How to Know When You Need an Industrial Ethernet Solution – Part 1

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Guest Blogger: Oliver Kleineberg is responsible for Advanced Development in Belden’s Industrial IT platform. In this role, he plays an active role in shaping the future of Industrial Ethernet. He is a significant contributor to the IEEE 802.1 standard for Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). This standard enables deterministic, time critical packet delivery using standard Ethernet.  He also contributed to the PRP and HSR standards (IEC 62439) which provide seamless Ethernet redundancy mechanisms. With both undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Engineering Oliver combines rigorous thinking with a can-do attitude to define the industrial networking products of the future.

In some environments, networking products are placed in clean air-conditioned offices, where installers often give less thought to hardening characteristics of switches, routers, and the cables used to connect them. But, other environments are less “pristine”. Here, industrial communications and automation control networks are expected to operate consistently and reliably under extreme conditions, such as electromagnetic interference (EMI), high operating temperatures, ambient outdoor temperatures, power/voltage fluctuations, machine vibration, mechanical hazards and more.

Industrial facilities present a very different reality. Here, many if not most cables, connectors, switches, and active network components are integral to machine control and automation, instrumentation and control systems, which places them in harsh and potentially hazardous situations. Even the best Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Ethernet systems are not made to handle such conditions over time. Rugged conditions call for ruggedized cables and only industrial grade Ethernet system components are built tough enough to withstand the hazards and risks they are exposed to day after day.

Ethernet equipment and cabling often must withstand the following environmental conditions:

  • Temperature Extremes. Extreme cold can make COTS cables stiff and brittle, while elevated temperatures can degrade the plastic used in the cables’ construction and cause an increase in attenuation. Industrial-grade cables are available that will operate in a wider temperature range (-40°C to +85°C) than commercial cables (0°C to +60°C). Commercial-grade hardware (i.e. switches, routers, terminal servers) is designed to operate from 0°C to +40°C, while industrial Ethernet hardware can operate efficiently from 0°C to +60°C — extendable to -40°C to +85°C (conformal coating is also available for humid/moist applications).
  • Chemical Exposure. Oils, solvents, chemicals and cleaning solutions can soak into COTS cables, especially under heat, causing the cable jacket to swell and lose mechanical strength. On the hardware side, corrosive chemicals can damage the electronics in commercial switches, whereas ruggedized industrial switches are securely sealed to prevent the ingress of these caustic substances.
  • Humidity Levels of up to 99 percent can be accommodated by industrial-grade switches, which can also be sealed to meet IP67 standards. 
  • UV Radiation Exposure can cause COTS cable jackets to decompose at an accelerated rate, compromising mechanical strength and electrical performance. 
  • Physical Hazards. The factory floor holds many mechanical risks, especially for machine automation cables and connectors. Excessive machine movement or vibration can result in cables being pulled or stretched with excessive force, which can create imbalance between the pairs, degrade electrical performance, and increase susceptibility to ambient EMI/RFI. Plant floor vehicles, such as forklifts and moving carts, can accidentally run over cables, causing abrasion, crushing or cut-through.

Even well-made, properly installed COTS Ethernet components are not constructed to survive these kinds of hazards. Only hardened, industrial-grade components are robust enough to withstand the environmental challenges present every day in industrial settings. For mission-critical industrial networking and control applications, downtime is not an option.

What are your thoughts on hardened networking equipment? To read more about industrial Ethernet solutions, watch for Part 2 of this blog, or visit Belden’s blog here:

About Belden

With its global brands – Hirschmann, GarrettCom and Tofino Security – Belden helps companies minimize downtime and take advantage of the real-time data access and control made possible by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Through a seamless, secure and scalable industrial Ethernet infrastructure, companies are equipped to revolutionize their operations and achieve improved efficiency, productivity and agility. Visit to learn more.

About Belden and the Schneider Electric Collaborative Automation Partner Program (CAPP) 

Operated by the Schneider Electric Industry business unit, CAPProgram brings together best-in-class product and technology companies who contribute to build a complete solution by integrating their strategic partner products with the Schneider Electric offer. Through their Hirschmann brand, Belden is a long-standing and highly regarded Gold partner member of CAPP.   Customers of all types across many industries have benefited from this collaborative combination of industry leading capabilities. You will find more about the Industry partner program of Schneider Electric in the following link.


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