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PROFINET and EtherNet I/P: Key Protocols for Industry 4.0 and IoT Applications

Applications based on Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) are revolutionizing communication protocols and industrial networks. Two protocols – PROFINET and EtherNet/IP – have emerged as key to this evolution, as they are compatible with virtually all Industry 4.0 and IoT applications. To choose the most suitable protocol for your application, you need to know a little more about each one.

About PROFINET

PROFINET (Process Field Network) is an Ethernet-based industrial network protocol for connecting and exchanging data between process devices and controllers. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and distributed control systems (DCS) can be generally defined as controllers, while process devices would be I/O modules, frequency inverters, vision systems, etc. The association PROFIBUS and PROFINET International (PI) created this protocol together with some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) linked to the automation area. The PROFINET protocol complies with the IEEE 802 Ethernet standard in IEC 61158 and IEC 61784.

 

PROFINET Characteristics

With its built-in Ethernet-based communication, which would be all integrated on the same cable, PROFINET meets a wide range of features and requirements. Known for extremely fast data transmission of inputs and outputs, PROFINET allows the integration and exchange of data in real time. Furthermore, it provides a direct interface with the IT layer.

Scalable in real time: Real-time communication is one of the most important features of the PROFINET protocol, being able to exchange data at a frequency of 1µs. Thus, it is possible to carry out motion controls in highly demanding precision applications, and with the same communication cable used to exchange data with the server and cloud for integration with Industry 4.0.

Flexible installation and network topology: A 100% Ethernet network, PROFINET is compatible with IEEE standards, adapts to existing circumstances in all topology scenarios existing in the industry (e.g., ring and star structures), and is able to use copper and fiber optic cables. PROFINET is a type of network capable of adapting to any application and can also be used in specific solutions such as Wireless and Bluetooth.

Increased availability: PROFINET has redundant automatic response resources, where actions can be programmed depending on the diagnosis of field devices. The fact that this network has an acyclic diagnostic data transmission makes it possible to provide extremely important data for each device individually, generating an overview of each piece of equipment, thus significantly increasing the availability of the plant.

Integrated safety: A feature that the protocol also has is PROFIsafe, which consists of using the PROFINET network to exchange safety signals, such as emergency buttons, safety doors, etc. This is accomplished using the same network cable and transferring normal process data, together with safety signals, thus making it possible to save on safety devices, cabling, and engineering, and also bringing reliability to the installation as it makes the application work safely and with as little equipment as possible.

About EtherNet/IP

EtherNet/IP (Ethernet Industrial Protocol) is an open communication protocol that was developed from the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP). ODVA is the organization that administers EtherNet/IP and supports CIP through its other industrial network protocols, namely EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, ControlNet, and CompoNet. EtherNet/IP is built on top of the TCP/IP standard, and makes use of all 7 layers of the open systems interconnection (OSI) reference model of communication. This network protocol also complies with IEEE Ethernet standards and offers users a choice of network interface speeds ranging from 10, 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps.

 

EtherNet/IP Characteristics

EtherNet/IP uses all of the traditional Ethernet protocols, including Transport Control Protocol (TCP), Internet Protocol (IP), and the signaling and media access technologies found on all Ethernet network interfaces. By using standard Ethernet technologies as a base, EtherNet/IP works seamlessly with all standard Ethernet devices available on the market.

Flexible installation and network topology: Like the PROFINET network, EtherNet/IP is also an Ethernet network compatible with IEEE standards and adapts to the scenarios encountered and topology models used in the industry, such as ring, star, linear and hybrid. As for the physical means for installation, there are also options with copper cables and optical fibers. EtherNet/IP is a type of network that adapts to any application, and can also be used in specific solutions such as Wireless and Bluetooth.

Compatibility with standard Internet protocols: Due to the use of the TCP/IP protocol for data exchange, the network is compatible with the main Internet protocols, namely HTTP, FTP, SNMP, and DHCP - and standard industry protocols for data access and exchange such as OPC. This makes data integration with the IoT platform much easier.

Variety of equipment and suppliers: Due to the use of the combination of CIP and Ethernet protocols, the EtherNet/IP network allows device communication without the need for routers or switches. Because Ethernet is widely used in industry, a large amount of commercial equipment is available on the market. Similarly, IP and CIP are published and widely known protocols, with many companies developing products that use these protocols. This reduces the need to have EtherNet/IP-specific products and allows the interconnection of data between different suppliers, leaving the option to the user according to delivery times and cost.

Integrated safety: Just like PROFINET, EtherNet/IP also has an integrated safety resource in the Ethernet network: CIP Safety. Composed of highly reliable safety services and diagnostics in the application layer, CIP facilitates installation and does not require special communication hardware. CIP security applications offer the ability to combine security devices and standard devices on the same network or wire for seamless integration and greater flexibility. 

Conclusion

PROFINET and EtherNet/IP are very similar protocols. But in direct comparison, we can say that PROFINET is generally faster than EtherNet/IP and is most often implemented with standard hardware. EtherNet/IP is easier to interconnect with other brands, as it is based on object-oriented programming and is supported by off-the-shelf components that are easy to find on the market.

Some people simplify the distinction this way: PROFINET is more broadly implemented in Europe, and EtherNet/IP is more broadly implemented in North America. But it’s important to note that both protocols are based on international standards, and are therefore broadly applicable, no matter where your facility is located.

Some people make the distinction yet another way: if your systems are mostly from Siemens, in 99% of cases the application of PROFINET will be more viable, and if your systems are mostly from Rockwell Automation, the viability of installing an EtherNet/IP network will be much greater. But even with that said, nothing prevents having the two communication protocols working together in the same plant.

Both protocols, due to their similarities, are prepared to integrate industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things into your factory.

Matheus Sokacheske
Matheus Sokacheske
Matheus Sokacheske is a senior member of ISA, he works as a maintenance and automation engineer in a leading company in the Foundry business, with 10 years of experience focused on providing technical support to the industry with automation, electrical engineering, and robotics solutions, applying maintenance engineering concepts for the optimization of equipment, and procedures to achieve better reliability, and availability of equipment with strong problem-solving skills and challenging work environments. Matheus holds a degree in control and automation engineering, and a master's degree in project management.

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