Industrial Communication

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What is industrial communication?

The term industrial communication refers to communication between devices used in industrial automation technology. This involves the transfer and exchange of data and information for controlling machines and plants, mainly in process and production automation. Industrial communication is therefore the basis for successful automation.

Devices are networked using standardized industrial networks, which can be either wired or wireless. Increasing digitalization means that high-performance communication systems are increasingly becoming the backbone for fields of application such as Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

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LAPP represents excellence

Industrial communication at LAPP means everything from a single source in over 40 countries. This includes everything from industrial, robust and high-quality cables, wires, assemblies, plug connectors and active components for networking your factory, machine or plant, to our expertise en route to the Smart Factory. We will guide and advise you on your digital transformation journey from the outset. From the field to the company level, we work with you to create a complete networking solution that provides reliable transmission of the highest data volumes.

LAPP represents the highest quality standards

We ensure the highest product quality. Even one component that briefly fails can cause enormous costs if it causes production to stop . You can rest assured that our connection solutions are ideally suited to demanding conditions and offer maximum reliability even when exposed to chemical, mechanical and thermal loads.

LAPP represents innovation

With our product innovations, you can successfully implement your projects and gain a competitive edge. We see this, for example, with our monitoring device for data cables, the ETHERLINE® GUARD . This enables optimum maintenance planning, which increases your system availability. The result: reduced maintenance costs and another step towards Industry 4.0.

Thanks to our unique expertise and in-depth application knowledge, we can offer you tailored solutions for your needs. From industrial Ethernet cables with Fast Connect connection to fieldbus systems complying with all common protocol standards, right through to assembled fiber optic cables according to customer requirements, we will find the right solution for every application.

Data communication made by LAPP – your connection to the future.


Industrial communication 
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Industrial communication 
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Industrial communication
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What is automation?

DIN 19233 defines automation as follows: “The equipping of a device so that it completely or partially works as intended without the involvement of humans.”

But what does this mean in detail? Let's take a look at a production facility. In automated production, all operations previously performed by humans are carried out independently by machines. This includes processing, control, handling of tools and workpieces and mechanical or electronic quality monitoring.

Automation can basically be divided into 3 different forms: the automation of individual work procedures (procedure automation), the automation of a specific production process (process automation) or the automation of an entire manufacturing process (system automation).

Technical facilities are required for the implementation of autonomous production processes. The technical equipment comes from the areas of sensor/actuator, regulation, control, information, communication, process control and/or robot technology.

Advantages of automation

Under these conditions, automation offers numerous advantages. These include:

  • Relieving people from mentally demanding, monotonous, strenuous, dangerous or harmful work
  • Increasing productivity
  • Increasing the quality of products
  • Shorter production times
  • Reduction of environmental stresses through more resource-efficient operation of the plants
  • More flexible production
  • Improved accuracy and avoidance of errors

Automation pyramid

The automation pyramid represents the general communication structure of automated production and classifies the various IT levels of industrial production.

Each level assumes its own task in automated production and consists of different systems, such as sensors at the field level. The number of levels varies depending on the automation process. Individual levels can be omitted or grouped together.

The individual systems of the respective level and the levels themselves exchange information with one another. The exchange of information within a level is referred to as horizontal communication; the exchange between the separate levels is referred to as vertical communication.

Automation pyramid
NumberLevelSystems usedTypical tasks
1Field levelSensors and actuatorsCollecting production data/executing commands
2Control levelControl computer/PLCRegulation of the production process
3Company levelERP systemsRough production planning and order processing

Sensors or actuators at the field level communicate exclusively with the higher control level. The programmable logic controllers (PLCs) at the control level, in turn, exchange their data with the enterprise resource planning system (ERP) at the company level.

Within the automation pyramid, the higher a level is, the higher the latency, i.e. the delay in data transmission between the transmitter and receiver. At the same time, the amount of data to be transmitted is increasing steadily.

LevelPlanning horizonAmount of dataLatency
Company levelMonth to yearMbytes - Gbytes2-20 s
Control levelSeconds to hoursBytes - Kbytes0.2 s
Field levelMillisecondsBytes0.002 s

Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things have an impact on the classic automation pyramid and require more interconnectivity and flexibility. The pyramid would have to be adapted and greatly flattened for this.

