Hannover Fair to Showcase Integrated Ethernet Connectivity | Automation.com

Hannover Fair to Showcase Integrated Ethernet Connectivity

HANNOVER MESSE 2006, 24 April to 28 April

  • New "Automation IT" special event in Hall 17

    The Ethernet is still far from being the sole information superhighway spanning entire companies and this includes automated production. Yet Industrial Ethernet is rapidly gaining ground, making technology trendsetters eager for an all-embracing connectivity. The new "Automation IT" special event at HANNOVER MESSE 2006 (the Hannover Fair) from 24 to 28 April offers an insight into the future. Along with Cisco Systems GmbH and HARTING KGaA, Deutsche Messe AG will be presenting integrated Ethernet connectivity.

    As is so often the case, when it comes to setting technological milestones, the automobile industry also has a key role to play. So too with the goal of creating integrated IT solutions that enable data to be easily transferred between the production and business levels - bidirectionally, of course. Automobile manufacturers call this "shop floor to top floor".

    Christian Schwaiger, Manager Business Development at Cisco Systems GmbH, stresses that the emergence of Ethernet technology means evolution rather than revolution: "The transition from heterogeneous network engineering to a homogeneous Ethernet solution undoubtedly calls for a longer-term migration strategy, as it is not possible to convert all the existing systems to a new technology by closing down production for a single shift," he says.

    Equally, it will not normally be advisable to convert entire existing systems to Ethernet technology in a single operation. Instead Schwaiger sees existing production systems - with all their bus and control systems - being integrated into a newly emerging infrastructure. Existing systems, he adds, can gradually be integrated into the new Ethernet topology using nodes until all systems are eventually migrated to Ethernet.

    The market already offers managed and unmanaged switches allowing several makes of standard-compliant equipment to be swapped over easily. This freedom is not only important for the automobile industry but also for numerous system houses that have established themselves in the production automation environment.

    The "human factor" is a key reason why many automation specialists attach such importance to Ethernet technology, using loop or line topology. Young engineers bring Ethernet expertise from colleges and are skilled in applying it. Today's IT departments also boast wide-ranging Ethernet knowledge. If all existing bus and network systems are to be retained in the long term, employee training will also need to be continued on several levels.

    Using Industrial Ethernet to drive forward your business
    However, the key reason for switching to network engineering is, in Christian Schwaiger's view, that the Ethernet offers fresh opportunities for integrating business IT with automation systems. Says Schwaiger: "Communication with suppliers or resellers can be expanded right onto the shop floor as in the future the question of whether external partners are to be given an insight into the production processes will be one of authorization only." In contrast, technological barriers that can only be surmounted using costly interfaces will be relegated to history. Schwaiger adds: "This will improve the visibility of processes, as the entire supply chain can be made transparent for everyone involved in the process. A key aim for users is to cut "total cost of ownership" (TCO) and integrated Ethernet solutions can make a major contribution to this."

    At the same time, he dismisses fears that Industrial Ethernet will make commissioning new systems more difficult. There are already preconfigured switches that can be integrated into existing systems with ease, he says. "There are also some switches containing a removable memory that can be transplanted into an identical substitute device." In the event of a fault, switches can therefore be replaced in a matter of minutes without any configuration.

    Of course, no new technology is welcomed unreservedly by the market. For years, Industrial Ethernet pioneers have been subjected to criticism that plug connections alone cannot withstand the tough operating conditions encountered in industrial processes. This is also an area where the 'Automation IT' special event at HANNOVER MESSE 2006 should put paid to these doubts, especially given the fact that a supplier of industry-compatible plug connections has been found in the form of the Harting company. Although not all the new technology's demands in terms of connection technology have been met, Harting can already supply a wide range of industry-compatible plug connectors, both for automation devices and IT devices. The fact that these plug connectors are now also available in high protective classes is a clear sign that Ethernet technology is increasingly finding its way to the shop floors. In this regard, Wulf Padecken, press officer at Harting, notes that: "New system solutions for the three mainstays of automation - in both the connectivity and network sectors - will form the backbone of our future automation." He also emphasizes that Harting has gone way beyond plug connections, making a name for itself on the Ethernet switch market too.

    Schwaiger rejects fears over security and what some regard as over-complexity: "Good IT experts can use suitable security architectures to prevent hacking, viruses, etc. on a company's intranet. Data also needs to be protected from internal misuse and attacks, whether these are deliberate or accidental. Huge networks can be controlled very well, as can be seen every day with the Internet. Despite several hundred million users, it runs so smoothly that its critics are slowly but surely being lost for words."

    Plug connections aside, switches and other components also need to be properly protected. From this perspective, it is little wonder that Cisco's Industrial Ethernet switches are resistant to impact, heat, the cold, and high humidity. After all, this is the only way to ensure high availability, particularly in the automobile industry. The special event in Hall 17 offers a useful opportunity to take an in-depth look at this subject.
    Did you Enjoy this Article?

    Check out our free e-newsletters
    to read more great articles.

    Subscribe Now
  • Back to top
    Posted in: