Safe Networking in Industrial Automation

March 18, 2014
The adoption of industrial networking is an area of strong growth currently. Vendors are investing heavily in industrial networking technologies, which is paying off as adoption becomes more widespread.

The adoption of industrial networking is an area of strong growth currently. Vendors are investing heavily in industrial networking technologies, which is paying off as adoption becomes more widespread. Some of the fieldbus technologies are long standing and in the early days of industrial Ethernet it was claimed that these new technologies were unsafe, lacking determinism and real-time networking when compared with the fieldbuses. However, these limitations have mostly been overcome now as the technologies have evolved and these issues have been addressed.

Safe networking technologies are some of the newest available in industrial automation. The majority are built on technologies which already exist (PROFISAFE builds on the existing PROFIBUS technology for example). In my latest research into the Discrete Machine-safety Components market I found that adoption of these technologies is rising very quickly. In fact, adoption growth is amongst the fastest of all networking technologies.

Technologies that are already widely adopted are supported by the large automation vendors. These include CIPSafety (Rockwell), and PROFISAFE (Siemens). Alongside these technologies are AS-i Safety, OpenSAFETY, Safe EtherCAT, and CC-Link Safety, which are also gaining ground. AS-i Safety adoption is growing particularly strongly because of its suitability for use with sensors.

Some safety technologies are offered in versions based on fieldbus technologies and some on Ethernet. Each has its own merits but there is a slow transition from fieldbus to Ethernet-based safety networks. This move is being driven by automation vendors but also by the technology users who are realising the potential of Ethernet. There is some resistance to making the change though, as some users prefer to keep their safety systems separate from their ‘normal’ network. This is where vendors are working to help users understand the benefits of having systems run together or even entirely on a safety-based network. This advantage can often be seen more easily with Ethernet technologies.

Overall the future looks bright for safe networking. Vendors are working hard to ensure technologies are both reliable and easy to use. Adoption of the technologies has never been higher and continues to grow strongly. In time, as networking becomes more widespread, and safe networking thereafter, we will see networks working entirely in harmony, safe or otherwise. I certainly don’t think facilities running entirely on a safety-based protocol are too far off.

Sponsored Recommendations

Wireless Data Acquisition System Case Studies

Wireless data acquisition systems are vital elements of connected factories, collecting data that allows operators to remotely access and visualize equipment and process information...

Strategizing for sustainable success in material handling and packaging

Download our visual factory brochure to explore how, together, we can fully optimize your industrial operations for ongoing success in material handling and packaging. As your...

A closer look at modern design considerations for food and beverage

With new and changing safety and hygiene regulations at top of mind, its easy to understand how other crucial aspects of machine design can get pushed aside. Our whitepaper explores...

Fueling the Future of Commercial EV Charging Infrastructure

Miguel Gudino, an Associate Application Engineer at RS, addresses various EV charging challenges and opportunities, ranging from charging station design strategies to the advanced...