19 May 2022

Time-Sensitive Networking: helping shape the digital manufacturing facilities of the future

Smart Condition Monitoring

Thomas Burke, Global Strategic Advisor at CLPA, looks at the latest advances and trends in Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)-compatible industrial communications that are helping to shape the digital manufacturing facilities of the future, making them a reality.

Forward-looking automation vendors can now benefit from advanced industrial Ethernet technologies, such as CC-Link IE TSN, as well as a wide development ecosystem. As a result, businesses can apply next-level TSN functionalities to a variety of automation devices.

TSN is a key technology that enhances the capabilities of standard industrial Ethernet. It offers the opportunity to guarantee deterministic communications, even for ultra-high-speed applications, thus enabling network convergence both on the shop floor and between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). This can deliver a variety of benefits, such as simpler network architectures, increased process transparency and hence better productivity.

Comprehensive development ecosystem for TSN

Since the release of industrial Ethernet with TSN functions, such as CC-Link IE TSN, a broad range of development options has been created. Such a framework plays a key role in facilitating the transition towards this technology while supporting different applications.

For example, automation vendors interested in rapidly upgrading their existing products can leverage software development kits (SDKs) and their TSN software protocol stacks. In effect, these offer perhaps the fastest method to provide TSN capabilities to ‘brownfield’ devices. Examples of this are stacks from port industrial automation GmbH and SILA Embedded Solutions GmbH/Embedded Experts GmbH, which support CC-Link IE TSN compliance while reducing in-house development time and costs for component manufacturers.

For more demanding TSN-compatible applications, several hardware development methods can be adopted. While these may require more development effort, they can deliver highly competitive products and longer lifecycles. Key solutions include a variety of semiconductor devices, as well as embedded/built-in module solutions. These feature different capabilities and advantages, addressing the specific needs of a broad range of applications.

Specific CC-Link IE TSN solutions that are available include Mitsubishi Electric’s CP610 & 620 communication LSI, NXP Semiconductors’ Layerscape LS1028A applications processor and i.MX RT1170 crossover microcontroller as well as Renesas’ R-IN32M4-CL3 industrial Ethernet IC/IAR KickStart kit.

North America is offering automation vendors a valuable marketplace, as the adoption of industrial automation solutions and robotics is increasing considerably in the area. This is why it is expected to emerge as a leading region in the TSN market. Local vendors can therefore tap into these new opportunities thanks to an increasing number of development solutions, which are being offered to help deliver innovative products with this next-generation industrial Ethernet technology.

Forward-looking automation suppliers should take these chances available now to futureproof their products. This means selecting the most suitable development method for their needs. By selecting CC-Link IE TSN and its broad development ecosystem, companies can succeed in this task and quickly deliver highly competitive automation components.

To find out more about key development options for TSN-compatible automation devices, a new white paper on the topic is available for download at: CC-Link IE TSN Free Compliance Testing Certification Campaign | CC-Link Partner Association. The document explores in detail the different solutions available and how they can suit different products and applications.