In 2010, the global market for pneumatic valve blocks increased 18.4% to reach $861.5 million, which represented over 1 billion blocks reaching the international market. Almost half of these products included a facility to be networked. However, according to the latest market report from IMS Research, for every valve block networked with an Ethernet based protocol, nine were networked with a fieldbus.
The advantages of closed loop communication and intelligent feedback have become increasingly desirable for pneumatic set-ups, and have enabled engineers to reduce air wastage and provide system monitoring and diagnostics. However, the absence of an industry standard network protocol leaves the user with a wide variety of options from which to choose, ranging from supplier specific, proprietary fieldbusses, to universally compatible Ethernet TCP/IP.
Research Manager Rob Carter comments "In 2010, PROFIBUS was used for over quarter of all valve block networking applications and DeviceNet almost a fifth. These two supplier championed fieldbus protocols are currently each more prevalent than the combined variants of Ethernet which account for only fourteen percent total".
Carter continues "The additional complexity of Ethernet variants far outweigh the advantages of its higher speed communication in pneumatics systems, where actuation speeds are determined to a greater extent by air flow rates. The comparable simplicity of many fieldbus protocols makes this a more desirable option in most stand-alone systems, limiting Ethernet use to instances of large scale networking from factory floor to control room."
Whilst Ethernet is still expected to remain the fastest growing networking protocol for pneumatic valve blocks, by 2015 it is expected to account for only 18% of global pneumatic networking applications, still a long way behind fieldbus technologies.