Open to New Ways, PROFINET in Process Automation

“Open to New Ways, PROFINET in Process Automation” presents four criteria PROFINET had to meet to satisfy process industry requirements.

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With over 32 million installed nodes (2020), PROFINET has long since become a familiar feature of production automation and drive engineering applications. But what about the process automation sector? Although this sector traditionally reacts cautiously to new technologies, users have expressed a heightened interest in PROFINET.

In particular, the food and beverage industry sector is interested in PROFINET because of its large number of upstream and downstream processes. The chemical, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical industries have recently expressed considerable interest in the technology, as well. PROFIBUS PA is already widely used by facilities in these industry sectors. However, an integrated
communication system such as PROFINET is essential to enable complete integration of centralized process-related operations of a plant with downstream applications involving mostly discrete processes, such as filling and packaging.

For this reason, PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) established a working group of manufacturing companies whose initial task was to define the particular characteristics of process industries. Additional consideration was given to the requirements of NAMUR (an international user association of automation technology in process industries). Besides the extended cycle times, continuous plant operation, and complex actuators and sensors, another major challenge is the sheer quantity of devices (up to 100,000 I/O signals). Moreover, life cycles in the process industry are often very long. It is not unusual to find 20-year old control systems, and many plants are even older than that.

These specific characteristics have always been an impediment to the introduction of new technologies in the past. In spite of this, PROFINET holds interesting prospects for process-related applications and the process industry sector, based in large part on its flexibility. In order to establish PROFINET on a widespread basis, however, the specific requirements of this sector had to be implemented. This effort focused on four main areas:

1.- Investment Protection

2.- Configuration in Run

3.- Time Synchronization and Time Stamping

4.- Scalable Redundancy

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