CC-Link, Avnu Alliance Pave TSN Road to Industry 4.0
August 02, 2022
Industry 4.0 is the inevitable next step for manufacturing facilities. However, making that transition is not a simple flip of a switch.
Migrating an entire facility into a connected, automated network of machinery is a daunting task for small- or medium-sized companies that may not have the knowledge or resources to do so all at once. It would be much easier to take smaller steps, connecting and automating one machine or system at a time that could benefit from more efficiency, tracking the performance differences as you go.
According to the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA), an international open network organization, implementing time-sensitive networking (TSN) protocols can be a good gateway to kickstart a company’s digital transformation.
TSN is a subset of open networking standards under IEEE 802.1 umbrella that aims to bridge the divide between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) so that protocols with different latency requirements can operate on the same network.
To this end, the CLPA created the CC-Link IE TSN platform, the world’s first open standard gigabit Ethernet network. CC-Link IE TSN’s bi-directional input and output communication frames are transmitted simultaneously in both directions in a fixed time period, enabling the coexistence of synchronized real-time control capabilities at the OT layer and communication capabilities of the IT layer in a single network.
CC-Link IE TSN uses a time synchronization protocol to deterministically coordinate communications between CC-Link IE TSN-connected devices. This time-aware data can be stored in master or remote stations where it is kept synchronized down to the microsecond. This accuracy level allows any errors that may occur to be chronologically tracked through operational logs to the exact point of failure.
CC-Link IE TSN also supports the simple network management protocol (SNMP) to allow connected devices and IP communication devices to be monitored and analyzed simultaneously.
Platforms such as CC-Link IE TSN provide a network foundation strong enough to support common Industry 4.0 technologies such as digital twins, predictive maintenance, edge computing, remote manageability, etc., all of which are used to aggregate data that can be analyzed to improve productivity, efficiency, and flexibility.
Teamwork Makes the Industry 4.0 Dream Work
Even with a solid jumping off point to begin digitalization efforts, businesses can also benefit from having a community to help work through any kinks.
Avnu Alliance, a forum driving deterministic capabilities into open, standards-based networking, aims to do exactly that. It recently hosted a plugfest in Germany, where several member companies brought engineers to test TSN products. Specifically, they worked on the integration and validation of IEEE 802.1AS — which specifies time synchronization test development — targeting time distribution with media-specific support for Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
Members present at the plugfest also conducted initial testing for Wireless TSN over Wi-Fi, as well as traffic shaping and scheduling tests of 802.1Qbv/.3br bounded latency.
Change can be difficult, but implementing a standardized network protocol like CC-Link IE TSN can help companies establish a single, stable integration point for future asset network connections, setting them on the right path to an Industry 4.0 upgrade.