PROFINET Does That: An Engineering Thought Process – Part 1

The theme for our General Assembly Meeting this year was “PROFINET Does That”. It has actually been a theme the entire year. If we had to read between the lines however and find the subtext of the meeting it would be that there are many manufacturers out there looking to upgrade their aging automation systems. They are moving towards more ‘advanced manufacturing’ to gain a competitive advantage.

To help understand the situation let’s hear from the Senior Advanced Manufacturing Engineer for a producer of widgets.

Here is his perspective:

My bosses and I have been talking about it for a little while and finally the decision came down. He came to me and said I need to extend our manufacturing line. “And, Oh, by the way:  make it go twice as fast, be half the size and make it all come in under budget.” Yikes…

Well, first things first. I know I’m going to need a controller or two, but I’m not sure whose controller I want to use. Right now we have a legacy system that’s outdated, so I’m not tied to my current vendor and I want to shop around. I guess it’s easiest if I look at it from a networking platform perspective. If I go with a PROFINET network, there are options from different vendors and I’m not tied to a single company’s fate. Apparently it’s an open standard and so various companies have made products that communicate with the technology. Between them I certainly should be able to get things under control because PROFINET does that.

I know I’m going to have a fair amount of sensors, so I’ll need some sort of distributed I/O and a way to manage it all. Based on what we’re already doing it’s pretty obvious that some will be in-cabinet (IP20) and some will be machine-mount (IP67.) Among them, it appears as if we’ll have a few devices with analog connections, a few with discrete, and some more complicated sensors and actuators with direct network connection. But I have a sense PROFINET does that.

One section of the manufacturing line has drives. It will require a little bit of high speed motion control. I could go with a small specialized motion control network but that will only raise headaches and drive up costs. For one, I’ll need to then eventually incorporate it into the wider network, plus my engineers would need to learn two entirely different protocols. So I did a little research:  PROFINET already is a high performance network with short cycle-times. I quickly found out PROFINET does that.

To be continued in Part 2…

–Michael Bowne