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U.S. Profibus Organization Celebrates Successful Year

The Profibus Trade Organization (PTO, www.us.profibus.com), the U.S. arm of Profibus International (www.profibus.com), gathered 54 members into the desert heat in Phoenix for two days last month to assess the past and look to the future.

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 "Profinet is forcing us to change into an automation organization from a networking one," Executive Director Mike Bryant told members and press during his keynote. Profinet is an Ethernet application that allows Profibus, Profisafe and other network protocols to connect into other applications already on Ethernet, such as manufacturing execution systems and enterprise resource planning.

Bryant's keynote theme was that the strength of Profibus and Profinet is the breadth of the technology'spanning discrete and process automation as well as motion and safety. Bryant's passion for the technology came through when he refuted claims that Profinet's custom networking chips are "proprietary. "Siemens (www.siemens.com), the major systems company backer of the technology, does make the chips, but the specification is open for anyone to purchase or make them. Bryant's argument is that some things are better done in silicon than in software.

Edgar Kuester, chairman of Profibus International, reported that the organization is up to about 1,400 members worldwide. There are 25 regional associations (PTO being one) plus 32 competence centers. The organization maintains seven test laboratories. Of special significance for the future of the technology is the work of about 500 engineers and specialists, distributed among 50 working groups, who are developing new specifications and updating others.

One of the latest additions to the suite of "Profi" technologies" Profisafe, the safety network" has witnessed more than 100 percent growth, going from 80,000 nodes installed in 2005 to a total of 190,000 nodes installed in 2006. Profisafe interoperates with both Profibus and Profinet networks.

If the point is to get suppliers motivated to develop products for the various Profi protocols, nothing works better than showing actual successful applications. In that vein, two automation engineers took the podium to talk about their applications. Jim Tomlinson, automation manager of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, detailed the extensive use of Profibus/Profinet in the automation of the Cirque du Soleil show "KA." There are 32 programmable logic controllers, 186 drives, 206 coordinated axes of motion and 240 Profibus devices comprising the automation system. Showing video clips of the show was a good way to hold the audience's attention. Michael Darnell of Prism Systems (www.prismsystems.com), an Alabama systems integrator and engineering firm, showed how Profinet was key to a successful cigar manufacturing system.

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