It’s been amazing to watch Ethernet’s rapid adoption as a widely used communication platform for industrial systems communication. I recall having numerous conversations less than 10 years ago with engineers who were completely dismissive of Ethernet–considering it an IT communications tool and not something that could withstand the requirements of industrial service. Ethernet has now become so well accepted for automation and control use that the discussion has moved beyond functionality and in to price.
A prime example of this can be seen in B&R’s recent announcement that hardware prices for PowerLink slave interfaces can be up to 45 percent lower than those for other industrial Ethernet systems with performance characteristics similar to PowerLink. According to B&R, excluding the hardware components required for interfaces in all Ethernet systems, such as plugs, transformers, and PHY, processor-based PowerLink solutions can be implemented for about $6.
B&R claims that PowerLink interface prices are lower because the technology uses the single telegram procedure and is patent free. According to B&R: “Proprietary real-time Ethernet buses employ the sum frame procedure, which means that only one large data package is sent to all network devices per cycle. This requires more complex hardware than the standard Ethernet procedure employed by PowerLink, which uses single telegrams for communicating with individual nodes.”
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In a related note, the Ethernet PowerLink group recently announced the openSAFETY protocol, which it believes to be the foundation for the first “completely open, safety-related data communication protocol for all areas of automation.” As a bus-independent protocol, openSAFETY can be used with all fieldbus systems or industrial Ethernet systems. For more information, see the related Design News article at http://www.designnews.com/article/509856-New_OpenSAFETY_Protocol.php.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.