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Fieldbus sales go into reverse as Ethernet continues to boom

09 May, 2019

Sales of industrial fieldbus nodes fell for the first time last year, as industrial Ethernet continued to establish its dominance of industrial networking, according to the latest annual survey of the market by the Swedish industrial networking supplier, HMS Networks.

The survey reveals that fieldbuses accounted for 35% of all new industrial networking nodes installed during 2018. This marks a decline from the 42% recorded in 2017.

At the same time, industrial Ethernet accounted for 59% of the new nodes installed during 2018 – up from 52% in 2017. Sales of industrial Ethernet nodes grew by 20% last year (a slight decline from the 22% growth rate recorded in 2017). EtherNet/IP is the most successful industrial Ethernet network with 15% of the market, but Profinet has almost closed the gap and is now on 14%. Global runners-up are EtherCat on 7%, Ethernet Powerlink on 5%, and Modbus-TCP on 4%, all of which are showing stable growth. Wireless technologies are continuing to perform strongly and last year held steady with 6% of the market.

HMS’ figures are based on its estimation of the number of new nodes installed in factory automation applications during 2018, and include insights from others in the industry, the company’s own sales statistics and its perception of the market. It defines a node as a machine or device connected to an industrial network.

HMS predicts that the number of new connected nodes will grow by a further 10% during 2019.

The 5% decline in the number of fieldbus nodes installed during 2018, follows an expansion of 6% the previous year. The dominant fieldbus is still Profibus with 10% of the global market, followed by CC-Link on 6% and Modbus-RTU on 5%.

“The transition to industrial Ethernet continues and is being driven by the need for high performance and the need for integration between factory installations and IT-systems/IIoT applications,” says HMS’ chief marketing officer, Anders Hansson. “For the first time we see that traditional fieldbuses actually declined in terms of new installed nodes.

“When it comes to industrial Ethernet,” he adds, “we see good growth for many networks – for the established Ethernet/IP, Profinet, EtherCat, Powerlink and Modbus-TCP, as well as for the networks grouped in the ‘other Ethernet’ category. This fragmented Ethernet picture is very interesting, and it goes to prove that industrial Ethernet never standardised on one network as many predicted when the Ethernet-based networks first evolved in the 1990s. Just like the fieldbuses, the various Ethernet networks serve different purposes depending on industrial application.”

The breakdown of industrial networking nodes installed worldwide during 2018. The dark blue segments represent traditional fieldbus technologies, the lighter blue are wireless technologies, and the green segments are industrial Ethernet.
Source: HMS Industrial Networks

During 2018, the number of wireless nodes installed grew by 30% – a slight decline from the 32% growth rate recorded in 2017. Wireless now accounts for 6% of the total market (the same as the previous year). The most popular technology is wireless LANs (local area networks), followed by Bluetooth.

“Wireless is increasingly being used by machine-builders and systems integrators to realise new, innovative automation architectures,” says Hansson. “Users can reduce cabling and create new solutions for connectivity and control.

“We also see increased activities globally around cellular technologies – for example, private LTE/5G networks – as enablers for smart and flexible manufacturing in factories,” he adds.

In Europe and the Middle East, EtherNet/IP and Profinet lead the industrial networking market, with Profibus still being used widely. Other popular networks are EtherCat and Ethernet Powerlink.

The US market is dominated by CIP-based networks, with a clear movement towards EtherNet/IP. EtherCat is continuing to gain market share.

In Asia, no single network stands out as being the market-leader, but Profinet, EtherNet/IP, Profibus, EtherCat, Modbus and CC-Link are all used widely, with CC-Link’s Ethernet version, CC-Link IE Field, gaining traction.

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