EtherNet/IP ─ The Key to Information-Enabled Machines

June 13, 2013
When it comes to the ideal industrial network, many OEMs search for a simple yet efficient solution. However, disparate networks still isolate data within machines on most factory floors, hindering decision making, plantwide optimization and full asset utilization. For true business agility, OEMs and their customers must bridge the digital divide between the plant floor and the rest of manufacturing enterprise with a simple network architecture that creates a common “eco system” for controls engineers, machine builders and IT professionals, simplifying the sharing of critical machine-level data with business systems. For more information visit: Industrial IP Advantage

In an increasingly complex world, people naturally gravitate to technology they understand and tools that make life easier. But the road to a simple solution is often long and requires engineering innovation to transform the technically complex into an effortless user experience. Thomas Edison, for example, tested 6,000 materials from the plant world alone before he discovered that carbonized cardboard was the best filament for the electric light bulb.

When it comes to finding the ideal industrial network, many OEMs can relate to Edison’s quest for a simple, yet efficient, solution. While the Internet provides real-time information to people across the planet and Ethernet seamlessly shares information within enterprises at the business level – disparate networks still largely isolate data within machines on most factory floors. Instead of sharing critical operational intelligence between the factory floor and the rest of the organization, these specialized networks hinder decision-making, plant wide optimization and full asset utilization.

In addition, many of these specialized networks don’t age gracefully. Perhaps they were the fastest, most reliable networks at one time, but unless they can accommodate technological advancements easily, their performance merits are short-lived.

The Foundation of Business Agility

To achieve true business agility, OEMs and their customers must first bridge the digital divide between the plant floor and the rest of manufacturing enterprise. For this task, controls engineers, machine builders and IT professionals all need a simple network architecture that acts as a common “ecosystem,” providing enterprise wide, machine and device-level information gathering. This communication streamlining and access to real-time production data can help manufacturers keep pace with market demands and seize the often elusive competitive advantage.

Enter EtherNet/IPTM.

Using the same Ethernet standard as email, the Internet and other commercial applications, EtherNet/IP (with “IP” referring to Industrial Protocol) is a simple, yet robust communications platform ─ enabling users to effectively manage real-time control and information flow within the machine and manufacturing enterprise. Its genius and simplicity rests on EtherNet/IP’s ability to deliver the real-time performance, resiliency and security of traditional fieldbus solutions, along with the bandwidth, open connectivity and global acceptance of standard Ethernet.  

By standardizing on EtherNet/IP, machine builders have one standard network that can lower their Total Cost to Design, Develop and DeliverTM machines, while eliminating the risks and boundaries associated with proprietary and dedicated networks. EtherNet/IP is the only industrial protocol that is designed and established to connect from the device level all the way up to the end customer’s IT infrastructure, and across applications, including discrete, safety, motion, process and drive control. This helps machine builders securely connect equipment to upstream and downstream operations.

To help enable faster machine start up, Rockwell Automation and alliance partner Cisco developed Reference Architectures, a series of thoroughly tested design recommendations and guidance. The collaboration addresses topics such as choice of topologies, security, wireless, and reliability, while meeting the varied requirements across corporate and manufacturing functions for an optimized networking solution. The Reference Architectures feature specific tools and resources machines builders need to build IT-friendly machines. These resources include white papers, webcasts on topics such as “Secure Remote Access,” and jointly developed EtherNet/IP switches to address the cultural and technical challenges of Ethernet network convergence.

Forward-thinking OEMs like Gram Equipment are already experiencing the benefits of network convergence, leveraging EtherNet/IP. Located in the south of Denmark, Gram Equipment is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of equipment for industrial ice cream production. Gram Equipment wanted to simplify system complexity and usability, and therefore based its control architecture on the EtherNet/IP network. The network helps Gram Equipment’s customers integrate discrete, motion, process, and safety control, as well as HMI and enterprise wide information management.

This saves Gram Equipment cabling and components on its machines. But it also saves them the time it takes to make the systems communicate with each other. Additionally, staff training is simplified as understanding of one platform is now only required for applications that previously required separate networks, such as safety and standard I/O. Gram Equipment goes online to troubleshoot and edit programs at its customers’ plants around the world. Troubleshooting and repairs all the way to a foreign plant’s I/O points can be carried out from Denmark, saving both Gram Equipment and their customers time and travel costs.

