Gigabit Industrial Ethernet: networks and tunneling processes to increase quality, reduce costs

Digital Edition Exclusive: Removing the communication bottleneck improves automated machinery precision by adding extra capacity, collecting more data, and better monitoring diagnostic information.


CC-Link IE enables the mixing of network topologies for the most efficient use of the network infrastructure. Courtesy: Mitsubishi ElectricIn an era when connected devices, machines, and processes are enabling information transparency, information must be accessible throughout manufacturing environments. Over the past decade, manufacturers have leveraged office-grade network technology and infrastructures in manufacturing. Automated equipment processes information at millisecond—often sub‑millisecond—speeds. Special considerations need to be made to ensure that manufacturing assets have access to the information they require while providing enough bandwidth to support an ever-increasing need for data aggregation for process and production analysis. 

Networks in the manufacturing environment are subject to rugged environments. Truly industrial networks use cables and connectors designed specifically for these applications. And media redundancy and rapid fault recovery are essential in an industrial application to ensure the manufacturing process is safe and operating reliably. Further, industrial networks should be isolated from enterprise network traffic and should have mechanisms that ensure quality of service that prioritizes network traffic. To ensure reliability, now a critical part of manufacturing processes, the network should have less overhead than the typical TCP/IP protocol Ethernet that has been used in the past.

Traditional fieldbus network technology, Ethernet (10 Mb), and even Fast Ethernet (100 Mb) technologies cannot handle the data transmission requirements of most of today’s networked equipment. But starting around the turn of the millennium, Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mb) began to be used in critical enterprise IT environments, and a Gigabit Industrial Ethernet option was soon also available for use in manufacturing environments. Then in 2007, the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) launched CC-Link IE (Industrial Ethernet). 

An open Gigabit Industrial Ethernet network specifically designed for the manufacturing environment, CC-Link IE has grown steadily in popularity because of its unprecedented level of performance and reliability. CC-Link IE, designed to address the most common industrial networking challenges, has become a proven technology that provides the bandwidth needed to handle large amounts of data while ensuring the highest level of reliability and data integrity. 

Most installations do not have the wherewithal to implement a Gigabit Industrial Ethernet entirely across the manufacturing environment. Traditional fieldbus, Ethernet, and even Fast Ethernet networks have already been installed. However, using CC-Link IE Gigabit Industrial Ethernet for transferring large amounts of information between slower network technologies can be an option to improve network performance. This type of communication scheme, called Gigabit Industrial Ethernet Tunneling, can decrease network latency.

A wide selection of Gigabit Industrial Ethernet products, including controllers, network bridging devices, and enterprise connectivity appliances, is available to directly connect to CC-Link IE and integrate legacy network technologies. Courtesy: MitsubisEssentially, Gigabit Industrial Ethernet Tunneling works by connecting two independent slower and/or older TCP/IP Ethernet networks using Gigabit Industrial Ethernet. Two previously independent TCP/IP Ethernet networks (of the same variety) can now communicate with one another via a CC-Link IE Gigabit Industrial Ethernet network backbone. CC-Link IE completely encapsulates the TCP/IP Ethernet message within the data packet of its normal communications, which then allows two or more TCP/IP Ethernet networks to share information. Other devices directly on the CC-Link IE Gigabit Industrial Ethernet network are not affected by these TCP/IP Ethernet encapsulated messages because of the greater bandwidth of the Gigabit Industrial Ethernet network and the quality of service mechanisms that are leveraged.

Bandwidth bottleneck

To meet the informational requirements of today’s production facilities, manufacturers need to take steps to overcome the bandwidth bottleneck that exists in the network architecture among automated machinery. A good way to begin is to:

  • Consider the implementation of a Gigabit Industrial Ethernet backbone. CC-Link IE provides two network media options (fiber or twisted pair copper).
  • Isolate manufacturing and enterprise networks using VLANs to segment the two network environments.
  • Choose a network topology that best serves your application requirements. CC-Link IE allows mixing of network topologies that offer the most flexibility.
  • Identify where bridges need to be installed to encapsulate the TCP/IP Ethernet messages from legacy TCP/IP Ethernet networks onto the Gigabit Industrial Ethernet network.
  • Choose products that natively reside on a Gigabit Industrial Ethernet network as specifications are developed for new machines or as the controls on existing machinery are upgraded. 

Whether trying to improve end-product quality, add extra capacity, collect more data, or monitor diagnostic information, facilities will find following these steps can help ensure that manufacturing assets are communicating optimally. 

- Jeanine Katzel, Control Engineering. Information for this article was provided by Sloan Zupan, senior product manager, Mitsubishi Electric and John Wozniak, networking specialist, CLPA Americas. Edited by Jordan M. Schultz, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and

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