The performance of industrial machines and plants depends to a large extent on their networks. They achieve enormous feats with more and more networking and extensive data flow – and all of this preferably in real time. This makes it all the more important to select the optimal infrastructure as early as in the design phase of these networks, e.g. with PROFINET and/or Industrial Ethernet. A planner or designer must be very well informed for this: Which process requires which bandwidth at which point? Are external influences such as electromagnetic interference to be expected? Is there a risk of increased, process-related wear on cables and connectors? Where do I have to pay attention to the protection class?
Choosing the right Industrial Switches is crucial here: In conveyor technology processes in logistics, the food & drinks industry, chemicals, textiles, the manufacturing industry and many more, communication often takes place over long distances in the field. Switches are used to maintain the quality of communication over these distances. They are often located in control cabinets, as this protects them from environmental influences. An alternative is to save considerable material and costs by using IP67 switches – this means that there is no need to install a separate control cabinet, and cable routes/lengths can be optimised.
In processes with moving lines and vibrations such as robots, drag chains or presses, the likelihood of anomalies in communication is high due to the harsh production environment typical of industry (mechanical stress, heat/cold, chemicals, humidity, etc.). Permanent monitoring of the communication quality detects these in good time, allowing maintenance measures to be carried out at planned downtimes.
For the described applications, Indu-Sol has developed the diagnostic switch PROmesh P10X for PROFINET and Industrial Ethernet. Integrated sensors monitor parameters that ensure communication quality. For this purpose, the PROmesh P10X performs a port-specific online line diagnosis to permanently monitor the physical condition of the connected data lines. The results are displayed as a bar chart in the switch’s web interface using the traffic light colour principle, but can also be automatically reported to the PLC, e-mail or network management system if predefined triggers are not met.
However, the diagnostics of the managed switch P10X are much more comprehensive: Its integrated network monitoring provides information about the utilisation of the network: How great is or was the actual network load and was communication already affected in the event of intermittent overloads. Its ten ports ensure a data transfer rate of up to 1.0 GBit/s, providing a good basis even for highly networked applications with temporary network load peaks. During heavy utilisation, an internal dynamic memory ensures that telegrams that cannot be forwarded due to a momentary overload of the switch are stored temporarily for later transmission and are not discarded. Furthermore, time-critical telegrams can be divided into up to 8 queues per port and forwarded with priority. All these features of the PROmesh P10X can furthermore be integrated into uniform, scalable diagnostic systems on the basis of prescribed standards.
Together with monitoring of the relevant environmental conditions – leakage currents on the shields of the connected data lines, temperature and the 24V supply voltage – the PROmesh P10X provides the necessary information pool to detect the majority of typical weak points in the network in good time and to be able to react in a planned manner – a milestone on the way to an intelligent, self-managing network.
All in all, the switch belongs to a class of powerful Premium+ infrastructure components for automation networks that already have all the prerequisites for permanently stable machine and plant operation, even in highly networked structures. The comprehensive diagnostic functions save the user a number of time-consuming, manual measurements and provide precise information for rapid troubleshooting when required.