Cerutti also leverages EtherNet/IP to eliminate multiple networks. Cerutti delivers flexographic machines used to publish magazines and newspapers worldwide. To address the company’s broad portfolio of clients, Cerutti used a mix of seven different networks. Cerutti decided to simplify the operation and control of its machines by switching to a complete EtherNet/IP solution. Now its machines run on one unified network. “EtherNet/IP supports the I/O, drives and the HMI, which can be shared with the company’s IT resources and connected to the Internet...for communications on a world scale,” said Paulo Di Santo, who led the project for Cerutti.

Edson Packaging is also experiencing the benefits of the common ecosystem created by EtherNet/IP. Based in Hamilton, Ontario, Edson Packaging is a leading provider of end-of-line, automated systems and equipment including case-packing machines, mechatronic technology, industrial product lane diverters, customized automation, robotic tray packers and cartoners.

“Since the creation of our first case packer in the early ’60s, Edson has continued to innovate and adapt new technologies for end of line solutions – from conventional cartoned products to this latest flexible packager,” said Brianne Moar, marketing director, Edson Packaging Machinery.

Edson’s new machine is a top-load robotic case packer with a two-axis conveyor system. This single-cell machine measures a compact 103 x 126 x 180 inches and can handle up to 30 KG payloads. By leveraging a Deltabot robot, which fuses vision systems with ultra high-speed cable robots, Edson’s new VI case packer provides multi tiered packaging capabilities. The Deltabot differentiates itself from its competitors because it has the capability to perform high compression force and a heavy payload. An Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix 5570 programmable automation controller (PAC) from Rockwell Automation manages all control and motion execution.

By using the ControlLogix PAC rather than separate controllers for motion and machine control, Edson’s customers have fewer components and spare parts to maintain. The controller is tightly integrated via the EtherNet/IP network to an Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 6500 servo drive and Allen-Bradley MP-Series™ low inertia (MPL) motor. A Stratix 8000 managed switch on EtherNet/IP effectively manages real-time control and information flow from the machine to the customer’s manufacturing and IT enterprise. A SERCOS interface is generally used due to its high-speed motion, but Edson uses EtherNet/IP so its customers could converge to a single network for both machine and motion control.

Other OEMs have turned to EtherNet/IP for improved machine performance. XCS Systems specializes in high-speed process control in the packaging industry, principally with food and beverage applications. Using EtherNet/IP, the company integrated more than 160 motors and drives into a new can conveyor line, simplifying equipment design, configuration and commissioning, relying on a single network infrastructure for discrete and motion control.

“The EtherNet/IP network does all the interlocking between machines, improving machine synchronization,” explains Paul Croad, systems integrator at XCS. “It allows engineers to program any machine from anywhere in the line.”

Deidrich Manufacturing has also turned to EtherNet/IP for improved performance. Deidrich, an international leader in the design and production of industrial coffee-bean roasters, ships more than 170 systems annually from its home base in Idaho. Roasting coffee beans requires a precise combination of heat, air flow and timing. But the declining reliability of the company’s equipment threatened the quality of its products.

“Our last straw was when we experienced fire damage because of a drive failure,” said Dave Williams, software engineer at Deidrich. The company upgraded to an EtherNet/IP network that improved network and machine reliability. Among the improvements, the new automation system can proactively alert maintenance engineers when devices need attention – increasing the predictability of the machine.

In addition to diagnostics, EtherNet/IP’s device-level ring (DLR) topology improves network reliability by producing a fault-tolerant network. Resiliency opens the door for many more applications to be integrated on EtherNet/IP. Machines that are highly sensitive to any fault or downtime, such as chemical and pharmaceutical production facilities and refineries, or offshore oil rigs, can now use the DLR topology option to help ensure production continuity.

And that’s just the beginning.

Factors Driving EtherNet/IP Expansion

Introduced in 2001, EtherNet/IP has become the world’s leading Ethernet-based industrial network, according to IMS Research. Last year, the worldwide installed base of EtherNet/IP connected nodes was an estimated 2.2 million. IMS predicts that number will increase to 5.1 million by the end of 2013.

Today, 850-plus EtherNet/IP product lines are offered by nearly 300 vendors worldwide. Even process instruments such as mass flow meters are now on EtherNet/IP, enabling all but the smallest of devices to connect using this network. It’s only a matter of time before high demand further drives down the cost of Ethernet chipsets, enabling even these small devices to join the fray. EtherNet/IP also works transparently with all standard off-the-shelf Ethernet devices found in today's marketplace, and can be easily supported on standard PCs and all their derivatives.

