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4 ways time-sensitive networking can boost productivity in manufacturing

Jan. 18, 2022
Key industrial sectors can reap benefits by leveraging TSN for industrial communications

Time-sensitive networking (TSN) is considered by industry leaders as the future of industrial communications. In effect, it is poised to bring data transfer to the next level, improving control and enabling Industry 4.0 applications.

While the adoption of TSN is still in its early stages, with future-oriented businesses picking up the pace, this technology holds enormous potential for numerous manufacturing sectors.

Also read: Step up the technology in machine control

1. Simplified machine design and higher performance for the converting sector

One of the key features of TSN that can bring great benefits to manufacturers is its ability to synchronize all network devices with high accuracy, especially when used with gigabit bandwidth. As a result, it is possible to ensure deterministic communications for time-critical, high-speed applications, such as motion control.

For example, when this feature is adopted in networks used in the printing or converting industry, plants can achieve accurate synchronization between multiple axes on a machine. By being able to control the motion of many different axes simultaneously over one network, facilities can optimize product quality and production processes, as well as increasing the flexibility of their architectures and machines, while simplifying the mechanical setup. The end result is reduced time for retooling and maximized product yield.

2. Transparency and traceability for the pharmaceutical and food-and-beverage industries

Prioritized and timely communications, as offered by TSN technology, is also extremely important when transparency and traceability are crucial.

The success of sensitive industries, such as pharmaceutical and food and beverage, relies heavily upon key process data, which need to be monitored to ensure product quality and compliance with relevant regulations or good manufacturing practices. This data requires accurate timestamps that support visibility of equipment states and operation in the production process, eliminating any blind spot where issues can grow unnoticed.

By building a fully synchronized device network, TSN can support precise timestamping for operations analysis. In this way, pharmaceutical and food-and-beverage facilities can rely on a high degree of traceability throughout their networks and guarantee product quality and safety.

3. Greater throughput in automotive

TSN technology, particularly when combined with gigabit bandwidth, can also push manufacturing facilities to speed up their production processes, while ensuring determinism. This can be particularly useful for automotive assembly plants.

These facilities are responsible for the production of a wide variety of models, each characterized by different trim levels. Hence it is mandatory for these manufacturing systems to handle large amounts of data generated in real time during the assembly of various car parts. Only in this way, manufacturers can ensure that the different combinations of possible model variations do not slow down cycle times and the allocated parts are fitted correctly on the right models, at the right time, in a traceable manner. Automotive companies can use TSN to build production lines that maximize throughput and reliability, as the technology combines advanced synchronization with traffic prioritization capabilities. The latter allows the network to deliver time-critical traffic exactly when needed, while allowing less critical traffic to co-exist on the network. Consequently, total cost of ownership (TCO) can be reduced since multiple types of networks can now be combined onto a single hierarchy. This means higher performance, lowered costs and simplified maintenance. This finally translates into better quality vehicles.

4. Higher levels of integration for semiconductor manufacturing

Synchronicity and traffic prioritization are also key to combining different types of process control on one network and effectively handling different activities across multiple machines and stations.

For example, TSN can support the semiconductor industry, which is characterized by numerous processing stages, all requiring process, discrete and motion control, along with integration of robots, cameras and analysis equipment with IT systems. TSN-based networks for the sector allow businesses to mix time-critical data for high-performance, high-speed motion control with slower, less time-dependent traffic—for example, for machine vision process monitoring, or the configuration/tuning of devices with management software. Furthermore, manufacturers are given the opportunity to integrate auxiliary systems into their processes and associated networks.

Ultimately, semiconductor producers can enhance flexibility in the network architecture and in their processes.

More than TSN

While TSN offers a number of advantages to manufacturers, per se, it provides a comprehensive solution when combined with an open network technology that offers high bandwidth. In this way, businesses are better positioned to handle the large volume of data that Industry 4.0 applications will generate. As a result, they can further enhance, productivity, reliability and quality while maximizing profits.

About the author

Thomas Burke, global strategic advisor at the CC-Link Partner Organization (CLPA). Contact him at [email protected].

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