Calling All Designers of Ethernet for Industrial Applications
Are you a network designer working on Ethernet for industrial applications? Then you already know that Ethernet has sure come a long way!
Since enabling IT-driven projects to connect plant-floor and front-office systems on a common corporate network, Ethernet has evolved for a host of engineering specific applications. Ethernet’s growth has transformed it into a preferred industrial network platform widely used in critical discrete and process manufacturing applications. Industrial Ethernet hardware can handle plant-floor punishment without the pampering of enclosures, allowing shorter cable runs with simpler distributed (rather than centralized) designs, and higher reliability than commercial-level Ethernet switches, routers, hubs, gateways, and connectors. The application of industrial ratings such as NEMA 4x or IP67 and beyond means that Ethernet hardware can handle temperature extremes, even liquid and dust, while maintaining reliable performance for years instead of months. Connectors matter in Ethernet design as well. Almost 70% of network failures occur as a result of a mechanical failure involving the cabling and connectors. In harsh conditions, network components are at a higher risk of being jarred loose, badly worn, improperly installed after a shut down, or even being driven over by a forklift and severed. Commercial grade cables and plastic connectors simply aren’t made to withstand the abuse commonly seen on the factory floor. Some RJ45 connectors perform adequately when tested against recognized shock and vibration specifications, but many others do not, so choosing can be a roll of the dice. A better bet for industrial Ethernet applications is to specify environmentally sealed interconnects, such as M12 connectors that are validated to meet or exceed IP65 and IP67 standards.
There is no question that the biggest market shift in industrial networking has been the move to Ethernet. For total system design flexibility in plant applications, Brad® Industrial Ethernet products feature a portfolio of solutions lowering infrastructure costs and commissioning time, while enhancing data collection capability and diagnostics. They offer dramatic decrease in wiring and connection costs while increasing flexibility to extend lines or reconfigure an existing system.
*The author of this posting is Ted Szarkowski a Product manager at Molex. Visit the Molex booth# S-7115 at PackExpo 2011 to learn more about Molex Brad® Industrial Automation products.