integrated industrial and IT networks
* Reduced downtime with a robust, future-ready, reliable network system that provides simple and easy moves, adds and changes (MACs)
* Reduced material costs up to 30%

Validated logical to physical network systems can help remote users manage productivity and profitability. With such a system, users can access real-time data on machine operations and take necessary action if pre-assigned metrics aren't met. Plantwide communications become more efficient and future ready as users migrate proprietary plant-floor networks to a single network technology using the EtherNet/IP open protocol.

Whether users are updating existing systems to meet growing information demand needs or planning plant expansions, the amount of development and implementation rework time can be costly. Implementing validated solutions in the physical design of a network system can reduce your deployment time by up to 75%, ensuring that optimum performance and reliability of your network's physical design are obtained. This helps maximize uptime and reduces costs associated with problem solving and network downtime.

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