Of all the industrial networks that rose to prominence at the end of the last century, CC-Link continues to gather momentum as Asia's lead entry for factory automation. Indeed, since being developed by Mitsubishi and released to industry in 2000, membership in the protocol's CC-Link Partner Assn. (CLPA) has grown from 126 Japanese companies to include some 1,620 companies around the world, two-thirds of which are outside Japan.
More than 9 million products using the CC-Link protocol have shipped, and suppliers currently stock about 1,208 models that speak the protocol, according to Naomi Nakamura, global director of CLPA. "CC-Link has become a globally accepted standard," she said, addressing a gathering in Las Vegas last month of protocol suppliers and users to mark the 10-year anniversary of CLPA's establishment in North America.
10-year anniversary of the protocol's establishment in North America.
CC-Link actually has evolved to describe a suite of protocol standards optimized for different applications. These include the original 10 Mbps CC-Link; CC-Link Safety, which provides high reliability for safety applications; and CC-Link/LT, which is optimized for sensors and small clusters of remote I/O. The "IE" in CC-Link IE Field and CC-Link IE Control connotes the adaptation of the protocol to the 1 Gbps standard Ethernet physical layer. "CC-Link is still the only industrial Ethernet featuring 1 Gb speeds," Nakamura said.
Nakamura also announced the organization's new "Gateway to China" program, designed to bring development and marketing support for automation system and component suppliers targeting the Chinese market, where the protocol is widely used. Technical developments in the works for the CC-Link family include system energy management, stronger development methodologies, and new CC-Link IE Field Motion functionality, which is optimized for multi-axis coordinated motion control applications.
"The motion control function is supported by the addition of a clock synchronization function to the existing CC-Link IE Field Industrial Ethernet stack," explained Charles Lukasik, director of CLPA-Americas. "This permits the precise synchronized control of multiple axes of motion on a single network."
Several OEMs and end users shared their experiences with CC-Link at the event, stressing the network standard's performance and stability advantages as well as ease of implementation. Simple connectivity and engineering tools make it easy to troubleshoot and diagnose problems, said Juan Carlos Dominguez of Nissan's recently commissioned powertrain assembly plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. "The 1 Gb speed stabilizes the control interval, and provides high performance," he said.
For Robbins, which makes enormous tunnel boring machines the length of a football field, CC-Link provides critical infrastructure for the digging of a new subway tunnel connecting New York's Long Island to Manhattan. Strung for five miles of conveyor along with medium-voltage and "leaky feeder" cable (effectively a coaxial rf antenna used for radio communications along the length of the tunnel), CC-Link provides error-free control communications, including load balancing of the conveyor's 400 hp variable-speed drives, said Chuck Masluk, a Mitsubishi application engineer closely involved with this and other Robbins tunneling projects around the world.
Key reasons for Robbins' use of CC-Link include its high reliability and noise immunity, as well as long network lengths, easy implementation and simple termination, according to Masluk. "It provides a single network for PLC, HMI, I/O and VFDs—plus you can add new nodes without changing your PLC programming," he said. "It just works."
And for VC999, a manufacturer of vacuum packaging machine systems, CC-Link's ability to run on Ethernet was a "cost-of-entry" capability, according James Hofer, engineering manager for Motion Systems Group, a distributor that worked closely with VC999 in developing its i-Series next generation machine. "Best-in-class was needed, and the ability of CC-Link IE Field to run at gigabit speeds helped win the project," he said. "IE Field leap-frogged the competition."