How to choose industrial Ethernet switches for harsh environments
Control and engine rooms, especially those of large commercial ships, are undoubtedly tough environments. Excessive heat and continuous vibrations pose significant challenges for network managers and often bring disruptions to the network. Regardless, downtime should not be considered an accepted part of the job.
Ethernet-based network designs are becoming popular for enhancing the reliability and availability of data communications in hazardous conditions. Many may think Ethernet devices are suitable for control room use only, while fixed, nonmodular products should be used in the operations area. In reality, narrow approach inevitably limits network availability and overall flexibility.
Network managers need both modularity and flexibility with their Ethernet products, including the ability to place industrial Ethernet switches directly in harsh operations areas, such as the engine room.
Ethernet-based network designs call for devices that can quickly and reliably transmit real-time data to the control room and back to the engine controllers. These models subsequently increase network availability, keep costs down, and simplify the installation process. But how do you pick the right one?
Keys for selecting the right switch
There are four key features to consider when selecting networking products for your operations areas:
1. Installation needs: Applications with space constraints or those in need of flexible installation options require switches that enable direct wall-mounting. Avoid switches that require cabinet installation, as this can increase both cost and complexity.
2. Industry standards: A switch that meets the global GL standards for Environmental Category D is certified for use in transportation, machine building, power transmission and distribution, oil and gas, and other hazardous environments. This ensures operational reliability and network uptime despite strain from excessive heat and vibrations.
3. Environmental conditions: A switch that can withstand extreme temperatures, vibration strain, dust, and humidity will help industrial networks avoid failure and increase uptime.
4. Data-timing needs: Switches with time synchronization and Precision Time Protocol Version 2 (PTPv2) help ensure accurate timing for system control and data acquisition, both critical for reliable, real-time data transmission.
Now transportation customers, particularly those operating seaports and railways, can gain a level of modularity and flexibility never before available in networking products. Ruggedized, modular switches placed directly in the engine room of large ships enable real-time network data transmission with the control room for both high reliability and low latency.
Vinod Rana joined Belden in September 2010 as a product manager in R&D and is now responsible for two product portfolios of Belden’s Hirschmann brand–Backbone & Building and Security. Before moving to Germany in 2003, Vinod started his professional career as a software developer after earning his Masters in computer science. Edited by Joy Chang, digital project manager, email@example.com.