he number of industrial applications that use Ethernet as a basis for their design is indisputably growing. Ethernet offers the familiar ring of the office world and the ability to connect to computers and devices worldwide through the Internet. Now that more and more companies are deciding to gather and analyze factory floor data to help make high-level decisions, Ethernet makes sense as the foundation on which to transmit that data. Industrial Ethernet is a phrase that is being used to describe industrial versions of the Ethernet products that have to survive in an industrial environment.
In the language of Ethernet there are the important higher-level protocols such as TCP/IP and UDP, which are the basis for the industrial protocols. Modbus RTU/ASCII, DeviceNet and Profibus have been the primary, serial-based industrial networks in the factory over the past five years. To keep up with the traction that Industrial Ethernet has gained, each of these networks has its own Ethernet version, namely Modbus TCP, EtherNet/IP and Profinet, respectively.
A new family of products from Grid Connect is aimed at giving its users an easy transition from the existing serial RS-232 connections to the wide open Industrial Ethernet world of Modbus TCP and EtherNet/IP. A Profinet version will follow later in the year.
Net232-MB and Net232-EIP allow users to connect their legacy industrial machines or other devices such as barcode readers, scales and printers to the network and communicate using the new Industrial Ethernet protocols. The Net232 provides the user the ability to view the status and operation of the attached device using a web browser from any local PC or PC connected to the Internet. Special features could include e-mail for event notification and the ability to program vendor-specific information to provide a complete control interface to the attached machine or device.
The Net232 features a serial cable with a DB9 connector and an RJ45 Ethernet port to directly attach the industrial machine or device to the network. Configuration software is included that allows for customization of parameters and mapping of data between the serial and Ethernet sides of the device.
“The Net232 family of devices allows a user to connect their industrial device to the Ethernet network and to the Internet in less than 30 minutes,” claims Mike Justice, president of Grid Connect. “Many customers have taken the 30-minute challenge and come away amazed that they now can get worldwide access to their equipment in such a short period of time.”
According to Grid Connect, a large industrial-scale company found that providing Ethernet protocols as an option for its products modernized its offerings and allowed users to network and gain access to the weight, calibration and complex tables remotely; this has increased the life span and value of the scale.
“Prior to the Net232 products, users would have to purchase new equipment with the updated hardware and software that provided the Ethernet communication link,” says Justice. “With Net232, the user can upgrade or offer Ethernet as an option without changing the existing their equipment.”
The Grid Connect folks say the Modbus TCP version is the most popular because of Modbus’ popularity in all industrial and process industries. “But the Ethernet/IP version also is hot because of Rockwell Automation’s extensive push for its use in all new applications,” adds Justice.
Additional Net232 product features include basic serial tunneling and a web server. The devices support serial baud rates between 300-920 Kbps and support 10/100 Mbps Ethernet. The company says a wireless version of the Net232, called the WI232, will be available by summer.
For more information, call 800/975-GRID, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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