TechnologySeptember 19, 2021

Development of TSN devices for automation control

There are numerous development methods that are theoretically available to support businesses during the creation of devices with TSN capabilities. (© krystiannawrocki)

TSN is the future of industrial Ethernet and an enabling technology to support connected industries. To tap into this new market, vendors of automation devices and machines should start to offer key TSN-compatible options now. Selecting the right development path is key to ensuring success.

TSN is an innovative technology that enhances the capabilities of industrial Ethernet. It is considered the future of industrial communications, as it supports the transfer of different types of data traffic with high predictability, delivering essential determinism for time-critical control functions on the shop floor. As a result, TSN is key to supporting network convergence, ultimately enabling the merge of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) domains.

The ability to share information between the OT and IT worlds is essential to gain comprehensive, data-driven insights for smart manufacturing – and it is at the core of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The convergence offered by TSN is a must to futureproof production activities, creating highly effective connected industries.

TSN development options

Automation vendors play a key role in supporting companies in the implementation of this innovative technology. To address the current and future market needs, forward-looking device developers should begin to offer TSN-compatible products and systems quickly. By doing so they can help shape the future of industrial automation while enhancing their competitiveness.

There are numerous development methods that are theoretically available to support businesses during the creation of devices with TSN capabilities. These can be broadly divided into software- or hardware-based alternatives and can offer distinct capabilities in terms of performance, ease of implementation, flexibility and cost.

For example, software development kits (SDKs) or stacks generally offer an economical and rapid route, however they may not be able to achieve the highest performance levels. Conversely, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) typically provide high flexibility and capabilities, but their cost may make them more suited to higher end products. Device makers should therefore identify the industrial Ethernet technology solution with the open development ecosystem that best addresses their needs.

Consider development ecosystem

When offering a variety of products, different development methods may be necessary to meet the individual specifications or target market.

This is why it is highly beneficial for device manufacturers to rely on technologies that offer a comprehensive development ecosystem when looking at incorporating ‘the future of industrial Ethernet’ in their solutions.

In particular, this should offer both hardware and software solutions in order to address the specific needs and requirements of various applications. In effect, this flexibility can help to utilise existing products or platforms, upgrading them to offer TSN compatibility and minimising design cost and effort.

In this way, it may be possible to avoid costly development expenses while helping customers implement the technology in stages, replacing their existing components with new alternatives. Ultimately, this makes it easier for both automation vendors and end users to approach TSN and experience its benefits.

An industrial Ethernet technology with this kind of broad development ecosystem is CC-Link IE TSN. This supports both software- and hardware-based strategies for master, remote and local stations. In particular, solutions such as SDKs, dedicated integrated circuits and embedded modules are available for automation vendors. Additionally, businesses can leverage PC boards to support TSN on industrial PCs as well as specialised development options for safety applications.

By choosing CC-Link IE TSN, device manufacturers can therefore find suitable alternatives to streamline the upgrade of their existing solutions to TSN. As a result, they can quickly bring to market innovative products and systems, enhancing their own competitiveness and that of their customers.

John Browett, General Manager, CLPA Europe