According to a new ARC Advisory Group study, future prospects for non-Ethernet based industrial device networks look increasingly narrow, as industrial Ethernet continues its migration into lower levels of the industrial automation hierarchy. Growth in shipments of traditional industrial device networks will continue through the end of the decade, but the rate of growth will slow from the double-digit annual gains witnessed to date to more modest single-digit increases. The worldwide market for traditional industrial device networks is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.7 per cent over the next five years. The market totalled over 12 million nodes shipped in 2006 and is forecast to be close to 23 million nodes in 2011.
Originally viewed over a decade ago as a radical departure from conventional point-to-point factory automation wiring schemes, device networks have been rapidly assimilated into automation hierarchies by virtue of their ability to dramatically lower wiring costs and increase network functionality.
Vice President Chantal Polsonetti, the principal author of ARC's Industrial Device Networks Worldwide Outlook, comments: "The sustained value propositions of low-cost installation and incremental functionality will contribute to ongoing growth in shipments, as will the use of device networks in speciality applications and as a low-level complement to industrial Ethernet architectures."
OEM machinery applications
A number of the traditional industrial device networks have passed the significant milestones of ten years of service and millions of nodes installed. Adoption has been particularly strong in OEM machinery applications, as both standard and proprietary device networks are used to wire the myriad sensors, actuators, remote I/O, and other devices deployed. Device networks help OEMs reduce hardware, installation and maintenance costs through reduced wiring requirements, remote access capabilities, and the ability to reuse configurations, profiles, and other software-based components. Traditional device networks also enable incorporation of embedded, distributed functionality that can drive higher machine availability.
The need for device networks to coexist with other types of industrial interfaces, including industrial Ethernet, is increasingly obvious. While third parties and other entities are introducing physical layer connectors that enable hardware integration of disparate networks, network integration at a higher level delivers greater value-add to the end users and OEMs who use device networks. This type of integration is delivered in the support of common profiles, configuration tools, and similar software-oriented components that permit management of the separate entities as if they were part of a single system.
OEM applications in a wide range of industrial machinery will continue to adopt and use traditional device networks due to the direct business benefits they deliver to both the OEM/system integrator and ultimate end user, resulting in a further increase in share of shipments. As the machinery markets in China and the rest of Asia continue to represent the largest growth through the end of the decade, the increasing use of device networks by OEMs in these regions will drive geographic share growth.