Hundreds of vendors around the world support this media-independent protocol. That’s one reason Norwegian machine builder Askim Mek Verksted (AMV) chose EtherNet/IP when it needed to update the fieldbus architecture of its glass-wool packaging machine. The machine needed flexibility to cope with different types of products and recipes with minimum disruption. Going with EtherNet/IP allowed AMV engineers to choose the best components from among many interoperable options.

Because it uses standard IP technology, EtherNet/IP becomes the “invisible” means for manufacturers to continuously take advantage of commercial developments – essentially preparing users for whatever innovation that tomorrow brings. Today, video and voice-over-IP offer significant promise for OEMs and their customers, providing remote support, advanced diagnostic capabilities and other opportunities for optimal real-time collaboration. Tomorrow, it may be new mobility or virtualization capabilities or something we have yet to even fathom.

OEM Benefits Become End-user Gains

By harnessing EtherNet/IP networks in machine designs, OEMs can quickly react to their customers’ machine problems, as well as provide predictive and proactive services. With shrinking corporate engineering staffs and more pressure to bring systems online quickly, end users rely on OEMs to develop and deliver machines designed for fast integration with existing systems. Choosing a control system that connects and integrates easily to the end-user’s manufacturing network makes it significantly easier to incorporate the machine into the end user environment – leading to faster commissioning and time-to-market. 

Ease of integration was one reason W&H Systems – a leading supplier of logistics and material-handling solutions to customers such as department stores and mail-order companies – incorporated EtherNet/IP into a new high-performance sorting machine for one of its customers. “EtherNet/IP’s open design allows us to employ low-cost, readily available off-the-shelf components,” said Kevin Kiefer, controls engineer for W&H Systems. “This type of plug-and-play functionality speeds installation and helps simplify integration issues.”

And the value continues long-term. Standard IP technology gives OEMs the eyes and ears they need to provide excellent warrantee support and value-added services for customers – even when thousands of miles separate the two companies.

Today, end users often call the OEM to dispatch a service technician to address a machine problem. But with machine builders doing business on a national and even global scale, such a mission – despite the Return on Automation (ROA) – may prove too costly for today’s tight profit margins. With IP technology, technicians can directly connect to the machine from a remote location and conduct a detailed diagnosis.

Ethernet-enabled cameras can be mounted onto inaccessible or difficult-to-reach parts of the machine and provide a visual to people inside and outside the plant. Web interfaces can provide technicians with critical machine status, and technicians can even make critical program changes, all with appropriate security in place. Such remote connectivity can provide visibility to the complete control system, including the controllers, networks, I/O, sensors and operator interfaces.

These diagnostic methods help reduce user’s downtime, as well as personnel and travel costs for the OEM. In addition, OEMs with EtherNet/IP can focus on innovation in the form of a variety of valuable proactive services, such as remotely administered updates for firmware or programs. This will make them and their machines more attractive than the competitors. Machine builders can perform predictive maintenance remotely by periodically or continuously monitoring critical parameters and remedying the problem before a machine fails.

Critical updates about machine performance can be sent via emails and simple text messages to mobile phones, keeping OEMs in tune with machine conditions wherever they have cell-phone service. While this capability isn’t new, end users and OEMs feared that access to their machines would expose their production to security risks as well as un-safe remote machine start/stop conditions. For this reason, Cisco and Rockwell Automation have made it a priority to test and recommend guidelines and network administration tools that should be used with standard Ethernet to deliver the required administrative security.

This secure access has opened the door to many additional capabilities, such as the ability to automatically order replacement parts or OEM-supplied raw materials. For example, when an end user’s machine breaks down, an email could be automatically sent from the control system to a local distributor to replenish the failed part.

EtherNet/IP Today and Tomorrow

EtherNet/IP will continue to overcome the obstacles posed by proprietary networks. Today, EtherNet/IP helps enable a simple network architecture and offers a clear migration strategy for users looking to future-proof their network choice. Using standard IP network technology, EtherNet/IP also offers the best pathway to a converged network architecture – helping streamline control and information flow to achieve plant-wide optimization.

Allen-Bradley, ControlLogix, Kinetix, MP-Series, Stratix and Total Cost to Design, Develop and Deliver are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA


Related Content

Industrial Networking for Machine Builders - Video

Convergence-Ready Equipment Builder Solutions at Automation Fair 2012 - Video

Ethernet Enables Smart Manufacturing

RSTechED Session: NW13 - Designing EtherNet/IP Machine Level Networks

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