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Missing link in Industry 4.0

Missing link in Industry 4.0

Much of the promise of Industry 4.0 is based upon seamless interconnectivity between production machines, enterprise systems and sources of data in the wider world. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a key foundation of that interconnectivity, providing low cost, easily integrated sensors, actuators and systems.

Yet in most production environments today, true integration is rarely realised. Production networks need to communicate a wide variety of different data types, from critical real-time machine control signals to high volumes of recorded data from quality control systems and machine monitoring technologies. The differing technical requirements of these diverse data types can lead many organisations to implement multiple data networks. That adds complexity to system design, construction and maintenance. It makes data sharing across different types of equipment more challenging too.

To overcome these difficulties, manufacturers need a different kind of communication network. That network is now becoming a reality, thanks to CC-Link IE, the first open industrial network offering gigabit Ethernet performance. CC-Link IE solves the first critical challenge facing the new generation of connected factories: bandwidth. At 1Gbps, it offers performance up to ten times that of similar protocols available today, enough to satisfy the most data-hungry modern manufacturing processes.

CC-Link IE is based on standard IEEE 802.3 Ethernet, and offers great flexibility in network design, including ring, line and star topologies. The line and star topologies can be combined to provide systems that offer the maximum application flexibility. The ring and line connections are also attractive, as they permit simple ‘daisy chaining’ of devices, meaning the added cost and complexity of network switches can be avoided.

CC-Link IE also allows considerable application flexibility by supporting multiple protocol types on the same network. This reduces costs and increases maintainability. In addition to the standard I/O control, it also offers safety (SIL3), and motion control on the same cable. This allows the CLPA to offer a cost-effective, simplified, flat network architecture that meets the needs of nearly all applications in the discrete sector.

The network uses commercially available Ethernet infrastructure, such as standard gigabit switches, Cat5E cable and RJ45 connectors. A single network can incorporate a total of 120 stations with up to 100m of Cat5E cable between each station. In addition, as many as 239 networks can be interconnected. To further increase the network possibilities for end users and machine builders, CC-Link Partner Association has worked with Profibus and Profinet International (PI) to produce a specification for a ‘coupler’ device that will allow these previously incompatible networks to be freely interoperable. Moreover, the CLPA is also working with the OPC Foundation to develop support for OPC-UA with CC-Link IE.

Unlike industrial protocols built on the standard TCP/IP (UDP/IP) stack, CC-Link IE combines the physical and data-link layers of the OSI hierarchy with an open protocol that extends from the network to application layers. The result is improved cyber security, thanks to an open, but controlled knowledge base that CLPA partners are free to implement.

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