Process and control today | Upgrade Automation Devices with TSN Connectivity

Companies leading their digital transformation journey require access to all data in their manufacturing systems. This requires combining IT and OT networks, selecting Ethernet as the backbone, and enabling automation devices with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) communications. Product vendors addressing this issue can leverage their existing solutions to quickly deliver next-level functionality. Knowing how to get started, how to support TSN-based industrial Ethernet protocols, and how to leverage a corresponding development ecosystem is key to success.

John Browett, Managing Director of CLPA Europe, examines how to integrate TSN into existing communication platforms and protocols.

TSN is an innovative Ethernet technology defined by IEEE 802.1 standards that resides at Layer 2 of the 7-layer OSI model. This is rapidly proving its essential role in the connected industries of the future thanks to its unique ability to support convergence in the factory as well as between the IT and OT worlds. Its importance is recognized by various industries, which recognize the value of automation solutions with TSN capabilities.

Device vendors may be wondering if now is the right time to adopt TSN. In fact, there are good reasons to act now, as it offers a competitive advantage to suppliers, machine builders and end users. Implementing this technology in their products today is a safe bet that can improve competitiveness and market share. Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation and it is essential that automation vendors support them now with future-proof devices. Additionally, with typical life cycles of 20 to 25 years for automation components, adding future technologies, such as TSN, to factories is essential to drive differentiation and short-term competitiveness. while being able to adapt in the long term.

For those who think now may not be the time to act, a clear parallel can be drawn between TSN and smartphone technology, which has moved rapidly from 2G to 3G, 4G and recently 5G. . Instead of waiting for following technology, competing manufacturers quickly implemented these advances in their products as the technology landscape continued to evolve. This helped them respond to immediate market demands. Most technical specialists will agree that any given technology is continually evolving and therefore waiting for it to be finished is a futile strategy that will see their businesses fall behind.

Role of TSN in Industrial Ethernet Protocols

When adopting TSN, companies must consider a number of practical details. For example, forward-looking device vendors who want to add TSN functionality to their products may wonder how TSN affects the mainstream support their solutions already offer for today’s industrial Ethernet protocols. To this end, it is important to note that this innovative technology was designed to improve upon standard Ethernet and that it only operates at Layer 2 of the OSI model. TSN is intended to work with various protocols and support their convergence to improve interconnectivity, helping users to coexist different types of traffic on a single network.

Ultimately, this technology is only a “pipe” and therefore Industrial Ethernet protocols are still needed to cover the remaining application use cases, such as security and motion control. It is therefore important that device manufacturers understand that TSN cannot replace all Industrial Ethernet connectivity. Instead, they should take advantage of an Industrial Ethernet solution that supports all key use cases while delivering the convergence benefits offered by TSN, such as CC-Link IE TSN. It is the first open and widely supported networking technology that combines gigabit bandwidth with TSN capabilities.

Upgrade automation devices

Once a key solution for industrial communications has been selected, companies should consider how to upgrade their products to provide these new features. The development ecosystem available depends on the chosen technology. For example, CC-Link IE TSN offers several options, both software and hardware, which can offer different TSN implementation speeds, device performance, and certification classes.

With the many development methods available, suppliers can ensure that the right technical solution is available for the specific product they wish to deliver. For example, software protocol stacks are ideal for companies wishing to quickly implement CC-Link IE TSN, as they offer perhaps the fastest method to improve existing products by reducing development time and costs by internal. Additionally, they are generally portable, so they can be applied with minimal modifications. When performance is more important, hardware solutions are best suited to achieve CC-Link IE TSN compliance. These include application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), also known as dedicated communication large-scale integrations (LSIs), and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

Ultimately, while TSN will change over time, like all new technologies, automation vendors can reap huge gains by delivering innovative capabilities to their devices now. CC-Link IE TSN is now widely accepted and the ecosystem continues to grow rapidly. By leveraging this open network technology, device vendors and machine builders can quickly exploit new market opportunities, future-proofing their businesses and their customers’ operations.

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