Vol.3 Pioneering the Possibilities for Automation with CC-Link & CC-Link IE

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Special Interview

CC-Link Partner Association and AS-International Association

Strengthened Cooperation between AS-International and CLPA:
Joint Promotional Activities in Progress

The AS-International Association is a worldwide organization that is responsible for the promotion of "AS-Interface (abbreviated to AS-i)", a sensor level network system. The AS-International Association (hereinafter AS-International) and the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) have started to collaborate on promotional activities. Ms. Naomi Nakamura, global director of the CLPA, interviewed Mr. Rolf Becker, CEO of AS-International, about their organization and the future expectations for this collaboration.

Ms. Nakamura (hereinafter: N )AS-Interface has already existed for more than 20 years and has an overwhelming presence at the sensor network level. Mr. Becker, can you give our readers an overview of your organization and its activities? Mr. Becker (hereinafter: B )AS-International was founded in 1991 after a project begun by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany. Our organization is responsible for marketing of AS-i and the development of AS-i standards. Our headquarters are located in Gelnhausen near Frankfurt. We have 350 member companies worldwide and we are also represented by regional branches in countries such as Brazil, China, Japan, and the USA. The first AS-i compatible product came onto the market in 1994. AS-i has an overwhelming presence in the sensor level network market. There are more than 1,700 certified AS-i products in the market and over 25 million devices in the field.

AS-i has various excellent characteristics

NWhat would you say are the main reasons why AS-i has been widely used? BOne of the reasons is that AS-Interface is suitable for any fieldbus network. In general, an industrial automation system is broken down into control, field, and sensor actuator level. At the first two levels, there are several market-leading systems and each system's market share depends on the region. For example, in North and South America these are Ethernet IP and DeviceNet, in Europe Profinet and Profibus, and in Asia CC-Link IE Field and CC-Link.
AS-i is designed to be able to connect with any of these fieldbus networks. That's one of the reasons why it acquired the dominant market share at the sensor level all over the world. As well as the actual performance, AS-i also provides considerable cost benefits. I believe that many of our users chose it because of these advantages.
NWould you give us some examples? BFor example, the time and work involved in wiring can be reduced by about 40% with AS-i. As a result, associated costs for wiring can be lowered dramatically. Formerly, huge bundles of cables had to be used in a manufacturing facility. If any additional cables had to be connected, an enormous amount of work and expense were required.
However, a single cable is sufficient with AS-i. It covers the whole system and connects the slaves to the master. Thanks to its simple wiring, sensors can be repositioned easily and miswiring is physically prevented. No particular prior knowledge is needed for assembly. Hence you save installation time in this way.
To accelerate the promotion of these advantages, AS-International has been carrying out actions to secure interoperability of AS-i products. Specifically, our organization ensures that all devices of our member companies comply with the given specifications. Therefore, users can mix the AS-i products of the 350 member companies freely without any problems. Users can therefore interchange one product with another having the same function, so procurement of a replacement is easy.

Strengthened cooperation through mutual collaboration

NAS-International and the CLPA decided to collaborate on promotional activities in many areas of the world. Would you tell us what the advantages of this collaboration are for your organization? BI would again like to stress that AS-Interface is suitable for any fieldbus network. The cooperation with the CLPA is therefore not exclusive. However, I certainly do see CC-Link and CC-Link IE as the main market leading systems. By our cooperation we can clearly inform users who use CC-Link or CC-Link IE of the advantages of the AS-i.
Both technologies complement one another. On the one hand, with AS-i, sensors and actuators can be employed by the CC-Link/CC-Link IE solution effectively. On the other hand, with CC-Link or CC-Link IE, AS-i systems can be connected to the higher level control systems.
NAlthough both AS-International and the CLPA have shown the benefits of our networks to our individual user communities, it is now important for us to collaborate to inform them of the advantages of the combined use of these two networks. BThere were some AS-i products with CC-Link/CC-Link IE gateway functions even before the first discussions on our cooperation in 2001. It was important to us at that time that manufacturers of products related to CC-Link, the market leading system in Asia, offered AS-i compatible products.
Therefore, we needed the cooperation of both associations and actually it brings us big advantages. The CLPA gains better access to European markets through AS-i. And AS-International gains a big step to the Asian market.
Now our cooperation is becoming more intensive. Many of our members are also CLPA members and offer CC-Link/CC-Link IE and AS-i compatible devices.
The more companies develop such products, the more comprehensive interoperability will become, and the more application options there will be for these products.

The collaboration of the two organizations is accelerating

NExactly. CC-Link and CC-Link IE are the networks that have dominant market shares in Asia. I believe that the collaboration with CLPA will bring a big step to promote AS-i in Asia. We, the CLPA, hope that the collaboration with AS-International will increase the portfolio of CC-Link- and CC-Link IE-compatible products, especially in the area of sensors, and will lead to CC-Link and CC-Link IE being more widely used in Europe. BWe have already started our promotional activities together in the form of joint trade fair and exhibition appearances, and information brochures. Our first joint appearance at a trade fair was the Hannover Messe in April 2013 in Germany. We also exhibited jointly at the SPS IPC Drives in Parma, Italy. The next step is the System Control Fair 2013 in November 2013 in Japan, where this time AS-International will be represented on the CLPA stand.
We will also be jointly offering seminars in many areas of the world. In these seminars, we will explain the benefits CC-Link/CC-Link IE and AS-Interface can provide, how both systems work together and how a plant can be equipped in this way throughout. We have already done two seminars in China and they were very well received.
NWhat do you think is the next step of our collaboration? BThe demands of the various markets are very different depending on the region and this will continue to be the case for the time being. We need a wide selection of products to be able to cover all application demands.
Common specifications may be important to improve compatibility between AS-i and CC-Link/CC-Link IE. Furthermore, we will need to increase the number of products compatible with both CC-Link and AS-i not only in Europe but also in Asia. For these objectives, we will support manufacturers who develop CC-Link and AS-i compatible products by joint marketing activities.
What is and will remain very important is that plant and machine builders must see the benefit - with an integrated solution from control level through to field level. Anyhow, the most important objective must be to please the user, not ourselves.
NI really agree with you. We need to show some application examples of using AS-i and CC-Link/CC-Link IE together and what benefits this can deliver. The next step is increase the support by users and device makers. We are ready to respond to market demands and to offer further benefits to our users.

Mr. Rolf BeckerAS-International Association

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