Hanover Fair 2008: Discoveries and surprises

Monday morning and I’m about to leave for the airport en route to Houston for the ABB Automation World.  I’ll be speaking about PROFIBUS and PROFINET on Thursday.  But before I go let me share some of the discoveries I made at Hanover Fair.

Phoenix Contact showed managed Ethernet switches that have their configuration saved in a plug-in to simplify replacement.  If you have to replace the switch, just move the plug-in to the replacement switch and all the configuration is done; no need to connect to it and configure it.  The switches also look like IO Devices to PROFINET or Ethernet/IP (the one they look like is saved with the other configuration data).  As an added bonus, the switches support the PROFINET Media Redundancy Protocol (MRP).   They also showed a new PROFINET-based PLC.

Speaking of PROFINET-based PLCs, Omron was showing a new PLC to be released in July.  It is PROFINET-based and includes PROFINET MRP built in.  They are offering switches that support MRP, too.  One important measure of the success of a fieldbus network is the number of controller manufacturers that support it.  This makes four manufacturers that offer (or have announced) controllers that use PROFINET: Siemens, Phoenix Contact, GE Fanuc, and Omron.  How many of the other Industrial Ethernets are supported by more than one controller?  Are any?

NEC has long offered an ASIC for PROFINET that includes PROFINET IRT functionality.  In the PI booth they also showed an IO-Link chip.

I discovered a couple Industrial Ethernet Tools to ease troubleshooting of PROFINET networks.  ANF Data Systems will release their tool, PronetA, in a few months.  Hilscher has already released their Net Analyzer that collects statistical information about the network and integrates Wireshark so you can “look inside” the Ethernet frames.

One other bit of PI news: our long-time PROFINET colleague, Joerg Freitag was officially elected chairman of PNO (the PTO-equivalent organization in Germany).

PI did not have all the news; there were a few other items from other consortiums.  ODVA announced that they are now solely responsible for Ethernet/IP.  Apparently ControlNet International shared the marketing responsibility before.  Who knew?

UPDATE: Some clarifications on the Omron situation: The PLC is not new, just the PROFINET capability; it has had PROFIBUS capability for several years.  The PROFINET capability is achieved via an add-on module.  Also, the MRP-enabled switching capability is built-in not in external switches.  According to Igor Jovanovic of Omron: “It means that our coupler (Profinet IO Device) could be directly connected to an MRP ring and not via a external switch.  That saves a lot of money for the end user. We have been the first one to implement like this and I expect the others will follow this approach.”  Thanks to Igor for reading the blog and offering these corrections.