Because Atlanta was our first PROFINET one-day training class of 2010, I sent out a short follow-up survey. One of the interesting comments from that survey: “I think it is important for device manufacturers to know when they can use a generic Ethernet MAC ASIC (or FPGA) and when they cannot. Don’t hide this. It is very important to understand.”
So to emphasize this point for device manufacturers:
If you are not doing motion control, you can use a generic Ethernet MAC ASIC or FPGA.
MAC = Media Access Controller
ASIC = Application Specific Integrated Circuit
FPGA = Field Programmable Gate Array
These are two chip-based solutions and can be used for many different purposes.
PROFINET uses standard Ethernet, so standard Ethernet components and devices work just fine (until you do motion control). Even Ethernet switches from Best Buy.
Even when you do motion control, PROFINET just uses Ethernet, but you need to implement time synchronization (IEEE1588) and provide bandwidth reservation. And for speed purposes, you need to implement those in a chip. We call this Isochronous Real-Time (IRT). Iso- meaning equal and -chronous meaning time – so, equal time; the time control needed to synchronize all the devices’ clocks for bandwidth reservation.
So, most of the time you can go generic. But just because you can do a thing does not mean you should do a thing. So, you can use standard Ethernet ASICs or FPGAs but there are benefits to use custom chips. Having all the communications code in one custom chip means you can let your regular CPU handle just the functions your product does. There are many suppliers of communications chips with PROFINET built-in and more suppliers coming. The number of chip suppliers should give you the hint that the technology is not proprietary. PROFINET is an open standard available from IEC.
PROFINET just uses standard Ethernet!