EtherNet/IP Flows Into New Territory

  • August 14, 2011
  • Feature

August 2011 By Brian Oulton, Rockwell Automation Process control sensors, actuators and other control devices measuring and controlling level, flow, temperature and other process variables currently rely on a process instrumentation network or 4-20 mA system to transfer data. Other devices common in process applications such as drives, process controllers and operator workstations also need to transfer data, but work on completely different networks. As business drivers and regulations become more demanding, there’s a growing need for networks to capture more data, perform additional diagnostics, access all instrumentation and other process device information remotely and leverage the data across the manufacturing enterprise. This is an area where traditional process instrumentation networks have fallen short. New trends in deployments of ODVA network technology using EtherNet/IP, however, may help process users tackle these challenges and usher in a new era for process manufacturing, as evidenced by the recent release by Endress+Hauser of its first process instrument on EtherNet/IP. What does this new trend in process instrumentation mean for end users? EtherNet/IP already provides direct communication to other automation devices found in process applications as well as the many discrete devices downstream in packaging lines and upward into the business system in a processing plant. This means tomorrow’s process plants can tap into a well-established, robust automation network — making it easier to connect field instrumentation with the rest of the enterprise. Using EtherNet/IP to collapse the communications architecture also will help reduce wiring and installation costs, while providing additional diagnostic capabilities, space savings, the flexibility to reconfigure and upgrade a system as it needs change, and the comfort of not having to support yet another network. Process instruments equipped with EtherNet/IP — the adaptation of standard Ethernet on the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) — can easily and seamlessly share data across the entire infrastructure. From human-machine interfaces to office computers to remote locations, users access information anytime, anywhere via existing Ethernet networks. Standard industrial Ethernet provides the ideal medium to mix commercial, business and industrial applications on a single network, including options for high availability and use in hazardous areas often required in process applications. User benefits go beyond the plant floor. IS and IT departments worldwide have been using Ethernet for years. Such long-term exposure to the Ethernet technology has produced an expansive knowledge base and unparalleled resources, most of which translate directly to EtherNet/IP. Endress+Hauser’s latest instrument joins an array of EtherNet/IP-enabled products currently available and operating in manufacturing facilities around the globe. From high-end analytic instruments used in laboratories to cameras in hazardous areas to variable frequency drives, motor starters, I/O, controllers, operator stations and hundreds of other types of automation devices, EtherNet/IP supports many requirements that are specific to process applications. The catalog is so extensive that EtherNet/IP solutions span the full range of automation system requirements. This gives engineers the option of using the EtherNet/IP architecture as the backbone for many of their applications — from a complex brewery line to a motion control system. However, the primary reason manufacturers turn to EtherNet/IP is that it offers several new capabilities — attributes exclusive to an Ethernet-based network. These include:

  • Services like voice and video
  • Flexible topologies
  • IT integration
  • Remote management
  • Internet connectivity
  • Robust security

The advantages of a single EtherNet/IP network – from secure information access to a flatter network architecture – are hard to ignore. With EtherNet/IP-enabled instruments, process users capture the real-time, actionable information they need to achieve operational efficiencies and increase productivity.  For more information about EtherNet/IP, visit ODVA’s web site at About Brian Oulton: Rockwell Automation is a principal and founding member of ODVA. At Rockwell Automation, Brian Oulton is business director for Networks where he is responsible for providing company-wide strategic direction and execution of network and communication initiatives. Brian actively participates in ODVA activities and provides input to ODVA’s strategic marketing plans. About ODVA: ODVA is an international association comprising members from the world's leading automation companies. Collectively, ODVA and its members support network technologies based on the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP). These currently include DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP, CompoNet, and ControlNet, along with the major extensions to CIP — CIP Safety and CIP Motion. ODVA manages the development of these open technologies, and assists manufacturers and users of CIP Networks through its activities in standards development, certification, vendor education and industry awareness.  

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