Industrial Ethernet's role becoming ever more important in China

The Chinese market for industrial Ethernet and fieldbus technologies grew by 18 million nodes in 2012. More than 3 million nodes used Ethernet and the remainder used fieldbus technology, according to IHS.


The Chinese market for industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus technologies by protocol. Source: IHSThe Chinese market for industrial Ethernet and fieldbus technologies grew by 18 million nodes in 2012, according to IHS. More than 3 million nodes used Ethernet and the remainder used fieldbus technology.

Although fieldbus has a large base of new connected nodes in China, the usage of fieldbus is not as common as in developed countries such as Germany or the United States. This is mainly because Chinese customers are encountering networking technology much later than those developing countries.

However, the growing speed of Ethernet is quite considerable in China, and we think it is a great opportunity for Chinese customers to upgrade their automation systems under current market conditions. Customers will just jump from old fieldbus technologies directly to Ethernet now and actually many of them are doing that right now. The Chinese market is currently engaged in extensive upgrading and new infrastructure construction, and that will require a great deal of Ethernet applications.

In China, international brands are quite influential. This is also true for industrial networking protocols because most of them have supporting companies. For example, the most popular fieldbus protocols in China are Profibus and CC-Link, which are developed and promoted by Siemens and Mitsubishi separately, which command large market share in China. [Other companies also use and promote these protocols.]

On the other hand, some open protocols also have a large number of nodes connected, and the most representative ones are CANOpen, Modbus, and HART. However, these three protocols don’t deliver strong functionality compared to Ethernet, and they are more likely to be used in low-end applications for easy connections.

With the upgrading of old facilities and the construction of new plants in China, customers also are being compelled to upgrade their systems using Ethernet. However, this move will not only be implemented by the customers, but also by the industrial automation vendors as well.

Most protocols have Ethernet variants. Because of this, many fieldbus users will turn to the Ethernet of the application, for example, Profibus to Profinet, CC-Link to CC-Link IE. And the new automation products also will support those new Ethernet connections.

- Information from IHS edited by CFE Media.

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Anonymous , 12/23/13 10:45 PM:

The article refers to “fieldbus” but misses the very important point that there are two distinct fieldbuses in plant architecture:
- H2 fieldbus: at level 1-1/2 of the Purdue reference model, connecting remote-I/O, PLCs, MCC, variable speed drives, motor starters, and wireless gateways to the DCS; including e.g. DeviceNet, Modbus/RTU, and PROFIBUS-DP
- H1 fieldbus: at level 1 of the Purdue reference model, connecting sensors/transmitters and positioners/actuators/valves to the DCS; including FOUNDATION fieldbus H1, PROFIBUS-PA, CompoNet, ASI, IO-link, and to some extent HART – these are taking the place of 4-20 mA and on/off signals

Because H1 and H2 are distinctly different in many ways, they should not be lumped together.

The articles is correct in that Ethernet is indeed making inroads at level 1-1/2 of the Purdue reference model, with EtherNet/IP, Modbus/TCP, PROFINET sometimes being used in applications which previously used DeviceNet, Modbus/RTU, or PROFIBUS-DP.

However, Ethernet is not taking the place of H1 fieldbus, 4-20 mA, or on/off signals.

Therefore, when the article says “Customers will just jump from old fieldbus technologies directly to Ethernet” this makes sense in the context of plants using Ethernet instead of H2 fieldbuses like DeviceNet, Modbus/RTU, and PROFIBUS-DP. It does not apply to H1 fieldbuses.

Note that H1 fieldbuses like CompoNet and IO-link were created AFTER the creation of EtherNet/IP and PROFINET to complement those protocols at the sensor actuator level to take the place of 4-20 mA and on/off signals where Ethernet is not suitable. Sensors and actuators do not use Ethernet. That is, H1 fieldbuses and industrial Ethernet complement each others.
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