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The Rise of Ethernet: How is it affecting Drive Technology?

21 April 2017       Automation & Controls Division

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The Rise of Ethernet

Nowadays, the buzzword everywhere is the Internet of Things (IoT), which reflects the current, fast-changing landscape of our lives. IoT is the interconnectivity of ‘smart’ devices, allowing the exchange of data and information on a plant wide, infrastructure wide or even global scale. A ‘smart’ device could be an appliance, a light fixture, machines, or a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC).

The industrial version of this trend, called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0, is the offspring of this global trend in the Information Age. What does this means for the electrical industry? It means that we will see more and more devices becoming ‘smart’, increased retrofit projects of old facilities, communication infrastructure upgrade of entire plants and so on. The common theme in all these changes is one word: Ethernet.

Industrial Internet of Things

So how did Industrial Ethernet evolve? PROFINET played a major role in this evolution.

Industrial Internet of Things

The number of PROFINET nodes, which is an Ethernet-based open communication protocol, has increased from about 1 million in 2007 to about 6 million in 2013! [Source: PROIBUS & PROFINET International (PI)

This illustrates the speed with which the IIoT is growing.

PROFINET has been at the forefront of this industrial revolution due various advantages:

1. Incredibly fast speeds and high transmission rate

- Up to 31.25 micro seconds cycle time

2. Wireless and web access

- Lowering cabling costs

- Ease of use through your phone

3. Open standard

- Offering flexibility to all users

4. Ease of cabling

- High availability of RJ45 Ethernet cables

- Simple termination and lower installation costs

5. Safety

- Ease of transmission of safety protocol, ProfiSafe, even over wireless!

6. Diagnostics

- In the past, most field level devices and instruments were controlled via 0-10V or 4-20 mA analog signals. The downside to this method is the lack of any diagnostic information

Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) have not been exempt from this revolution. Due to high demand in the industry, more and more VFDs are now required to have an Ethernet-based communication onboard. However, compared to other electrical and automation products, VFDs have been slower in responding to this demand. Why?

1. Cyber security
The number one concern with the rise of Ethernet is cyber security. The availability of all devices on a flat network infrastructure could make the system extremely vulnerable to unauthorized access and hacks. Since VFDs are directly coupled to a moving “load” in the process, this risk is even more pertinent.

2. Cost
All Ethernet based communications require peripheral devices to have more computational processing power and network infrastructure compared to legacy components, such as serial or analog signal controlled devices; hence, the anticipated higher cost.

3. Technical Know-how
When merging the IT world and the Industrial world, new concepts such as Network topologies, data exchange and communication protocols are introduced to the control system, which adds more complexity and technical knowledge.

However, the advantages of IIoT cannot and should not be neglected. How can Siemens and E.B. Horsman help you overcome the challenges of Ethernet-based VFDs listed above?

Cyber Security

1. Overcoming Cyber Security:

I.   One way to restrict and control access to a network is to segment it to different zones using switches and firewalls. Siemens produces extremely secure Layer 3 switches and firewalls called Ruggedcom which you can find at E.B. Horsman & Son.

II.   Using integrated safety and safety communication protocols can significantly restrict unauthorized access. Siemens is a pioneer in implementing Safety over Wireless via ProfiSafe, which is compliant with International Machinery safety requirements (e.g. EN62061, ISO13849). With minimal added programming time and complexity compared to regular PROFINET, Siemens VFDs seamlessly interconnect and communicate via ProfiSafe at higher level control.

III.   If remote operation and monitoring is required, the use of a secure VPN router significantly adds to the system’s security level. At E.B Horsman & Son, we proudly distribute and support eWON routers; they combine the added comfort of remote monitoring and web access as well as ease of mind in regards to cyber security as the Cloud service is monitored vigorously 24/7, 365 days a year by eWON and HMS.

IV.   In addition, the Siemens VFDs incorporate a built-in Web Server which can be conveniently accessed using any browser. Simple Parameter adjustments and monitoring can be applied without the use of any additional software or hardware!

2. Maintaining Lower Costs:

Due to the increased interest and production of PROFINET-devices, the cost of VFDs with PROFINET capability is significantly decreasing compared to other communication platforms.

3. Mastering the Technical Know-how:

Thanks to the Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) platform, the virtually all PROFINET enabled devices, including VFDs, can be configured and programmed in one platform, which makes programming much easier. Further, most of the fine-tuned network configurations are automatically included in the software; which decreases the background knowledge required for installation.

How can Siemens and E.B. Horsman & Son help you?

The Process, Automation and Controls Group (PAC) at E.B. Horsman provides regular training sessions in PLC and VFD programming and communication to increase clients’ knowledge base. The PAC members are regularly trained and updated on the latest industry trends, and can provide you with an unrivalled technical support.

For further questions and inquiries on our training services and products, please contact us at the links below:

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