Ethernet main physical layer for factory-floor communications

Apr 19, 2018

Industrial Ethernet has overtaken traditional fieldbuses in terms of new installed nodes in factory automation according to HMS Industrial Networks’ annual study of the industrial network market (Figure). Industrial Ethernet now accounts for 52% of new installed nodes (46% last year), while fieldbuses are used on 42% of devices (48% last year). EtherNet/IP is now the most widely installed network at 15%, followed by Profinet and Profibus, both at 12%. Wireless technologies are also coming on strong with 6% market share.

“We have seen the transition to industrial Ethernet for a long time, but it isn’t until now that it has actually overtaken fieldbuses when it comes to number of new installed nodes,” says Anders Hansson, chief marketing officer at HMS. “The transition to industrial Ethernet is driven by the need for high performance, integration between factory installations and IT/IoT-systems, as well as the Industrial Internet of Things in general.”

Boosted by a strong industry and cybersecurity concerns, shipments of fieldbus-based devices continue to grow. However, despite an increased growth rate at 6% (4% last year), the number of fieldbus installations are expected to decline steadily. The dominant fieldbus remains Profibus, with 12% of the total world market, followed by Modbus-RTU and CC-Link, both at 6%.

Wireless technologies are also growing at a 32% annual rate, and account for 6% of the total market. Within Wireless, WLAN is the most popular technology, followed by Bluetooth. “Wireless is increasingly being used by machine builders and system integrators to realize innovative automation architectures. Users can reduce cabling and create new solutions for connectivity and control, including bring-your-own-device (BYOD) solutions via tablets or smartphones,” says Hansson.

In Europe and the Middle East, Profinet and EtherNet/IP are leading and Profibus is still widely used. Other popular networks are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet Powerlink. The US market is led by the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) networks, with a clear movement towards EtherNet/IP. In Asia, no network stands out as truly market-leading, but Profinet, EtherNet/IP, Profibus, EtherCAT, Modbus and CC-Link are widely used, with the Ethernet version CC-Link IE Field also gaining traction.