Who needs gigabit-per-second industrial networking?

by The CC-Link Team on 23 March 2011

The announcement of the CC-Link IE Field Network with its 1Gbit/s communications capability was widely welcomed. But some asked: “Who needs gigabit-per-second networking in industrial applications that have traditionally been served by communications speeds at least ten-times slower?”

The short answer is “everybody”. Just as communications speeds have accelerated in all other areas of information technology and networking – both wired and wireless – it was inevitable that Industrial Ethernet would catch up. And, just as commercial Ethernet is moving on into the 10Gbit/s era, the original proponents of Gigabit Ethernet were met with the same cries of “who needs it?” more than a decade ago. Now, no company could contemplate running its IT network at any slower speed.

The advantages of faster communications in an industrial network fall into several different categories. And the most obvious of these is determinism. While it may be acceptable for an office Ethernet to respond in this second or the next, this cannot be accepted for production machinery running at hundreds (if not thousands) of units per hour. With today’s extremely high speed systems, response times in the millisecond or less range are not only the norm, they are expected. Since greater bandwidth provides higher levels of determinism, CC-Link IE’s gigabit performance ensures that even the most demanding systems can be accommodated.

Secondly, as production systems have become ever more sophisticated, the amount of data they are handling in real time has also increased. No longer are a few bits and bytes going back and forth to interlock different production machines. Now thousands of items of data are exchanged as the need to improve flexibility and quality increases. Hence the network technology needs to also offer the bandwidth to cope with this. Once again, CC-Link IE’s gigabit speeds provide a solution.

Finally, reliability is of course critical. CC-Link IE’s ability to use optical fibre means it offers complete immunity to interference in even the most electrically noisy of environments. Not only does this maximise reliability, but it also increases performance, as fewer transmissions need resending due to interference.

So, who needs gigabit-per-second industrial networking?
Just about everybody.

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