Daily Archives: April 3, 2024

What is Industrial Ethernet?

Earlier, we had a paradigm shift in the industry related to manufacturing. This was Industry 3.0, and, based on information technology, it boosted automation, enhanced productivity, improved precision, and allowed higher flexibility. Today, we are at the foothills of Industry 4.0, with ML or machine language, M2M or machine-to-machine communication, and smart technology like AI or artificial intelligence. There is a major difference between the two. While Industry 3.0 offered information to humans, allowing them to make better decisions, Industry 4.0 offers digital information to optimize processes, mostly without human intervention.

With Industry 4.0, it is possible to link the design office directly to the manufacturing floor. For instance, using M2M communications, CAD, or computer aided design can communicate directly to machine tools, thereby programming them to make the necessary parts. Similarly, machine tools can also provide feedback to CAD, sending information about challenges in the production process, such that CAD can modify them suitably for easier fabrication.

Manufacturers use the Industrial Internet or IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, to build their Industry 4.0 solutions. The network has an important role like forming feedback loops. This allows sensors to monitor processes in real-time, and the data thus collected can effectively control and enhance the operation of the machine.

However, it is not simple to implement IIoT. One of the biggest challenges is the cost of investment. But this investment can be justified through better design and manufacturing processes leading to cost savings through increased productivity and fewer product failures. In fact, reducing capital outflows is one way to accelerate adoption of Industry 4.0. Another way could be to use a relatively inexpensive but proven and accessible communication technology, like the Ethernet.

Ethernet is one of the wired networking options that is in wide use all over the world. It has good IP interoperability and huge vendor support. Moreover, POE or power over internet uses the same set of cables for carrying data as well as power to connected cameras, actuators, and sensors.

Industrial Ethernet, using rugged cables and connectors, builds on the consumer version of the Ethernet, thereby bringing a mature and proven technology to industrial automation. With the implementation of Industrial Ethernet, it is possible to not only transport vital information or data, but also remotely supervise machines, controllers, and PLCs on the shop floor.

Standard Ethernet protocol has high latency, mainly due to its tendency to lose packets. This makes it unsuitable for rapidly moving assembly lines that must run in synchronization. On the other hand, Industrial Ethernet hardware uses deterministic and low-latency industrial protocols, like PROFINET, Modbus TCP, and Ethernet/IP.

For Industrial Ethernet deployment, the industry uses hardened versions of the CAT 5e cable. For instance, the Gigabit Ethernet uses CAT 6 cable. For instance, the CAT 5e cable has eight wires formed into four twisted pairs. This twisting limits cross talk and signal interference, and each pair supports a duplex connection. Gigabit Ethernet, being a high-speed system, uses all four pairs for carrying data. For lower throughput, systems can use two twisted pairs, and the other two for carrying power or for conventional phone service.