We often consider Industrial Networking to be entirely different from a conventional process. This document will describe factors that make industrial networking different. There are two factors which make industrial networking different; they are environmental & types of communication. Let’s look more at these factors:
When we talk about industrial networking, it includes manufacturing, power, Oil and Gas, transportation plants, etc. These environments are rugged and harsh, it contains everything from dust, smoke, humidity, temperature, shock to vibrations.Industrial environment is the first consideration when industrial network is designed. There are many manufacturers who produce network devices which work in a wide range of climatic conditions. They are manufactured with fan-less design which means no rotating part, resulting in less/no maintenance. We have often seen devices in the market that has flexible designs which can fit in rack or Din rail or that which can even be mounted on the wall. These types of devices are very suitable for industrial networking as there is no controlled environment with has air condition or racks. There are many standard certifications like FCC, CE, NEMA TS2, IEC/IP, UL, DNV, IEC61850, IEEE1613, etc. which are always referred while selecting the industrial devices. Therefore it is always advised to select device which are certified for your industrial environment.
Unlike Conventional networking which is principally used for data transfer and processing, industrial network is mainly used for controlling the physical equipment’s. There are different equipment’s like PLC / CNC, IPC, Relay Control, meters, sensors, etc..While designing the industrial network, an ideal combination of devices need to be chosen to take care of different types of communications.
There are many devices in the industrial environment which work on serial communications. There are some devices that work on their proprietary protocols like: Modbus, DF1, Profibus & Profinet, etc.. Converting these protocols and binging them to TCP/IP is one of the biggest challenges. There are manufacturers who produce such converters which can be used in the network to take care of these protocol issues.
Most times, communications happen between far distances,especially in power, transportation’s and Oil and Gas plants. In these scenarios, communicating over cloud or internet is difficult because of their real time requirement and security. There has to be a consideration in the design spectrum whether to use media converters for long distance communications or to go with stable Wi Fi solutions. There are industrial grade media converters in market which can be used to convert Ethernet to fiber (single/multi-mode), or devices need to be chosen which has SFP ports that take care of fiber connections. Sometimes we see these connections directly go to field devices which work on serial communications, in these cases, a separate media converter needs to be used which can convert from fiber to serial or Ethernet to serial communications. Now a days, we see manufacturers produce devices that can convert communications from Serial/Ethernet or fiber to Wi-Fi as well.One must be careful while selecting these media converters; Care must be taken to ensure that it takes care of proprietary protocols and that it should be built as industrial grade with required certificates.
Industrial environments are less predictable and chances of failure is very high. Failure of communication may cause high damage as most of the communications are done to control the equipment. There has to be redundancy for both,hardware as well as the software.Some of the industrial grade devices have got redundant power supply and alarm via relay or SMTP. These are good features which is suitable for industrial environments.
It is always important to select right devices which are suitable for your industrial environment and provides efficient communication in the network. The conclusion of this topic is to make you aware as why industrial networking is different than conventional.
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