With the explosion in Ethernet-based automation systems, engineers have more and more options in the types of devices they can add to their industrial networks. Many suppliers continue to add support for the numerous variants of industrial Ethernet, making their control products more broadly useable in mixed networks. Others have focused on increasing other types of networking functionality. Security is a prime example and increasingly important as Ethernet moves onto the factory floor. Here's a look at three examples of these Ethernet products that do more.
Ethernet PLC Family Grows
Best known for its PC-based systems, Beckhoff Automation has been adding new models to its Ethernet TCP/controller family. These controllers include a direct connection to Beckhoff I/O terminals and can be operated either as a stand-alone PLC or as decentralized intelligence in an Ethernet network. The new Compact BC9050 Bus Terminal Controller adds a spacing-saving option to the Beckhoff Bus Terminal system. As a step up in performance, the new BC9020 and BC9120 models offer more program and data memory than the BC9050. The BC9120 also has two Ethernet ports that act as a two-channel switch. The I/O stations can be configured with a line topology instead of the traditional star topology. In addition to Ethernet TCP/IP, Beckhoff offers PLCs for several major fieldbus networks including EtherCAT, DeviceNet, PROFIBUS, SERCOS, CANopen, Lightbus and Interbus. All Beckhoff Ethernet controllers have implemented the Modbus TCP, ADS/TCP, ADS/UDP, BootP, DHCP, SNTP and SMTP protocols.
Lantronix continues to build out its portfolio of embedded wireless Ethernet modules. One of the latest, the MatchPort b/g Pro, addresses the need for more secure 802.11 b/g networks in a variety of data-sensitive applications. According to Shaye Shayegani, senior field application engineer, medical and government customers have so far driven much of this need, but industrial users are now following suit as they embrace wireless in sensitive factory floor systems. Part of the company's family of pin-form factor compatible modules, the MatchPort b/g Pro's suite of security features includes IEEE 802.11i-compliant radio with AES-CCMP and TKIP, a complete suite of 802.1x Extensible Authentication Protocols, end-to-end TLS/SSL 3.0 and end-to-end AES. Beyond security, this MatchPort also features Lantronix' SmartRoam technology, which automatically smooths transitions between access points. A 32-bit, 159 MIPS 166 Mhz processor with 8 MB of SDRAM and 8 MB Flash provides the modules processing power. The MatchPort b/g Pro also features two serial ports with a 230 Kbps data rate capability, seven control pins and an operational temperature range of -40 to 85C.
Opto Rolls Out EtherNet/IP Support
Opto 22 has added support for Allen Bradley's EtherNet/IP to its SNAP PAC line of programmable automation controllers and I/O processors, enabling native communications between this increasingly popular industrial Ethernet protocol and Opto 22's control hardware. The move allows the company's controllers and processors to serve as adapters that can talk to and share data with any EtherNet/IP device on the network — and do so without costly development work. According to Opto Manager David Crump, the new functionality could come in handy in both new automation projects and expansion of existing EtherNet/IP-based systems, “wherever there's a need for lower-cost distributed intelligence.” Starting this month, all the SNAP PAC controllers and I/O processors will ship with the new communications functionality. Users of existing Opto 22 hardware can add the new functionality through a firmware upgrade.
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