Industry leaders worldwide are recognising the role of Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) as a critical enabler in the development of state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 applications. The CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI) are premier organisations acknowledging the opportunities offered by this enabling technology and dedicated to helping users and adopters maximise the gains. They are also committed to standardising certification guidelines for compatible devices, which is being achieved through the TSN Industrial Automation Conformance Collaboration (TIACC).
TSN is an update to the specifications of Ethernet, which makes it deterministic and provides the foundations of converged network architectures. As such, TSN is seen by established network technology and industrial automation experts as a key technology for future-oriented Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing applications. These will require the transfer of extraordinarily large volumes of different types of data across the enterprise, a requirement that only TSN can support, with its ability to provide a converged network via synchronisation, traffic scheduling, prioritisation and queueing functions. These abilities are behind key efforts from automation vendors to incorporate the technology within their new products.
Karsten Schneider, Chairman at PI, comments: “TSN is starting to become a relevant technology right now. The technology has developed over the last years and is now really ready to break through in the market. If you are a manufacturer of devices and you did not start (adopting it), you’d better get their hands dirty. Start with the technology and implement it, because now it’s the time for that.”
Given the prominent role of TSN in the creation of the highly automated production lines of the future across a wide range of industries, standardisation is key. To this end, various open network organisations have banded together to deliver a common way of testing for these systems. This has led to the TIACC initiative, which was set up to develop standardised testing for TSN conformance and involves the CLPA, PI, Avnu Alliance, ODVA and OPC Foundation.
Karsten Schneider explains: “Today we have a lot of dedicated technologies, which are proprietary and very specialised. With TSN we can offer an open, standardised infrastructure that all of us can use.”
Since its establishment, the TIACC working group has been focusing on helping network technology experts and industrial automation vendors adopt this innovation by developing a single common conformance test plan. This will support a single, standardised certification for TSN-compatible products, in line with the IEC/IEEE 60802 TSN profile for Industrial Automation.
Tom Burke, Global Strategic Advisor at the CLPA, adds: “The TIACC is all about conformance. We are working together to develop the necessary testing infrastructure to allow us to have consistency and validation of all of our networking technologies.” Karsten Schneider agrees: “TIACC is a very important milestone. We need to make sure that the interoperability in the end users spans (across all the base of installed devices) – we need to make sure that (our devices) work together. That’s why we started this collaboration: to define a common testing procedure and architecture to ensure interoperability.”
Thanks to the key activities of the TIACC program and its members, industrial automation engineers and vendors will be able to offer highly competitive, fully interoperable solutions that will help end users achieve quantum leaps in their digital transformation. As a result, the adoption of TSN can drive the competitiveness of all these communities. Tom Burke concludes: “The CLPA is here to help our partners quickly adopt the CC-Link IE TSN technology, the first open gigabit industrial Ethernet with TSN functions. We have got a multitude of partners that have been supporting CC-Link technologies for a long period of time, we are now working with those partners again to help them adopt the new TSN technology, enabling a communication bridge across the entire enterprise) via total interoperability.”