No Digitalization Without PROFINET

  • Post category:PI NEWS
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Reliable data preparation and provisioning – The expectations of digitalization are enormous. Many people forget that the necessary data must be available in such a way that it can be used by a control, edge or cloud application. Only with PROFINET will Industry 4.0 applications become possible.

There is a great desire for more digitalization, be it to implement asset management, to obtain detailed information for maintenance or to use AI for better performance. However, many users sometimes forget that this requires data to be prepared in such a way that it can be easily recorded and processed by the corresponding application. Without such data, Industry 4.0 applications are simply not possible.

Essentially, it’s about transporting knowledge and information to the control system and to the digitalization application. Not an easy task, after all, the range is wide. This includes not only I/O data in real-time, but also time-critical motion applications and the diverse information that is available in machine control, for example from a drive or from cameras. A lot of additional knowledge is now stored in clouds or on the edge, and even some of the pre-processing of the data now takes place in the cloud. Information is also provided from engineering or simulation. And this already provides the next keyword. The data is delivered in very different ways, be it from your own network, via that of another participant or even wirelessly.

Free and Independent Data Access

As different as the data and the methods are, the requirements for data provision have remained the same for decades. Data must be easy and cost-effective to process, understood by the application and, above all, reliably available!

This is where the proven communication channels in the PROFINET architecture come into play. Parallel TCP/IP access, which collects information directly from IO devices and other players, has been valued for decades. This is independent of the I/O function and does not require any additional hardware. Data preparation in PROFINET has long since been standardized. To name just a few examples:

  • Asset information is the basis for Industry 4.0 applications; for this, all devices, including hardware and firmware, must be recorded and machine-readable. The crucial foundation for this was laid by mapping device information from both PROFINET assets (I&M) and non-PROFINET assets (Asset Management Record).
  • Numerous application profiles, such as PROFIenergy, PROFIdrive or PROFIsafe, prescribe certain features for uniform performance.
  • GSD files can be used to create customized data descriptions. These contain information about the basic capabilities of a device.

Incidentally, tool access has always been possible via the network, for example for firmware updates and access to your own engineering software, e.g. with drives, or the integration of your own tools. Some companies now also offer value-added functions for their components via special web services.

Connection to the IT World

In order to bring higher-quality information from the field into the IT world, OPC UA is typically used, which can access data and information models in an object-oriented manner. However, appropriate standards are also needed here to bring structure to the data or to obtain uniform data across the entire system. The effort required for this is low and mapping is easy because the data structures have always been defined within PROFINET.

Data transfer is also possible, e.g. via MQTT or Sparkplug. This means that the data in devices or in the cloud/edge is enriched with further semantics. There are already more exciting topics coming to the PI community, such as how edge gateway architectures with PROFINET connections work or how virtual PLCs work safely and reliably with PI technologies.

Reliable data transfer also plays a major role. By connecting sensors and actuators via IO-Link, much more data is generated than a few years ago. In addition to the switching signal, interesting additional data is provided that offers opportunities for long-term analysis and information about utilization. These do not necessarily have to be evaluated in a PLC, but are often further processed in edge/cloud applications. With the mapping of IO-Link, direct access to IO-Link masters is also possible. Here too, standardized OPC UA and JSON images help to make life easier for the user. The technologies omlox and Ethernet-APL, which are still quite new at PI, also provide data from the systems in such a way that they can be easily processed further.

In the future, TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) will play an important role, enabling, among other things, the convergent and robust use of a common Ethernet network for IT and OT applications. Advantages include higher bandwidth, high determinism, flexible network configuration and a wide variety of interface chips.

Regardless of the communication path – whether within a machine, a system, a network or to an IT application – it is crucial for the user to rely on the reliability of PI technologies in all of these ways. Competence centers and certification laboratories ensure this, not only certifying devices and components independently, but also answering all questions about development and certification. Secure: Increasing connectivity and automation bring new security challenges. But when it comes to security, PROFINET also provides concepts tailored to the application.

Together for Better Solutions

The examples show: the volume of tasks in the automation and therefore in the PROFINET world, have grown significantly. As such, PI is in constant communication with industry and other user organizations such as ZVEI, Namur, VDMA, ODVA, OPC Foundation or eClass. Reliable solutions were developed together, for example in the areas of security, semantics, physical layers or information models. The focus is always on ensuring that the solutions remain practical and manageable, worldwide. The success speaks for itself. PROFINET, as PI’s core technology, is the world’s number 1 in industrial communication technology, be it in manufacturing, process control, or motion control applications.

Xaver Schmidt