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EtherNet/IP – The Key to Information-Enabled Machines

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In an increasingly complex world, people naturally gravitate to technology they understand and tools that make life easier. But the road to a simple solution is often long and requires engineering innovation to transform the technically complex into an effortless user experience.

Thomas Edison, for example, tested 6,000 materials from the plant world alone before he discovered that carbonised cardboard was the best filament for the electric light bulb.

When it comes to finding the ideal industrial network, many OEMs can relate to Edison's quest for a simple, yet efficient, solution. While the Internet provides real-time information to people across the planet and ethernet seamlessly shares information within enterprises at the business level – disparate networks still largely isolate data within machines on most factory floors. Instead of sharing critical operational intelligence between the factory floor and the rest of the organisation, these specialised networks hinder decision-making, plant-wide optimisation and full asset utilisation.

In addition, many of these specialised networks don't age gracefully. Perhaps they were the fastest, most reliable networks at one time, but unless they can accommodate technological advancements easily, their performance merits are short-lived.

To achieve true business agility, OEMs and their customers must first bridge the digital divide between the plant floor and the rest of manufacturing enterprise. For this task, controls engineers, machine builders and IT professionals all need a simple network architecture that acts as a common “ecosystem,” providing enterprise-wide, machine and device-level information gathering. This communication streamlining and access to real-time production data can help manufacturers keep pace with market demands and seize the often elusive competitive advantage.

Using the same Ethernet standard as e-mail, the Internet and other commercial applications, EtherNet/IP (with “IP” referring to Industrial Protocol) is a simple, yet robust communications platform ─ enabling users to effectively manage real-time control and information flow within the machine and manufacturing enterprise. Its genius and simplicity rests on EtherNet/IP's ability to deliver the real-time performance, resiliency and security of traditional field bus solutions, along with the bandwidth, open connectivity and global acceptance of standard Ethernet.

By standardising on EtherNet/IP, machine builders have one standard network that can lower their total cost to design, develop and deliver machines, while eliminating the risks and boundaries associated with proprietary and dedicated networks. EtherNet/IP is the only industrial protocol that is designed and established to connect from the device level all the way up to the end customer's IT infrastructure, and across applications, including discrete, safety, motion, process and drive control. This helps machine builders securely connect equipment to up- and downstream operations.

Mike Hannah
Mike Hannah
Product Business Manager for Networks, Rockwell Automation
Mike Hannah

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