Ideal Networks recently launched NaviTEK IE, which it describes as a purpose-built handheld network tester designed for commissioning, preventive maintenance, and troubleshooting of ProfiNet industrial Ethernet networks as well as standard Ethernet IP networks.
“The new, rugged NaviTEK IE copper and fiber troubleshooter has been developed to simplify the process of testing both cabling and networks in industrial Ethernet networks that use the ProfiNet protocol,” the company said. “Previously, a laptop with specialist software would be required to identify and test network nodes and configuration, which could prove cumbersome in these typically desk-free environments.”
Tim Widdershoven, marketing director for Ideal Networks, commented, “With its compact, touchscreen design, NaviTEK IE has been designed to be a more convenient and efficient alternative to using a laptop, while catering for the physical differences between industrial Ethernet cabling and other networks. With just one tester, technicians can troubleshoot at any point in a network and benefit from the functionality than any other individual tester on the market.”
The company further explained that the NaviTEK IE offers all the same features as its NaviTEK NT Pro, but with a range of additional tools specific to the needs of industrial Ethernet, where packet-delivery time is critical for operation. “For instance, the system health check feature on NaviTEK IE enables frontline technicians to pinpoint potential issues before they become network failures and result in downtime. With an easy-to-understand traffic-light system, the health check provides a quick indication of how each device is performing. Clicking on each device provides further details of the issues discovered so corrective actions can be taken.”
Widdershoven continued, “In industrial Ethernet applications, preventive maintenance is often key to keeping operations running profitably and efficiently. Consider a bottling plant, for example. A sensor that is operational but also generates errors could easily be overlooked, however it could malfunction and result in factory downtime. With the health check feature, this is avoidable, as you can act on the problem when you see an ‘amber’ indication.”
The handheld tester also deals with another common cause of downtime—cable faults. “Advanced wiremap tools on NaviTEK IE allow users to automatically discover cable, network or device configuration, or faults, at the touch of a button,” Ideal Networks explains. “The tester uses time domain reflectometry to provide accurate distance to fault data, testing every wire in the data cable, not every pair, to help isolate issues that other testers cannot find and can be customized to support standard and non-standard cabling configurations.”
“Locating cable faults quickly is particularly important for industrial Ethernet applications,” Widdershoven added. “Unlike cabling in a static office environment, these operations typically have constantly moving devices, such as robots, sensors or conveyors, connected to the network. This means there is an increased risk of sustaining damage.”
For copper cabling—using the RJ-45 or M12 interfaces included with the NaviTEK IE kit—the tester displays the correct wiring colors for the protocol used, measures the length, and determines where and what the cable fault is, including split pairs, opens, shorts and miswires.
Technicians testing fiber cabling can use an optional SFP module to test different wavelengths, measure the optical power received, and discover cable faults such as dirty connectors, breaks, or bends that exceed specification limits.
Ideal Networks further explained that other troubleshooting features include easy discovery of incorrect device names, duplicate IP addresses, network latency issues and packet loss, and the ability to display and validate network-node details quickly. The event-log feature helps find intermittent issues by recording all network errors over a 48-hour period to determine whether the issue lies with the cabling, node, PLC or network configuration. Furthermore, the NetMap comparison tool can perform a scan of the entire network to identify all active devices and save this for comparison to future NetMaps. This capability enables easy identification of new or removed network devices, incorrectly configured devices or configuration changes, such as those caused by automatic firmware updates.
With the device-blink feature, hidden or poorly labeled devices can be found quickly, even in incorrectly labeled networks, by using the NaviTEK IE to flash a specific device LED.
The NaviTEK IE includes Ideal Networks’ AnyWare mobile app, which enables the user to produce test reports.