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Controllers have built-in support for real-time Profinet

09 August, 2011

GE Intelligent Platforms has launched a controller aimed at users who are moving from centralised control systems to distributed, Ethernet-based structures. The new PACSystems controller has built-in support for Profinet, providing open communications over standard Ethernet cables.

GE says the controller (above) offers the benefits of Ethernet, such as name-based configuration, without the complexity. Built-in switches support either copper or fibre cables for direct connections without needing any extra hardware, allowing long distances between I/O nodes and providing high reliability.

“The automation industry has been working for a long time to provide real-time control over standard Ethernet for performance and infrastructure simplification,” says Connie Chick, global controls products general manager for GE Intelligent Platforms. “To obtain vast adoption of Ethernet as a control network, we need to make the connected devices act and look like local I/O, taking out the network complexity for setup, making it incredibly easy to use everywhere without compromising performance. PACSystems is all about taking open standards and making them better for targeted applications.”

The controller, she adds “sets a new standard for integration of open systems, providing the user clear benefits now, and easier migration to new technology in the future. Our goal is to make customers more productive instantly by simplifying and eliminating unnecessary work.”

The controllers combine open standards into a flexible system that GE says will increase production uptime, improve asset performance and boost reliability. They have also been designed to minimise hardware and configuration issues and to improve application uptime at minimal cost.

The high-speed Profinet network can drop large amounts of I/O without compromising performance. It can be used in high-noise areas and can cover large distances in real time with a redundant architecture that maximises uptime.

The adoption of MRP (media redundancy protocol) in a ring topology allows users to take nodes offline for maintenance without stopping an application. If a cable is cut, the system redirects traffic in as little as 1ms, without disrupting I/O.

“Multi-disciplined automation platforms require real-time, open standards-based connectivity not only to devices on the plant floor, but also to production management systems that share data and information throughout the enterprise,” comments Craig Resnick, research director at the ARC Advisory Group. The new GE controller, he says, “appears to fulfil this market requirement by providing a plug-and-play solution to deploy real-time industrial Ethernet-based communications at all levels of the manufacturing enterprise, utilising TCP/IP along with open IT standards.”

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