By Thomas Burke
How industrial sectors can leverage Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) for industrial communications
By Thomas Burke
Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) is considered by industry leaders as the future of industrial communications.
In effect, it is poised to bring data transfer to the next-level, enabling Industry 4.0 applications. While the adoption of TSN is still in its early stages, with future-oriented businesses picking up the pace, this technology holds enormous potential for numerous manufacturing sectors.
Here’s how different industrial sectors can reap a multitude of benefits by leveraging TSN for industrial communications:
1. Simplified machine design and higher performance for the converting sector
One of the key features of TSN that can bring great benefits to manufacturers is its ability to synchronize all network devices with high accuracy, especially when used with gigabit bandwidth. As a result, it is possible to ensure deterministic communications for time-critical high-speed applications, such as motion control.
For example, when this feature is adopted in networks used in the converting industry, plants can achieve accurate synchronization between multiple axes on a machine.
By being able to control the motion of many different axes simultaneously over one network, facilities can optimize product quality and production processes as well as increasing the flexibility of their architectures and machines, while simplifying the mechanical set up. The end result is reduced time for retooling and maximized product yield.
2. Transparency and traceability for food & beverage
Accurate and precise time synchronization, as offered by TSN technology, is also extremely important when transparency and traceability are crucial.
The success of sensitive industries, such as food and beverage, relies heavily upon key process data, which need to be monitored to ensure product quality and compliance with relevant regulations or good manufacturing practices.
These data require accurate timestamps that support visibility within the network and throughout the production process, eliminating any “blind spot” where issues can grow unnoticed.
By building a fully synchronized device network, TSN can support precise time-stamping for timing analysis. In this way, food and beverage facilities can rely on a high degree of traceability throughout their networks and guarantee product quality and safety.
3. Better quality in automotive
TSN technology, particularly when combined with gigabit bandwidth, can also push manufacturing facilities to speed up their production processes, whilst ensuring determinism. This can be particularly useful for automotive assembly plants.
These facilities are responsible for the production of a wide variety of models, each characterized by different trim levels. Hence it is mandatory for these manufacturing systems to handle large amounts of data generated in real time during the assembly of various car parts.
Only in this way, manufacturers can ensure that the different combinations of possible model variations do not slow down cycle times and the allocated parts are fitted correctly on the right models, at the right time, in a traceable manner.
Automotive companies can use TSN to build production lines that ensure short cycle times, as the technology combines advanced synchronization with traffic prioritization capabilities. The latter allow the network to deliver time-critical traffic exactly when needed, while allowing less critical traffic to co-exist on the network.
Consequently, total cost of ownership can be reduced, since multiple types of network can now be combined onto a single hierarchy. The end result is higher performance, lowered costs and simplified maintenance. This finally translates into better-quality vehicles.
4. Higher levels of integration for semiconductor manufacturing
Synchronicity and traffic prioritization are also key to combining different types of process control on one network and effectively handling different recipes and activities across multiple machines and stations.
For example, TSN can support the semiconductor industry, which is characterized by numerous processing stages, all requiring process, discrete and motion control, along with integration of robots and IT systems.
TSN-based networks for the sector allow businesses to mix time-critical data for high-performance, high-speed motion control with slower, less time-dependent traffic, e.g. for machine vision process monitoring. Furthermore, manufacturers are given the opportunity to integrate auxiliary systems into their process and associated networks.
Ultimately, semiconductor producers can enhance flexibility in their network architecture and in their processes.
More than TSN
While TSN offers a number of advantages to manufacturers per se, it provides a comprehensive solution when combined with an open network technology that offers high bandwidth.
In this way, businesses are able to handle the large volume of data that modern Industry 4.0 applications will generate. As a result, they can further enhance network reliability, productivity and quality assurance strategies.
An example of an industrial network offering these paired capabilities is CLPA’s CC-Link IE TSN. This is the first open Ethernet technology to merge gigabit bandwidth and key TSN functionalities, time synchronization and traffic prioritization.
Thomas Burke is global strategic advisor at the CC-Link Partner Organization (CLPA).