Cutting Operating Costs Thanks to a Broad Connectivity Spectrum - Ethernet Switches for Modern Industrial Environments

05/19/2021 Know-How

Industry 4.0 and the IIoT are becoming increasingly established. The digital transformation has long been underway in manufacturing companies around the world. Analysts from leading market research institutes collectively speak of a market worth billions for components and solutions. Industrial switches play a key role here.

The blinding pace of development of IIoT and Industry 4.0 revolves entirely around the Cloud. Around the world, manufacturing companies are increasingly relocating their IT-based processes to cloud platforms. This is causing an ongoing fusion between formerly strictly segregated production-related operational IT (OT) activities and conventional information technology (IT). Industrial standards are urgently needed to overcome the discrepancies in the standards between these segments.

High Expectations in a Robust Industrial Environment

Modern high-performance chips, automation solutions, 5G connectivity and IT - and not least industrial switches - are essential components for successful applications in the fields of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT. Complex solutions used in robust industrial environments demand perfect alignment between hardware, software, and connectivity with production systems. This is the only way that the digital transformation can be successfully achieved in manufacturing industrial enterprises.

Industrial Switches for High-Speed Ethernet

From 2021, numerous new industrial Ethernet switches suitable for Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet and in future also 10 Gigabit networks will be launched on the market, meeting the requirements of components for industrial applications, which need to operate perfectly under sometimes critical conditions. This includes a compact construction as well as the option to connect machinery, control systems and other components based on industrial standards and integrate them with one another without any problems. One supplier looking to establish itself in this market environment is Kontron.

Kontron consistently utilizes a single chip design for its industrial Ethernet switches that combines all of the required components into a single chip as far as possible. The advantage of this is that it results in more reliable and lower-cost products. Data throughput and performance increase while power usage decreases, which has a positive impact on the total cost of ownership (TCO) of an environment. Fewer individual components on the board enables a construction that is lower-cost and more compact, thus reducing the amount of space needed in the switch cabinet or in industrial racks by 35% compared to other solutions. Flexibility is provided by the ability to mount it on a top hat rail in a 19" switch cabinet or to directly install it on the machine using various adapters.

Resistant to Environmental Influences

All devices in this new product family have a high-quality metal case that is ideal for use in harsh environments. This means that the switches are not sensitive to environmental influences and operate well in relation to temperature. These industrial Ethernet switches are not fazed by vibrations, impacts or falls.

Harsh environments in many applications also mean that devices need to be able to deal with substantial temperature differences without adversely affecting operation and disrupting production processes. The switches can be used in temperatures of -40 to +75°C or -10 to +60°C as standard. Most models also support a wider supply voltage range of 12 to 58V DC with two redundant inputs.

There are also often strong magnetic fields or unstable supply voltages in production environments, which is why these switches are fitted with robust power supply units as standard and every port features a safety standard with surge immunity of up to 2kV for EMC purposes.

Ethernet for More Connectivity

All of the industrial Ethernet switch models available as of early 2021 offer full bandwidth (wirespeed), enabling the implementation of Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet and in future also 10G Ethernet without any packet loss. The devices feature RJ45 and optionally also SFP (Small Form Factor Pluggable) slots, providing users with a broad spectrum of standardized, low-cost connection options that are independent of the products of specific manufacturers. SFPs are available as modular, optical or electrical transceivers for fiber optics or "direct attach copper" and offer flexibility and scalability for any given application.

Numerous switches will support Power over Ethernet (PoE/PoE+, Ultra PoE), which makes it easier to supply external components with power. Some models will be operable as powered devices, which means that they themselves can be supplied via PoE, reducing the complexity of installation and saving costs. The management functions implemented enable easy creation of virtual local networks (VLAN) in industrial cloud environments, for example. It is also possible to structure networks and isolate them from one another for security reasons.

Customers who opt for the latest generation of switches will benefit from state-of-the-art design, high quality, a large range of functions, and standards-based solutions that can be integrated into any environment without any problems. Attractive investment and operating costs and the option of modular expansions facilitate the development of a future-proofed environment that can satisfy the current and future needs of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT.


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