Running Ethernet cables in a factory environment can present several challenges due to the unique characteristics and requirements of factory settings. Yet the Industrial 4.0 wave sweeping around the world demands faster and more prevalent ethernet connectivity. Benefits arising from a connected factory range from IIoT, remote monitoring, asset tracking, worker safety and productivity to the more obvious and talked about automation and robotics.
Challenges Presented by Ethernet Cabling – and the Solution
Meeting the growing demand for more bandwidth in challenging environments requires a more effective approach. The Airvine WaveTunnel system is a solution that addresses these challenges. It is a point-to-point-to-point backbone solution that operates wirelessly in the 60GHz frequency band, offering a range of up to 100 meters and a throughput of up to 2Gbps. The WaveTunnel’s unique signal can penetrate walls and steer 90 degrees around corners, simplifying deployment.
|Factories’ harsh operating environments, with extreme temperatures, dust, moisture, chemicals, vibrations, and other factors, can damage Ethernet cables. To maintain reliable performance, ruggedized industrial-grade Ethernet cables, which are more expensive, are required.
|Keep the network off the floor.
The WT nodes are mounted on the ceilings or high up on walls. No special cables are required, and in these locations the units are spared from much of the environmental effects.
|Factories can have complex layouts with various physical obstacles such as machinery, equipment, piping, and structural elements that can hinder the installation of Ethernet cables. Routing Ethernet cables through tight spaces, around obstacles, or in hard-to-reach areas may require careful planning and installation expertise.
|Get rid of the cables all together.
Mounted on the ceilings, the WT avoids all the equipment placement and routing issues involved when running a wire on the floor, or even worse under the floor.
|Ethernet cable length is limited based on the Ethernet standard used (e.g., copper or fiber), necessitating the use of additional networking equipment such as switches or repeaters in large factories to extend its range.
|If longer distances are needed, the WT can be deployed point-to-point-to-point for a reach of 200m. Add a fourth node and reach 300m and so on – with no signal degradation.
|Flexibility and Scalability
|Installing Ethernet cables in a way that allows for future flexibility and scalability can be challenging, as it requires careful planning, cable management, and documentation to ensure ease of maintenance and future modifications.
|Keep it simple.
The WT network is wireless, making it easy to relocate the WT node as the factory configuration changes or expand the floor space by simply moving, mounting, and plugging in the node.
|Safety and Regulations
|Compliance with safety regulations, such as electrical codes, fire codes, and safety guidelines, may require additional precautions, certifications, or specialized cabling solutions, which can add complexity and challenges to the installation process.
|Bypass the specialized cabling solutions.
With wireless CAT5 backbone powered by WT, complicated cabling regulations are a thing of the past.
|Maintenance and Troubleshooting
|In factory environments, maintaining and troubleshooting Ethernet cables requires specialized tools and expertise to minimize disruptions to production processes caused by issues like cable breaks, connector failures, or signal disruptions.
|Implement a wireless network.
There are no cable breaks to decipher and no switches to cool and a WT network can be designed to provide 99.99% availability.
In the future, fast and reliable connectivity will be crucial for the development of factories, and traditional wired approaches present challenges as outlined earlier. While Ethernet cabling will remain a component of factory networks, incorporating WaveTunnel nodes offers increased flexibility and faster upgrades. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to contact Airvine.