Smart Machines & Factories
The future of Industrial Ethernet diagnostics
Published:  20 October, 2017

In industrial automation, reducing downtime and increasing productivity is an important topic. Even though development has continued, machines aren’t perfect. To help system users prevent issues occurring in their network, PROCENTEC presented Atlas as its solution on the future of Industrial Ethernet diagnostics at the Hannover Messe trade fair in April this year. Smart Machines & Factories takes a look at the technology in more detail.Although PROFIBUS, with over 50 million nodes in use across the globe, is still the protocol of choice in most companies, a shift is currently occurring within industrial automation from the traditional fieldbus systems to Industrial Ethernet.

Industrial Ethernet is becoming the basis for meeting the primary needs of the industrial user. The essence lies in making the cable reliable and optimising the plugs and switches for the environmental conditions of an industrial environment. With this in mind, working groups have set out to define protocols that meet virtually all automation goals.

Since 2010, the use of Industrial Ethernet is growing more quickly. In 2017 it now makes up for 46% of the global market compared to 38% last year, according to market research from HMS Industrial Networks. This transition to Industrial Ethernet is driven by the need for high performance, integration between factory installations and IT-systems, as well as the Industrial Internet of Things in general.

Ethernet’s simple and effective design has made it a very popular networking solution. By the time a problem occurs, Ethernet is more complex than it looks. One error can lead to serious downtime. In automation, this can be very costly and factories constantly aim to prevent downtime. Within an Industrial Ethernet network, which sometimes contains thousands of devices, it can be hard to find out which device is failing. By the time an engineer has finally identified the error, critical processes could already have be ruined, leading to lost material and money. That is why the best solution for preventing unexpected and expensive downtime in industrial networks is to have a good strategy for diagnosis. A well thought out strategy for diagnosis will lead to return on investment.

To create a solution for preventing downtime in Industrial Ethernet networks, PROCENTEC started the development of ‘Atlas’ back in March 2016. At that time there weren’t many permanent monitoring solutions for this protocol on the market and those already existing were mainly focused towards highly skilled technicians. There was a need for a solution that is easy to use and understand for everyone in industrial automation who is involved with reducing downtime in Industrial Ethernet networks. The solution is infused with PROCENTEC’s twenty years of automation experience of doing support jobs in the field and also producing monitoring solutions for PROFIBUS and PROFINET. It is designed with end user requirements.

Interactive Topology

Atlas, in the English language, means a map. ‘Atlas’ maps the network with its interactive Topology: a graphical and hierarchical display of a complete network. This view makes connections between devices become clear very quickly and intuitively. It also clearly shows dependencies to easily identify and mitigate critical paths in the network or to identify line-depths. Information on separate devices is displayed using status icons according to the NAMUR NE 107 standard. The Topology can be visualised in a dynamic galaxy view or the more traditional hierarchical tree view. Connected to PROCENTEC ComBricks, even PROFIBUS devices are visible with the use of Atlas.

Atlas will also provide users with valuable information about the quality of their network. Getting this information used to be very complicated, but PROCENTEC says Atlas’ Q-Factor (Quality Factor) simplifies this using a weighted algorithm, which is built up from all connected devices in the network. The Q-Factor shows a number from 0 to 5000, according to the Automotive standard, or from 0 to 100% as a relative display. A traffic light display allows a more simple overview of the network status in three colours.

In addition to this, according to the company, the biggest strength of the product is its ease of use. After the implementing the device in the network, installing only takes four steps before the tool immediately starts discovering the complete network and recognising devices and starts getting relevant information from them. All the capabilities of Atlas can be viewed through a web browser on the central, customisable dashboard page. This dashboard is available not only at the factory plant, but worldwide.

Industry 4.0 ready

PROCENTEC highlighted to Smart Machines & Factories that Atlas makes sure users are ready for Industry 4.0, and that the device secures that networks can be healthy and available permanently. It also has an integrated OPC UA server in the platform. In Industry 4.0, in comparison to Industry 3.0, users are no longer attached to one system or brand. As PROCENTEC shares its knowledge with its partners to become a bigger family, so too does the Atlas platform by offering third party support.

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