B&R Highlights Progress with Time-Sensitive Networking

Jan. 16, 2020
Leveraging the widely accepted OPC UA standard, automation supplier adoption of Time-Sensitive Networking continues to advance, as can be seen in multiple recent announcements from B&R Industrial Automation.

For several years now, Automation World has been covering the development of Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)—from its establishment as an IEEE standard to its proof of concept projects showcasing the technology’s viability in industry. (See links at the end of this article to access many of these articles). Questions remain around how broadly industry will adopt TSN. But products featuring the technology are already becoming widely available.

Though a “bumper crop” of TSN-capable devices has not yet arrived, one company at the forefront of TSN product integration is B&R Industrial Automation. The company recently announced that the newest generation of the company’s X20 controllers supports OPC UA over TSN and can be used as a field-level master in corresponding networks. B&R says these new controllers offer considerably more processing power than previous X20 generations with the same compact design. The controllers are equipped with high-speed Intel Apollo Lake I processors and enable cycle times as fast as 100 µs. They also offer a faster floating-point unit and faster RAM access. The controller’s support for Ethernet Powerlink and OPC UA over TSN provides a platform for transitioning to future networks. If Powerlink and OPC UA over TSN are detected on the network, an algorithm takes one click to synchronize them.

B&R has also introduced a real-time Ethernet switch, which can be used to establish TSN in a facility using OPC UA over TSN. According to the company, this TSN machine switch—which configures itself on the network automatically—allows cycle times under 50 µs, has four real-time capable TSN ports and one standard Ethernet port, and can be used in star, tree or ring topologies, as well as for daisy-chaining. Multiple switches can be cascaded to reach remote cabinets or to create large, complex real-time networks. The switch can also be used as a conventional unmanaged switch for non-real-time networks and to incorporate non-TSN nodes onto the network.

John Kowal, director of business development at B&R Industrial Automation, says that an upcoming version of Automation Studio (B&R’s software development environment) will incorporate simple, automatic configuration of OPC UA over TSN networks for real-time communications, data exchange, traffic classes, routing, and scheduling. "For controller-to-controller communications, it’s a simple matter of configuring the address to which to publish and what variables to publish," Kowal said. "To subscribe from a third-party device simply requires importing the information model from the third-party controller and the variables to subscribe to, then writing the subscribed value to the internal variable in our controller.”

The new software version is scheduled to be released in December 2020.

Kowal added that B&R’s industrial PC hardware is currently TSN-capable, meaning that PC-based applications purchased today are able to implement OPC UA real-time communication.

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