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Ethernet in the Process Industry

Gateway as Bridge to a Future-proof, State-of-the-art Process Landscape

| Author / Editor: Thomas Hilz, Dirk Palme / Dr. Jörg Kempf

The gateway acts as an interface between the host layer and field devices, and handles Profinet device and Profibus PA master tasks.
The gateway acts as an interface between the host layer and field devices, and handles Profinet device and Profibus PA master tasks. (Bild: Softing)

In the age of Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), Ethernet is also making inroads into process manufacturing. Specialized gateways simplify the transition and create the environment needed for a consistent, rapid and secure flow of information in both a horizontal and vertical direction. Performance is also boosted and plant operators become significantly more flexible.

Horizontal and vertical integration is one of the core principles behind Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things. Achieving this requires standardized communication interfaces that are able to facilitate the interaction of a wide variety of components and the consistent flow of data. And the underlying standards are naturally demanding in terms of availability, usability, reliability, robustness and redundancy. Applications based on Profibus DP are only able to meet a subset of these requirements. The number of devices is also limited — a barrier that is removed by Profinet, the de facto Ethernet standard in the field of automation.

Stepwise Migration Creates Plannability

To make the transition as straightforward as possible, Softing Industrial Automation (based in Haar near Munich, Germany) has developed pnGate PA, a gateway that enables direct Profibus PA segment integration with Pro­finet control systems. The gateway acts as an interface between the host layer and field devices, and handles Profinet device and Profibus PA master tasks. It also provides support for familiar tools for device configuration, parameterization and condition monitoring, including Siemens PDM, Profinet engineering systems and DTM applications.

Users also appreciate the fact that a technology upgrade can be completed in discrete stages. This option is especially relevant for complex, networked production equipment in process manufacturing, where operational reliability must continue to be assured despite “open-heart surgery” on the systems. This was also the approach taken by a leading manufacturer of paints and coatings, with the first step involving the use of pnGate PA (process automation) to migrate the existing Profibus DP (decentralized periphery) network to Profinet. Initial experience in using the new technology will be acquired in this pilot project.

The primary objective of this rollout was to enable greater flexibility at the control layer while reducing the large number of proprietary communication protocols. At the same time, project managers were looking to realize far higher transfer speeds and obtain a simplified set of options for parameterization — such as for condition monitoring, for example. Accordingly, Softing’s gateway offers support for key Profinet engineering tools like TIA Portal, Step 7, and PC Worxs. pnGate PA is also likewise prepared for integration with standard engineering and plant asset management tools.

With a solution like this, familiar tools can simply continue to be used, which makes the switch from Profibus DP masters to Profinet controllers easier and users aren’t suddenly confronted with a wide variety of fundamental differences. No additional equipment is needed and cabling requirements are also fairly moderate. For this project, products from R. Stahl were used: series 9419 bus carriers and 9412 power supplies.

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