Why It's Smart to Form an Alliance With Profinet

At this week's Profibus & Profinet International general assembly meeting, the biggest topic of debate surrounded all things Ethernet and wireless for the plant floor. This conversation eventually lead into an announcement about a possible merger between HART Communication Foundation and Fieldbus Foundation.

Beyond the personal experiences companies have had with the adoption of Ethernet and wireless, four key industry players — Siemens, General Electric (GE), Endress+Hauser and Phoenix Contact — spoke on behalf of Profinet, outlining reasons behind their alliances with the communication protocol.

Despite the economic downturn, Profinet nodes have grown four times their numbers since 2008.

There are three main reasons why Siemens continues to support the protocol, said Raj Batra, president of the Industry Automation Division of Siemens. These include efficiency, performance and flexibility.

BMW signed a 15 year commitment with Profinet. Fori Automation (FA) has also committed to using Profinet to integrate the control and safety systems of its automated guided vehicles with its production and ERP systems, according to Batra. FA has already seen Profine'ts benefits through its AGV communications. Since the application of Profinet, the number of AGV's at its plant that carries delicate material has tripled.

Darrell Halterman, GE's Profinet product manager, first saw the magic of Profinet when an automotive manufacturer updated it legacy distributed I/O with the protocol. Profinet allowed the manufacturer to support 150 variable-frequency drives and 32 node of I/O, according to Halterman.

He noted a second instance when an iron ore processor in Australia wanted to create a 24 km conveyor outfitted with remote distributed I/O to improve time-to-market. "Using Profinet with GE Intelligent Platforms' RX3i PACs, VersaMax I/O, built-in Ethernet switches and multimode fiber allowed point-to-point connection with no other external equipment needed," Halterman said.

Steffen Ochsenreither, marketing manager for fieldbus at Endress + Hauser, said Profibus offers data collection capabilities that allows user to "drive improved throughput, produce higher quality products and gather more reliable diagnostics while enabling bi-directional communications."

Michael Rothwell, director of controls and industry solutions for Phoenix Contact, says the scalability and use in motion control and synchronous I/O applications make Profinet a viable addition to its products. With Profinet, Phoenix Contact can access all devices on a single wire. The protocols support for different topologies, media structures and wireless, and its ability integrate subsystems designed for other protocols are large benefits to the company, Rothwell said.