There’s a new low-cost, high-speed entry in the Industrial Ethernet (IE) arena. The CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) announced on Jan. 19 the North American release of CC-Link IE Field Network—the field device-level version of the Japanese-born CC-Link open Industrial Ethernet network that runs at a blazing 1 gigabit/second.
“We call it ultrahigh speed because it’s 10 times faster than any of the other Industrial Ethernet networks out there,” says Chuck Lukasik, director, CLPA-Americas (www.cclinkamerica.org), based in Vernon Hills, Ill. During a presentation at Automation World offices, Lukasik and CLPA-Americas Networking Specialist John Wozniak showed slides comparing the new CC-Link IE Field Network to prominent competitive IE networks—including EtherNet/IP, Profinet and EtherCat—all of which specify a maximum speed of 100 Megabits/second, according to Lukasik. The new CC-Link field-level network is based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ IEEE 802.3 standard and uses commercially available Cat5E cable and RJ45 connectors.
In addition to its speed, another competitive advantage of the CC-Link IE Field Network, says Lukasik, is its ability to deliver deterministic control communications without the need for Ethernet switches. This can significantly reduce hardware and engineering costs compared to other IE networks that typically require these switches, he contends.
CC-Link IE Field Network will require a CC-Link application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) in each device attached to the network, or alternatively, a special adapter box. But these hardware costs will amount to significantly less than the cost of Ethernet switches required with other networks, according to Lukasik and Wozniak. Pricing for an eight-port managed Ethernet switch on competitive networks can range from $700 to $2,900 each, they say.
Originally developed by Japan’s Mitsubishi, CC-Link (for Control and Communication Link) was donated to the CLPA and was introduced in 2000 as an open fieldbus network. The CC-Link IE Control Network, which enables 1-gigabit Industrial Ethernet communications between controllers over fiber optic cable, was introduced in 2007.
Not surprisingly, CC-Link enjoys its deepest penetration in Japan and Asia, including China. A total of about 7 million CC-Link nodes are installed, only about 5 percent of which are in North America, Lukasik says. There currently are more than 1,200 CLPA members, with 60 percent of that total from outside Japan.
With the introduction of CC-Link IE Field Network, Lukasik and Wozniak will now work with third-party suppliers in North America to make their products CC-Link IE Field Network-ready. The first products will begin appearing probably during this year’s third quarter, says Lukasik. He estimates that—between Mitsubishi and third parties—a total of perhaps 25 to 50 CC-Link IE Field Network-ready products will hit the market in 2010, with momentum building for many more introductions in 2011 and beyond.
This week’s North American introduction of CC-Link IE Field Network follows earlier rollouts for the technology at the SPS show in Europe last November and at the Semicon show in Japan in December. Following is a list of CC-Link IE Field Network features listed in the Jan. 19 press release:
• Ultrahigh speed. One gigabit-per-second transmission and real-time protocol enables control of remote I/O field devices with essentially no transmission delay. This transmission rate is at least ten times faster than currently available Industrial Ethernet-based networks. The new network uses commercially available Cat5E cable and RJ45 connectors.
• Inherent determinism without Ethernet switches. A significant difference between CC-Link IE Field Network and other Industrial Ethernet solutions is that CC-Link IE Field Network delivers deterministic control communications without requiring the addition of Ethernet switches. This feature eliminates the hardware costs and engineering implementation costs of those switches. Also, the cost and need for developing communication statements to govern the flow of data is eliminated due to the shared memory concept of CC-Link IE Field and no knowledge of CC-Link IE protocol is required. Determinism is guaranteed by the CC-Link IE token-passing technique.
• Flexible topology. A CC-Link IE Field Network allows for a topology best suited to the needs of the particular application — thus ensuring greatest flexibility. These topologies include star, line, mixed star and line, and ring. Within a single network there can be a total of 254 stations with up to 328 feet (100 meters) of Cat5E cable between each station. In addition, as many as 239 networks can be interconnected allowing vast exchange of data to suit any application.
• Seamless communication. CC-Link IE Field networking enables seamless communication of data from field devices to controllers and from controllers to other controllers in order to form an integrated network for transmitting data at gigabit speed. An Ethernet adapter enables connection to 100 Mb Ethernet devices.
• Built-in diagnostics. Built-in network diagnostics help to reduce total cost of ownership from installation through to operation and maintenance.
CC-Link Partner Association-Americas