Should I migrate from fieldbus networks to Industrial Ethernet?

When Industrial Ethernet became widely available, it was assumed it would quickly consign fieldbus networks to the pages of history. That has not happened, so when should you migrate from fieldbus networks to Industrial Ethernet?


The first point to remember is that Industrial Ethernets are generally not compatible with each other and any decision you make will have long-term implications for your buisnes.  You can also be certain your exisiting automation supplier is not going to drop its proprietary or open fieldbus networks without having a clear upgrade path to support you in migrating to Industrial Ethernet.


David Folley of Anybus gateway manufacturer HMS Industrial Networks, believes fieldbuses will be popular for many years to come, but that Ethernet will gain ground where it has something extra to offer. Fieldbus is not only still with us, but sales are growing. The choice of fieldbus is often dictated by the earlier choice of PLC rather than a free selection by the system designer.


Both markets growing

Analysis of HMS’s activities and market reports suggest that Industrial Ethernet installations are growing at 17% per annum, and now account for a third of industrial networks. In contrast, fieldbus networks represent most the installed base, and are growing at 7% – both far greater than the rate of growth of automation equipment in general.


HMS’s Anybus range of gateways allows devices such as robots, sensors and controllers to be connected to different industrial networks – both fieldbus and Ethernet. HMS also notes that it sees little sign of network consolidation: Profibus, CC-Link and Modbus all remain popular choices, although there are regional variations.


Fieldbuses are excellent for transmitting I/O type data and it seems that people sometimes prefer to use them over Ethernet because they already know how to install, configure and maintain them. Their simplicity and reliability make them the best solution for the task in hand.


Interconnectivity of equipment

While HMS’s experiences show the enduring appeal of fieldbuses, they also illustrate the rise of interconnectivity of equipment within production environments. Until a few years ago many factories did not fully integrate all their processes; instead they automated some machines or processes and had little or no communication between these separate ‘islands of automation’.


It is now clear the transition to Industrial Ethernet will be a long-term proposition. It is virtually impossible to accurately predict when Ethernet will become dominant; it is likely that fieldbuses and Industrial Ethernet are going to happily coexist for the foreseeable future.


999 Automation can assist users to migrate from fieldbus network to Industrial Ethernet




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