EtherNet/IP Protocol (EtherNet Industrial Protocol)

EtherNet/IP LogoThe EtherNet/IP protocol — EtherNet Industrial Protocol — was created specifically to serve the needs of industrial automation, making use of the ethernet physical layer. EtherNet/IP is an application layer protocol created by Rockwell Automation and maintained by the Open DeviceNet Vendors Association.

EtherNet/IP is part of the Common Industrial Protocol and is widely used throughout industrial market.

EtherNet/IP Gateway Providers:

  • FieldServer Technologies: a protocol gateway provider dedicated to meeting the interoperability needs of the industrial market. FieldServer provides comprehensive EtherNet IP gateways that link legacy devices and external networks to EtherNet/IP. FieldServer has an extensive protocol library that includes EtherNet/IP protocol drivers as well as EtherNet/IP gateways. FieldServer enable communication between devices with non-compatible protocols. The FieldServer EtherNet/IP gateways are available in several versions depending on the point count and serial port needs of the devices being interfaced.

EtherNet/IP Protocol Structure

EtherNet/IP makes use of TCP to transfer data within the TCP/IP packet. EtherNet/IP handles this data transfer in one of two ways: as explicit messages that are transferred when requested, and as I/O messages that are continuously communicated.

Because EtherNet/IP makes use of the Ethernet structure, it directly benefits from Ethernet upgrades — similar to the Lonworks protocol that is also popular in industrial applications. The cost of the Ethernet structure is currently falling dramatically, while at the same time communications bandwidth is poised to increase even more dramatically. This means that as the costs of Ethernet fall, so too does the cost of implementing the EtherNet/IP protocol for industrial automation. And as Ethernet technology improves so too will the speed of EtherNet/IP (and, it should be noted, Lonworks).

EtherNet/IP Industrial Uses

One of the primary advantages of EtherNet/IP in industrial and factory automation is that it was designed specifically to provide near real-time data communications. This communication speed is vital for automation equipment that must be given commands within incredibly narrow time frames or risk potentially disastrous results.

Industrial automation technology depends on both precision and high speed automation to make plant manufacturing as efficient as possible. A standard IP protocol often has small time delays in communications. You would likely never notice this delay when, say, loading a web page. With several second page load times the delay of a half second or less due to the protocol is invisible. But when you have automated machinery stamping and moving with great force and very specific times, giving the command to stop and having that command delayed even a half second could result in foul-ups across the production line, causing costly delays at best.

EtherNet/IP was designed to use the same Ethernet layer that IP uses, but without the data communication delays.

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