Technology Updates (Hanover Fair 2009 Report 3)

There was news of progress in a number of technology areas: IO-Link, wireless, PROFIBUS, and PROFINET.

IO-Link products are appearing more rapidly.  IO-Link is not a fieldbus, but allows digital communications over the device’s cable.  This led me to characterize it as “HART for discrete.”  Conventional devices can be interchanged with IO-Link devices easing the transition for users.  You can find more details at the IO-Link website.

Wireless for process automation is already well along in cooperation with HART Communication Foundation and Fieldbus Foundation.  The Working Group (WG) is specifying connectivity between HART and PROFIBUS and PROFINET.  Now the Working Group for wireless in factory automation has made some progress as well.  Why are there different Working Groups?  Because the requirements are different.  In the process environment think of a level switch on a tank that updates in intervals measured in seconds (or more) and compare that with a proximity switch on a production line that updates in milliseconds.  The former can be battery powered and move minimal data.  The latter needs more power because it is essentially always on.  Naturally the WGs are coordinating their activities to ensure they play well together and that they don’t interfere with existing WiFi communications used by PROFINET and other standard Ethernet technologies.  The factory automation protocol will be IO-Link over IEEE802.15.1.

PROFIBUS PA Profile 3.02 was being demonstrated on the PROFIBUS PA wall.  I have a short video of the demo from Christian Walter of Endress+Hauser: PROFIBUS PA 3.02 Video
The differentiator from Fieldbus Foundation technology is that no configuration software is required on a device change.  The change can involve a different brand of instrument or even an older instrument.

PROFINET products are required to be certified by PITLs – PI-certified Test Labs.  There are three conformance classes of PROFINET devices with the most feature-laden classified as Conformance Class C.  The complete test specification for Class C was just completed and already three products from two vendors have been certified.  Here PNO Director Dr. Peter Wenzel celebrates with representatives from Siemens and Hilscher.