Home improvement stores often use catchy slogans to encourage customers to finally try their hand at DIY – to remodel their kitchens, redesign their gardens, or even build a tool shed. Toward this end, they offer numerous “light versions” of professional devices and promise an optimal, cost-effective solution for the desired project. The downsizing trend is even showing up more and more in industrial facilities and is gaining ground where there is a potential to minimize effort, space, and costs.
Downsizing is becoming increasingly prevalent in industrial facilities where it can save on costs, space and, above all, installation effort. Many things are put to the test, including the cabling components. Instead of automatically installing the large-scale solution, the streamlined single-pair Ethernet technology is gradually becoming more attractive for data transmission – especially if the maximum possible data rate over long distances is not necessary and many sensors need to be wired. New standards are already being developed, however, that will enable 10 Gbit/s to be achieved even with single-pair lines, at least over short distances.
Single-pair Ethernet cables are more compact, lighter, cheaper, and easier to install than traditional alternatives. Instead of two or four wire pairs they have only one, hence the name “single pair.” The cable is deliberately designed for compactness and simple operation. Many sensors only require low data rates to send their important information to the control unit. They don’t need to be connected with a 10 Gbit/s -capable line, for example, if they only occasionally send an on/off signal. For this task, the up-to-1 Gbit/s single-pair Ethernet still offers more than sufficient capacity.
Single-pair Ethernet is a thoroughly customized solution that is precisely tailored to the needs of the customer. With the massive spread of sensors in factories, connection requirements are a major issue. Compared to four-pair cables, the use of single-pair Ethernet cables reduces this effort by around 75 percent – an enormous time and cost factor for a few hundred cables. A further advantage is their small diameter, which also solves a growing dilemma: more and more cables have to be accommodated in ever smaller devices. After all, just as a thin tablet performs better today than a clunky desktop PC did a few years ago, the electronics in machines are becoming smaller, more powerful, and more networked.
What’s more, single-pair Ethernet is just as robust as conventional Industrial Ethernet cables. The single-pair variant also has the advantage that it can bridge significantly greater distances than four-pair cables, which are standardized for maximum lengths of 100 meters. It thus even reaches places in the production hall that are very difficult to reach by other means. Although the data rate also drops to 10 Mbit/s for single-pair Ethernet lines, this is more than adequate for infrastructure cabling such as bus systems. What matters the most is the high local coverage with a single network.
The industry, though, still lacks the necessary standards. The first series products for machines, sensors, and devices to which SPE can be connected will likely be available in one to two years. As an experienced manufacturer of cables and wires, LAPP is already well-prepared to meet the high demand.