Process Automation and Industry 4.0

PROFINET, as an Ethernet-based communication technology, is increasingly evolving into a pillar for automation concepts of the future, as the transfer of larger amounts of information becomes an essential feature. Using profiles, PROFINET is also able to give the data semantics, allowing it to take on useful significance. With the adoption of the final version of the communication-independent PA profile V4.0, PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) has taken an important step toward making PROFINET suitable for use in process automation equipment of the Industry 4.0 generation.

Industry 4.0 presents greater challenges for communication systems. Field devices that are utilized in process automation deliver for example a number of readings and comprehensive diagnostic information about their condition. Additionally, extensive parameters are available for the configuration. Moreover, the inclusion of the devices in asset management, condition monitoring, and IT systems requires extra bandwidths and Ethernet support. With OPC UA, the connection to higher levels is easy to implement via NOA (NAMUR Open Architecture), for instance, without requiring an additional network. The PA profile was coordinated with NAMUR specialists, among others, resulting in its compliance with the relevant NAMUR recommendations (NE107 and NE131).

New PA Profile V4.0

Besides the outstanding performance already available today, PROFINET also provides an array of extensive functions for the process applications. This includes optimum redundancy mechanisms, dynamic reconfiguration for smooth device swapping during operation, and time stamping for the recording of event sequences, etc. The PA profile is now being made available for PROFINET for the first time in a new version, thereby fulfilling another important demand of the users.

But in order to also be able to service industries such as oil and gas or chemicals, further technical conditions will have to be established for Ethernet at the field level. Longer wiring distances, two-wire technology, power supply via the bus, and intrinsic safety are not yet feasible by default with today’s Ethernet. PI, in cooperation with other organizations, has launched this topic with the goal of being able to implement PROFINET in all areas of process automation.