It has been fully 30 years since the birth of Ethernet. Recently, today’s de-facto networking standard found its way onto the factory floor. This is an interesting turn of events, considering Ethernet was never originally intended to be deployed in such extreme environments. However, its low cost, simplicity and field-proven open standardisation has proven too good to resist. As the industry looks to the next generation of total managed networks and seeks to replace the current physical layer field bus domination. An emerging trend of ‘intelligent’ (Ethernet) industrial devices, sensors and actuators and has begun and is rapidly gaining momentum, especially in Europe and in the more advanced industrial arena in Germany.

Many new industrial Ethernet standards are available to provide device layer solutions. For example, ProfiNet, Powerlink and EtherCAT, but will they ultimately be robust enough? Traditionally, the weakest link for all Ethernet networks, industrial or not, has been the physical interface, i.e., the connectors and cabling.

Issues with installation and maintenance will continue to have a major impact on overall network costs. Micrel’s LinkMD Cable Diagnostic technology solution goes well beyond Ethernet-defined standards to provide a comprehensive solution to such problems, significantly reducing the cost-of-ownership of an industrial Ethernet network.