Ethernet is just not for the office local area network anymore. Ethernet is finding increasing usage in a production environment. Companies are finding multiple industrial uses for Ethernet cables in their factories and industrial facilities. Production environments are seeing increased reliability, safety, and efficiency with Ethernet. Here are four industrial uses of Ethernet cables that go beyond the typical computer network communication applications.
Factories hum with activity. Different machines run at the same time and they work together to produce products. Any automation requires communication and each machine isn’t its own island. What it does is dependent on what another machine is doing. Bottlenecks can enter the system if automation is not properly networked. Every bottleneck represents lost revenue and lost efficiency.
Industrial Ethernet represents one of the best ways to link different machines together so that they can talk to each other. Every machine on the production floor can be linked together with an Ethernet based network. These industrial Ethernet cables are not subject to degradation of signal quality like other solutions might be. They are made to handle tough industrial environments.
Industrial Control Systems
Ethernet is also particularly useful in industrial control systems. Many industrial control systems are digital in nature and are computer controlled. Ethernet is the natural solution since computers naturally support it and so do many industrial control systems. Ethernet adapters are available for systems that weren’t built with Ethernet support.
Industrial Ethernet is made for tough environments and long runs of cable can be made from control centers to the systems that need to be controlled. Industrial engineers know that downtime from failed control systems can be extremely costly. Failed control systems can also affect the health and safety of workers. Reliability requires a solution that is readily available and standardized. Ethernet fits the bill for control systems.
Internet of Things
Internet of things (IOT) is the new buzzword for networked sensors and controllers. In the consumer world, these might be Internet-connected refrigerators, microwaves, and even garage door openers. In the industrial world, these are the sensors and controllers inside machinery. They send their stream of data collected over the internet to centralized servers. Engineers can go through the data and send back commands based on the data.
IOT devices are usually connected via Wi-Fi but in an industrial environment, this might not the best choice. With countless other devices, interference can become a problem. A better solution is to use industrial Ethernet to connect these devices together so that there are not problems with lost or sloppy connections.
3D Rapid Manufacturing
In large scale manufacturing, nothing beats injection molding when producing plastic parts. There is a huge variety of plastics available for injection molding and once a mold is created, additional parts are produced for not much more than the cost of the raw plastic. For smaller projects, injection molding can be cost prohibitive. 3D printing represents a solution for smaller production runs.
Ethernet is the glue that holds a 3D rapid manufacturing system together. The printers rely on Ethernet to connect them together and allow production to take place. One machine can print one part while another is producing another part and so on. These parts can be assembled by a technician and the part is ready for shipment. 3D rapid manufacturing is the future of small-scale manufacturing and Ethernet will play a key role.
These 4 industrial uses of Ethernet cable represent just a few of the possible uses of Ethernet in a production environment. Smart businesses are quickly realizing just how important industrial Ethernet applications are for their business. Utilizing Ethernet cables where appropriate can lead to better safety, reliability, and efficiency.