Profibus & Profinet International (PI) technologies have been firmly established in process automation for years. Profibus PA is recognised as a powerful proven fieldbus system. Profinet has been expanded in response to specific requirements from users in the process industries. As a backbone Profinet is therefore well suited for the merging of process data stored in control systems and field devices. This was good reason for PI to merge these two technologies into a future-oriented package that will enable operators of process-related plants to continue using proven installed technology and to simultaneously access the latest technologies and Industrie 4.0.
To achieve this goal, a corresponding multi-phase project with support of well-known users was launched within PI to establish Profinet broadly in all sectors of the process industry down to the field level. The project objectives are, on the one hand, medium-term objectives, for the deliberate purpose of adapting to technologies currently undergoing development or specification. On the other hand, the use of Profinet is already a reality for process-related applications that do not require explosion protection (such as the water/wastewater and food sectors). Here Profinet as system bus not only carries out the backbone function but also extends down to the field level, where it provides functions such as network diagnostics and topology detection.
Already specified and thus foreseeable are products and systems in which existing or new Profibus PA segments can be connected to Profinet via intelligent, cross-vendor standardised link components (proxy technologies) with little engineering effort. Work is currently underway on an update to the profile for PA devices that will enable direct connection of process field devices to Profinet and the corresponding mapping for use in non-hazardous areas. As a particularly ambitious goal, current efforts for an Ethernet product for hazardous areas and long cable distances are being intensively pursued.
Industrie 4.0 requires Industrial Ethernet as its "lifelin", and Profinet is very well suited for that. The project launched by PI will merge Profibus PA and Profinet by first connecting existing PA products followed by gradual integration or development of Profinet technologies needed for PA. This procedure will make Profibus PA into a future-proof building block for Industrie 4.0 applications in process technology.
Details on the "Industrial Ethernet in the Process Industry" Profibus & Profinet International project are contained in a PI white paper available for free download at www.profibus.com/whitepaper_pa.