There are a large number of industrial device manufacturers. It’s impossible to count them all. There are, of course, the ones you think of immediately: motor drives, valves, programmable controllers, photoeyes, and lots more. Then there are the more obscure ones like the devices that count things as they are falling. I’m not sure if there is a name for those things, but if you have objects – massive, medium sized or tiny, they’ll count them as they fall from one place to another.
A few years ago, connectivity was just an option for these industrial device manufacturers. In that not so recent past, Modbus was your go-to connectivity solution. If somebody needed data from your device, you told them “We support Modbus” and that was the end of it. Ethernet was almost unheard of for factory floor devices. I remember a plant manager who said that “Ethernet will never be in our plant.”
Now, of course, your customers assume that you support all the well-known connectivity options. It’s a check box on their list of requirements. If they’re an Allen-Bradley shop, they’ll want EtherNet/IP. If they’re a Siemens shop, it’s PROFINET IO. And for everybody else, you want Modbus TCP. DeviceNet and Profibus DP used to be important but are quickly fading away as everybody switches to Ethernet.
If you’re in the US and need to get connected, EtherNet/IP is your first step. There are still more EtherNet/IP shops than anything else in the US. But how do you get started? There’s a sequence that we use when we assist customers to get EtherNet/IP connected. Here are the major steps of our process:
OBJECT MODEL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING – Developing the external view of your device is the first and most important step in getting your device EtherNet/IP connected. What is an object model? An EtherNet/IP Object Model is the representation of your device’s data as Objects with Attributes. Attributes are data values and Objects are simply the collection of similar Attributes.
EtherNet/IP Object Model development is the first and most important step in the EtherNet/IP development process because it’s how your user works with your device. It’s their understanding of what’s in your device.
The best object models not only accurately represent your device’s data, but they are organized in a way that is usable by the logic of a programmable controller. The way to get that done well is to combine your knowledge of your device and its data with our knowledge of how EtherNet/IP users access devices from a ControlLogix or CompactLogix Programmable Controller.
IMPLEMENTATION – Once the prework of planning your object model is done, the next step is to “turn the crank” – that’s the process of getting the software to work. Planning is 80% of the project, turning the crank is 20%. This includes integrating the EtherNet/IP stack into your project, building the explicit message handler, creating the logic to process outputs from the controller, and so on. In this step, we very much like to have your developer come to our office for two or three days and get all this done in our connectivity lab. It’s much easier and faster for both of us.
CONFORMANCE TESTING – The last of the three EtherNet/IP development steps is conformance testing. This is the part where you get the EtherNet/IP Conformance logo to use on all your marketing literature. In this step, you send your device to us, we pretest it in our lab and then send it to the conformance test lab for you. We represent you at the lab and work with the conformance test lab to answer any questions and get your device to pass.
It’s not a difficult or complicated process. Device manufacturers of drives, valves, pumps and other devices have been successfully working through this process with us for almost twenty years now. If your customers need your device to be EtherNet/IP connected, fill out the EtherNet/IP contact form and we’ll get you all the information.