Faculty member plays role in network protocol

Apr 14, 2006

In the 1980s, Dr. Juan helped design Profibus, an industrial network protocol used in manufacturing around the world. Recently, the number of Profibus nodes exceeded 15,000,000 worldwide and is the number one network used in many industries.

Thanks to early development input from Dr. Juan Pimentel of Kettering's ECE Dept., many industries such as the automotive field, appliance industry and other manufacturing sectors benefit from Profibus, an electronic network communication protocol. Today, Profibus is used in many of the products the general public purchases on a daily basis: stereos, robots, household appliance and an array of other products. Additionally, the protocol is used as an industry standard in manufacturing plants and in programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

In a nutshell, this network links manufacturing subsystems and process systems via an integrated electronic communication network. Cars, for example, are manufactured with equipment and technology that is interconnected with Profibus electronic nodes and with PLCs. Pimentel's specific role in the establishment of this industry standard dates back to the mid 1980s. During the 1987-1988 academic year, Siemens brought him to Germany to assist in the development of an application layer for Profibus. At that time, manufacturing automotive protocols-otherwise known as MAPS-was the standard network for the automotive industry.

Created by General Motors Corp. (GM), Pimentel said that at that time the company required its vendors and suppliers to use this standard. "If you did not," he explained, "GM would not do business with you. GM had a considerable hold on the industry and if you were a supplier who did not wish to use MAPS, you would lose the GM business."

Eventually Pimentel, who is originally from Trujillo, Peru, and currently lives in Flushing, Mich., became an expert in MAPS. One of GM' suppliers, Siemens, was working to redesign programmable logic controllers and one day during a conversation, Pimentel mentioned to a Siemens engineer that he was looking for a research project to undertake during his sabbatical. The engineer invited Pimentel to conduct research into a new protocol at the company's research and development center in Karisruhle, Germany. However, since this was such a new endeavor, one that would undercut MAPS entirely, Pimentel could not discuss the work or publish any papers on the topic.

Today, he is able to talk freely about his role, along with several engineers, in designing the application layer of this protocol. "We also developed an encoder for this interface," he said, adding that it has now become an international standard.

"It was my first sabbatical as a faculty member at the University, so I'm pleased to be involved in an important development. MAP really lost steam because it was very complex. Once Profibus came along, MAP faded from use and today, Profibus is used in many different applications, not just in the automotive industry," he said, adding that Profibus "is the glue for communications in most manufacturing plant floors found at GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler."

Click on this link to learn more about Profibus.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
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