Automation Summit 2008

I’m spending Friday afternoon in an airport again, Chicago O’Hare Airport.  I’m on my way home from the Siemens Automation Summit. It was held on Chicago’s Navy Pier this year.  The trade press was here and you will find their reports on their respective web sites and blogs.  They report on the major speakers from the general sessions plus some tidbits from the breakout sessions.  My focus is much narrower than theirs – I judge an event by the coverage of PROFIBUS and PROFINET.  Automation Summit did not disappoint.

Raj Batra’s Opening General Session presentation talked about PROFINET and PROFIBUS as fundamental to the future of industrial communication.  He pointed out the size and success of the organization behind the technologies, specifically singling out the PTO!

Ralf-Michael Franke, CEO of Siemens’ Industrial Automation, showed slides with PROFIBUS and PROFINET as the foundation on which the products build.  He also reminded the audience of PROFIBUS PA’s redundancy capabilities (both media redundancy – the wire – and the system – controllers).

There were a number of breakouts that directly or indirectly highlighted PROFIBUS or PROFINET.  James Powell talked about troubleshooting PROFIBUS and showed how easy it is to switch out one device for another – even if they are from different manufacturers!  My presentation (conducted twice) provided an introduction to PROFIBUS and PROFINET.  Rich Sammarco provided some background and some application stories of the application of PROFINET Component Based Automation (CBA).  In fact CBA was a hot topic this year.  Marty Jansons and Jeremy Bryant gave an effective demonstration of how easy it is to integrate diverse control equipment using CBA.  Control Global reported on their repeated session: “Seeing Is Believing: Simplified Machine Communication.”  PROFINET was also the subject of one of the training sessions that preceded the Summit.  Control Global also reported on that class: “Profinet Spoken on the Plant Floor.”

The exiderdome, Siemens floating trade show was tied up at the end of Navy Pier, giving attendees a chance to tour it on its first US stop.  There was plenty of purple cable (PROFIBUS) and green cable (PROFINET) visible inside.  Some of it was just in the background, but in some displays it played a key part in the functionality of the devices shown; for example, in the drives section there was a 36-axis motion control demo.  It featured PROFINET and demonstrated how TCP/IP traffic and motion control traffic can coexist on the same Ethernet cable and synchronization was maintained even if the network was 100% loaded!  Watch for the exiderdome to visit a city near you; it is definitely worth a visit.

Last evening’s networking event was held at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  What a great venue for an event for engineers!  The coal mine tour was interesting; prior to this I’ve only visited gold mines.  (It was not a real coal mine, but the simulation was very true-to-life.)  I marveled at the model train layout that presented the story of transportation.  It must have had miles of rail – real miles, not scale miles.  I heard the story of how the United 727 airliner was moved into the museum.  Another place that is definitely worth a visit.