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Standards help realize open fieldbus protocols' flexibility and lower cost

Standards help realize open fieldbus protocols' flexibility and lower cost

Charles W. Cook, P.E., is currently WAGO USA's Product Manager of Advanced Electronic Products, including WAGO's I/O System. He is an Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously Cook served as WAGO's Engineering Supervisor. Prior to his tenure at WAGO, Cook worked in product development for electronic components companies such as Square D.

Faster, better, cheaper have been bywords at NASA. But in industry as well, industrial-controls engineers are turning to open fieldbus protocols for more economical ways to easily integrate new technologies into current systems for greater efficiency. Common standards will reduce their learning curve and support costs.

Design News: How are the needs of your customers changing?

Cook: Our customers are looking for more reliability and greater efficiency. They are also looking for ways to integrate new technologies with existing ones without having expensive upgrades and steep learning curves.

Q: How do you plan to accommodate such changing needs?

A: The first step to address the need for greater flexibility and lower costs across industrial communication was the development of open fieldbus protocols. WAGO is fulfilling these demands with our fieldbus independent I/O system. No matter what the protocol, the system coordinates different machine centers and cross over, whether it includes DeviceNet, Profibus, Ethernet, Interbus, or Modbus. Such a modular I/O system increases flexibility of control engineers to change protocols and even update their technology to implement Ethernet capabilities or distributed control.

Q: What technologies will come into play to meet these changes?

A: Ethernet and distributed control technologies have been inhibited in industrial controls due to a lack of commonality between various companies' offerings. For distributed control, we offer IEC 61131-compatible software tools. For Ethernet, we are active and pushing for one or two common standards. This will serve customers by reducing their learning curve and our support costs.

Q: In five years, what will be the hot I/O and connectivity technology?

A: As customers have sought to reduce wiring by using industrial data networks, expect this trend to move even further into wireless data communications.

Q: With mechanical engineers getting more involved with specifying electronic and control systems in their designs, how can manufacturers of such systems educate them to be more effective?

A: Keeping things simple and logical will allow any engineer to use one's products.

Q: How is the Internet affecting your business and the way your customers do business?

A: Support and more support is what our customers want from the Internet. Customers want everything from manuals to downloadable tools to access to our manufacturing data that can quickly alert them to any changes. In its infancy, the Internet was used primarily by industry as both a sales and marketing device promoting new products and as a research tool for investigating new possibilities. In recent years, connector manufacturers have begun to utilize the interactive benefits of the Web in much more functional ways. Products can be specified online, designed, assembled, and customized. Through e-commerce activities, stock can be checked, deliveries verified, and orders placed, freeing up professional staff to do what they do best-build relationships and add value. Aside from these online pre-sales activities, post-sales documentation, customer support, and Web-based training sites are also now becoming readily available online.

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