Setting up an automation system

Before we dedicate ourselves to the setup of an automation system, let's first take a look at the input-output model that underlies every automation task.

A physical variable is recorded by a sensor and passed on to the control computer (function) as an input signal. It processes the signal and transmits an output signal to an actuator, which acts as a drive element. The individual components are connected by a communication system.

An automation system is therefore composed of sensors (1), actuators (2), a control computer (4) and a communication system (3).

Overview of the components of an automation system

A sensor is a measurement probe that captures analog physical values (mechanical, chemical, thermal, magnetic or optical values) and turns them into analog or digital electrical signals.

"Simple" sensors only generate analog signals, which must first be converted into digital signals by a spatially separated converter (e.g. I/O system) before they can communicate with the control computer.

Smart sensors, also known as "intelligent sensors", take over the complete signal preparation and processing and emit digital signals. This enables them to communicate directly with the control computer.

Sensors can be differentiated according to the type of signal (analog sensor, digital sensor), measurement principle (optical sensor, capacitive sensor, etc.), intended use (sensors in automation engineering, sensors in aerospace, etc.) and measured value (force sensor, temperature sensor, etc.).

The operating principle of the actuator is the inverse of that of sensors: an actuator converts electrical signals from the control computer into physical variables.

An actuator converts electrical pulses into pressure, sound, temperature, movement or other physical variables.

According to the conversion process, actuators are divided into electromechanical actuators, electromagnetic actuators, pneumatic actuators, hydraulic actuators and others.

The control computer or programmable logic controller (PLC) controls a process or sub-processes in an automation system. The sensors and actuators required for the control can either be connected directly to the PLC in the process or via a bus system. In larger plants with several sub-processes, a separate PLC is used for each sub-process, which are networked with one another.

In order to coordinate the resources, i.e. which machine is currently processing which order and is likely to be available again, the PLC coordinates with the company level and the operation management level.

A PLC works cyclically, i.e. it reads the values of all inputs at the beginning of a cycle – then executes the saved programs and sets the outputs at the end. The cycle then begins anew – there is no end to the program.

A functioning automation system requires a communication network that connects sensors, actuators and the PLC with one another.

An industrial communication network consists of several components. The selection of components depends on the intended use and other factors:

Do I want fieldbus or Ethernet as the transmission technology? Which network topology is the right one for my application? In addition, aspects such as protective functions for employees using sensors must be taken into account in order to avoid personal injury. Different operating modes of the machine, such as normal operation, cleaning and repair, also have an influence on the selection of components.

At LAPP, you will receive complete cabling and connection systems for integrated networking at the sensor/actuator and control level right through to the inventory management system.

  • LAN cables and industrial Ethernet cables for Ethernet technology – products from our ETHERLINE®  brand
  • Fiber optic cables for optical data transmission – products from our HITRONIC®  brand
  • Data cables and fieldbus components for data transmission – products from our UNITRONIC®  brand
  • Industrial connectors – products from our EPIC®  brand
  • Managed and unmanaged switches – products from our ETHERLINE®  brand

Control and regulation in automation technology

In automation technology, the concepts of control and regulation are of central importance.

When it comes to controlling or control technology, the aim is to influence output values in technical systems in accordance with specified input values. There is no feedback here, i.e. the course of action is not self-contained.

An example of a control system is the heating control system in a building. The outdoor temperature sensor switches on the heating in a room depending on the outdoor temperature. External influences such as an open window in the room are not taken into account.

When it comes to regulating or regulation technology, the aim is to keep physical variables (regulating variables) in technical systems constant despite the influence of external interference (interference variables) or to track the chronological progress of specified variables (guiding variables) as precisely as possible. The regulation circuit is self-contained, i.e. there is feedback.

An example of regulation in automation technology is an automatic air-conditioning system in a vehicle. It keeps the vehicle’s internal temperature consistently at the required level despite external influences (e.g. sunlight).

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