PROFINET with IRT – Determinism and Data Access

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Industrial Ethernet: Right in Time

When Ethernet arrived as the successor to fieldbuses in the early 2000s, skepticism regarding the real-time capability and determinism of this technology in industrial systems was widespread. If we look back today, we see that Industrial Ethernet took hold in broad swaths of production automation and that it’s also conquering the process automation market step by step. Today, PROFINET is leading the field of Ethernet systems with more than 30% of global market share – just as PROFIBUS does with the classic fieldbuses.

IRT: Ahead of Its Time

The success of PROFINET is based on two crucial factors here. One reason is that PROFINET technology has been continually developed and improved over time. In addition to a large number of profiles for use cases like safety and process-related field devices, real-time capability has also been an integral feature from the very beginning. This is true to such an extent that PROFINET with IRT (Isochronous Real-Time) already meets the requirements placed on forward-looking TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) technology: determinism on a network for demanding motion control tasks, for example, as well as TCP/IP communication, which is becoming ever more important. Here, IRT uses methods like bandwidth reservation, for example, which is also being standardized by the IEEE. It’s already a tried-and-tested standard with PROFINET, so the basic mechanisms remain unchanged with TSN as well.

PROFINET: Growing with the Times

A strong community is also driving PROFINET. With 1,500 active member companies, including a who’s who of the automation industry, the technology can be found in countless products from well-known manufacturers. This is a major advantage to users, as they can operate their equipment using a broad spectrum of products and aren’t tied to a specific manufacturer. The same can be said for IRT products as well. Today, around 30% of certified PROFINET devices support IRT – and this number’s growing all the time.

PROFINET servo drives from Chinese suppliers
PROFINET frequency converters from Chinese suppliers

Over the past few years, a large number of new PROFINET devices with IRT have also arrived on the market from countries around the world, particularly China. This means that users don’t have to wait until TSN is ready for the market, as they can already utilize the benefits of real-time-capable Ethernet in their systems with PROFINET today: determinism and robust access to data for forward-looking Industry 4.0 concepts.

Karsten Schneider
Chairman, PI