Powerlink is a real-time Ethernet that can transfer real-time data in the microsecond range. This occurs especially with the transfer of process data or in automation engineering. With this Ethernet, it is absolutely necessary to know the exact characteristics of such a technology to be able to give information concerning the return on investment. In this sense, it can be said that Powerlink has established itself in recent years and that their application has proven itself. In the following, certain characteristics of Powerlink will be described in detail, and the advantages of the system will be demonstrated. The most important characteristics include hot plugging, simple diagnosis, free wiring, cross traffic, and integration of the CANopen mechanisms.

The Success History of Powerlink

The success history begins 2001, when Powerlink was developed as the first functional Industrial Ethernet system with hard real-time and launched onto the market in 2002. Till now, it has remained the number one product on the market, with aprecedent market presence and, at the same time, high quality. It is known as an open, pure software solution that operates with different standard hardware components and Ethernet frames which fully conform to standards. This standard guarantees a high degree of independence for manufacturers as well as operators.

Criteria for Powerlink in hard real-time

When starting to make the decision for or against a specific technology, certain aspects and criteria of the requirements should be clarified with regard to the clock times and the accuracy of the synchronization of the specific process flow. These are only general criteria, which can be supplementary in the respective industry sectors by many other requirements. The functionality of the automation solution and the costs aspect play an important role in this.
Safety is still an essential criterion for technologies like Powerlink. Amongst other things, this sector includes the ability to integrate safety technology and the capacity for redundant system design. Type and scope of the safety concept, as well as certification of the technology, are again decisive here. Powerlink Safety has already been released by the TÜV-Rheinland, and the redundant system design has also been certified. In practice, Powerlink Safety has proven itself. With the open, real-time-enabled Ethernet Powerlink protocol, systems up to safety level SIL-3 can be realized. Furthermore, unsecure networks and transport protocols do not present a danger and limitation for the functionality, in which Powerlinkis again superior to other protocols.
Furthermore, the standardization is a relevant aspect, as it concerns the expandability and the return oninvestment in the system. This also unites Powerlink Safety and as an open solution is thus always the right choice.

All topologies possible with Powerlink

With the free wiring, Powerlink offers huge advantages in comparison to alternative technologies on the market. Star, tree, ring, or line topology is not relevant, as Powerlink can realize all network structures and network combinations. Powerlinkcan also guarantee a completely free system expansion, which does not impair real-time. In comparison to this, rigid topologies often cause problems. Hardly any system offers these freedoms to the operators, while simultaneously guaranteeing high technological quality.

Cross Traffic (MCR)

A further central characteristic of Powerlink is the enabling of communication by cross traffic. All participants in the network can receive the data sent to the network by one participant, which increases the speed of the data traffic as communication by cross traffic eliminates the route via the master. Furthermore, the cross traffic with Powerlink is an ideal basis for synchronization of the participants. Its advantages are the time savings, simplification of the system, and reducing the load of the control tasks.

Hot plugging

The hot-plugging with Powerlink offers two decisive advantages. No new configuration is required when a model is added or replaced, and there is no machine downtime when a module is replaced or a new device is added during operation. The Powerlink system still continues to work without the hot-plugging, as the real-time is impaired. A lack of hot plugging can mean expensive downtimes and setup times even with replacement of a small machine part. Powerlink avoids this with its efficient and expandable system.

System Diagnosis

System diagnosis should be possible in order that the network analyzer can check the functions of the data traffic and measure the wiring with the standard tools and standard devices. Powerlink can show these functions because of the closeness of the bus system to the standard. The communication structure has the same importance, as Powerlink offers a bandwidth for diagnosis purposes that cannot be converted deliberately.

Full Interoperability with CANopen

Is the system intended for use in process or industry automation? This question is very important when considering the added value of individual Powerlink characteristics for individual operators. First of all, the analysis of the already existing structures is important. For CANopen, Powerlink is an optimal expansion, as all CANopen mechanisms are fully integrated with Powerlink and the same device profiles are used. Furthermore, existing systems can be optimized in regard to speed and range without changing the applications. Overall, CANopen has a life expectation of at least 15 years because of its widespread use, so that supplementing it with the Powerlink system is an investment which will pay.