Highly complex synchronised industrial processes cannot accept data hold-ups, as these may have far-reaching implications. Assembly lines could be brought to a halt, impacting on a manufacturing facility’s productivity levels; inspection systems might be unable to function correctly, leading to product quality being reduced or critical safety mechanisms could be unable to react quickly enough, thereby putting workers’ lives at risk.
The demands placed on industrial networking infrastructure are only set to increase too - as greater quantities of data are acquired from distributed IIoT sensor nodes and higher resolution machine vision equipment gets installed.
If the rapid responsiveness and functional safety aspects, so important to Industry 4.0, are to be realised, then determinism must be encompassed within the communication technology that forms its foundation. The elevated data rates that Ethernet can potentially support will need to be complemented by low latency levels and assured data integrity - aspects which weren’t thought about when the Ethernet protocol was originally introduced. This has led to the advent of time-sensitive networking (TSN). However, the best way to incorporate TSN into Ethernet-based network hardware is not necessarily that straightforward. It calls for serious consideration.
Placing a TSN block onto the fabric of an FPGA will take up a considerable number of look-up tables (LUTs), as well as requiring a sizable amount of SRAM memory resource. Consequently, the FPGA specified will need to be quite big, and have a relatively high price tag. The board space it will occupy, the associated power budget and the thermal management needed to accompany it will have an impact on the system in terms of both expense and operational effectiveness. A more viable alternative to this programmable logic approach is to use a network interface controller (NIC). NICs present a more power-efficient option and will come with lower unit costs too, as well as taking up less board space.
An informative whitepaper on TSN has just been published by Toshiba. In it, the evolution of industrial networking technology over the decades has been described. This spans back to the Modbus and PROFIBUS implementations of the past, through CAN, right up to modern high-speed Ethernet infrastructure. It then looks at TSN (with the emergence of IEEE802.1AS, IEEE802.1Qbv, IEEE802.1Qbu and IEEE802.3br standards covered) and the different semiconductor technologies that can be used. Finally, it outlines how Toshiba offers engineers a complete ecosystem to support TSN implementation through its TC9562 NIC platform (comprising evaluation hardware, drivers and reference software, referring open source stacks, example applications, debug tools, etc.). Download the Toshiba whitepaper below: