During the recent announcement of the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI), participants centered the specification on the functionality of a ‘coupler’ device that enables transparent communication between the two protocols. Subsequently, Hilscher has demonstrated its intent to bring the first coupler products to market, enabling both networks to seamlessly share information.
With the new coupler, users can effectively achieve communication between differing parts of a line on separate networks, increasing transparency and integration, according to the maker. The simple bridge between the two networks aims to reduce the engineering work that has traditionally been necessary to achieve integration across the heterogeneous network architectures, which are common in plants around the world.
In particular, say participants, this will better enable companies to source best-of-breed machinery from different suppliers in different regions of the world, rather than feeling a need to compromise on functionality or performance simply for the convenience of maintaining a single network protocol. With CC-Link IE, an acknowledged technology leader in the Asian Market, and PROFINET being most prevalent in Europe, the new specification aims to simplify integration and increase freedom-of-choice for end users who source production machinery globally.
Hilscher business development manager Armin Pühringer says: “When CLPA and PI announced their joint specification intentions, there was a call for technology leaders to apply their expertise to the development of the specification for the requisite coupler device. Hilscher has a long relationship with PROFINET technology and CC-Link based technologies, so it made good sense for us to get engaged in the common development of a specification for an interface between the two protocols. We have taken our competence in data handling at every level, and applied that competence to the development of the specification. This will be followed by our new coupler itself.”
By facilitating transparency and ease of integration across two of the global leaders in networking standards, Hilscher’s coupler also addresses goals of the transition to Industry 4.0 definitions of plant operations.
Hilscher displayed prototypes of the new device on the CLPA stand at the 2016 SPS/IPC/Drives fair in Nuremberg and again at SPS Italia in Parma in 2017. Hilscher will have prototypes with basic functionalities in October of this year, with a launch scheduled for Tokyo and Nuremberg in November. Full product release is expected near the end of the first quarter 2018.
“This is a significant step forward,” says CLPA Director Robert Miller. “CLPA and PI committed to completing the development of the coupler specification in one year at SPS/IPC/Drives in 2015, and delivered on this promise in 2016. With Hilscher’s commitment to bring actual products to market, this shows that the CLPA/PI cooperation is on track to deliver solutions requested by our End Users and partners.”