New structured cabling system market ready to take off

Industrial Ethernet makes up only 0.l3% of the LAN cabling market, but is expected to be a gigantic 43.1% by 2006

Feb 1st, 2002
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Industrial Ethernet makes up only 0.13% of the LAN cabling market, but is expected to be a gigantic 43.1% by 2006.

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A new market for structured cabling systems (SCS), which resembles the growth for SCS in the commercial LAN environment in the 1990s, is emerging. From recent analysis, I have identified this market as Industrial Ethernet, which primarily means the factory floor-an environment in which, unlike the commercial LAN cabling environment, cabling products may be exposed to harsh conditions.

Temperature and humidity extremes, vibrations, dirt, and exposure to gases or fluids are conditions under which cabling products must perform. Therefore, new cabling products that are hardened to such harsh environments are required.

New, industrial-environment-ready RJ-style connectors are being introduced. For example, The Siemon Company has introduced one such connector, and connectivity-manufacturer Ortronics is partnering with industrial-component company Woodhead Connectivity to offer products.

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is in the process of defining cabling standards for this new market, including a new cable type being called Category 5i ("i" for "industrial"). This cable may have Category 5 or Category 5e performance, with additional parameters such as common-mode noise rejection, and a cable jacket hardened for the harsh environment in which it will be placed.

This industrial market has been minimally penetrated to date because of the use of proprietary legacy Field bus protocols in industrial environments. Recent developments in providing Ethernet interfaces to these Fieldbus protocols are paving the way for the use of Ether net. Additionally, the higher-layer protocols must be standardized for seamless Ethernet communication among different manufacturers' products.

The recent fostering of OPC DX for the upper-layer protocols is expected to solve this issue. These and other standards, as well as compatibility issues, will affect the launch of Ethernet into this new market.

The need for Ethernet

The need for Ethernet on the factory floor is now required, as it will enable intercommunication within the enterprise's in-place commercial Ethernet LAN systems. For example, such intercommunication will let a purchasing manager-in an office removed from the factory floor-access, in real time, the inventory status of raw materials or finished products on the factory floor.

In our analysis, we project that the growth of the Industrial Ethernet market will occur in two stages. First will be the use of Ethernet to communicate to the enterprise's other LANs and to intercommunicate among the various programmable logic controllers (PLCs) on the factory floor. The second growth wave, which is expected to begin several years out, will be the extension of Ethernet to input/output (I/O) devices. This phase will require significant new cabling between the PLCs and the I/O devices, which include input sensors such as switches and thermostats, and output devices such as motor drives and solenoids.

From our analysis, we determined that in 2001, there were approximately 2,900 industrial sites with 94,500 Ethernet nodes in place. Our analysis indicates that by 2006, the number of sites will grow to 176,000, with the number of installed nodes expected to exceed 8 million.

The Industrial Ethernet market currently makes up 0.l3% of the LAN cabling market, but is expected to be a gigantic 43.1% of the LAN market by 2006.


Frank Murawskiis president of FTM Consulting in Hummelstown, PA. He can be reached at (717) 533-4990 or ftm.consulting@gte.net. Information in this article was taken from FTM's recent study, "Industrial Ethernet SCS Market."

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