SOURCE: WingTip LLC

WingTip LLC

December 09, 2010 10:00 ET

WingTip Introduces PlantMESH™ Manufacturing Ethernet Solution; Offers First Truly Viable Replacement for Critical Wired Networks

RICHLAND, WA--(Marketwire - December 9, 2010) - WingTip LLC, a provider of manufacturing intelligence, industrial wireless Ethernet, and security products to manufacturing and process control companies, today announced its PlantMESH™ 802.11b/g/n Ethernet wireless mesh network system, which significantly changes the model for plant and outdoor networking -- for the first time combining zero configuration with high speeds and a redundant, self-healing, highly secure and very scalable wireless network for both critical and non-critical networks. 

The primary goal in developing PlantMESH was to create a wireless mesh Ethernet system where installation and maintenance are readily accomplished without IT skill sets, according to David McKay, WingTip Director of Business Development.

"It has to work right out of the box because repairs or expansions should never require programming or assisted setup," McKay said. "Many industrial sites are remote and have harsh environments so it's critical to make sure power is the only thing you need to start or expand a PlantMESH network.

"With our solution, the routine is very simple: open the box, temporarily connect an Ethernet cable to the MeshCORE™ module, remove the Ethernet cable when the light turns green, and then go locate that node wherever you want," McKay explained. "The MeshCORE automatically updates the firmware and teaches the node your network settings."

A wireless mesh network (WMN) is a communications network made up of radio nodes organized in a lattice topology. These networks typically incorporate mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. Mesh clients are often laptops, cell phones, sensors and other wireless devices, while the mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways connected to a larger wide area network. 

The purpose of WMN is to provide a high-bandwidth network over a specific coverage area. The PlantMESH architecture is an infrastructure wireless mesh, which is a router network minus the cabling between nodes. It has intelligent peer radio nodes that don't need to be cabled to a wired port as traditional access points do. This means a mesh network is more reliable and offers redundancy so that when one node can no longer operate, the rest of the nodes can still communicate with each other, directly or through one or more intermediate nodes. 

"Mesh networks are based on architectures that have been developed and proven over the last four decades, but until the release of PlantMESH they haven't been able to deliver the performance and scalability needed to augment and even replace wired industrial Ethernet networks," McKay added. "Standard Point-to-Point industrial wireless network implementations still require Ethernet cabling, and because they are one-to-one connections, any node problem can take the entire network down. By contrast, the PlantMESH design provides intelligent and automatic optimization that senses failures and automatically reassigns network routes, thus making the network self-healing and highly robust."

 The PlantMESH™ solution comprises five product modules:

  • MeshCORE™ is the starting point for the system; it serves as the supervisory controller and is also an access point, providing wireless client connectivity up to 1,500 feet via standard 802.11 b, g and n, with a dedicated 5.8 gigahertz (GHz) backhaul for transporting traffic between other PlantMESH modules;
  • MeshSTATION™ modules provide the ability to extend the network up to 1,500 feet, include the dedicated 5.8Ghz backhaul, and two can be connected via an Ethernet cable to continue operation through barriers;
  • MeshLINK™ modules extend the network to remote facilities, providing a point-to-point high bandwidth link of up to four miles between MeshLINK units;
  • MeshNODE™ modules provide the ability to connect any standard wired Ethernet device to a PlantMESH network, and can be utilized to remove dead spots and to provide virtual local area network (VLAN) termination;
  • MeshMOBILE™ enables the connection of any wired Ethernet device mounted on mobile devices or vehicles, such as forklifts, automated guided vehicles or other material handling equipment.

Out of the box, PlantMESH provides three virtual access points, providing plants with three separate networks, all on the same wireless mesh. Typical usage is one for the process control network, one for the business network and one for a vendor network, allowing outside vendors to gain access to the internet without impacting the plant or providing secure internal information to third parties.

"When it comes to network performance, the proprietary PlantMESH routing system provides the same radio/data speeds as high end dual-radio point-to-point wireless, but with an order of magnitude increase in reliability," McKay explained. "Unlike a standard industrial wireless router, PlantMESH provides self-healing capabilities because the MeshCORE continuously tests and optimizes paths from connected devices and assigns traffic routes based on that optimization. In addition, every PlantMESH node protects fragile automation devices from network storms, preventing a misbehaving device from taking down the entire network."

PlantMESH is also very secure, using 256 or 128 bit WPA2 Symmetric Key AES encryption for all network traffic and a separate Secure Shell (SSH) tunnels between nodes for optimization and control. If any PlantMESH node should stop communicating, the MeshCORE will re-optimize the entire network and alert administrators to the issue. The Layer 3 routing algorithm identifies when a node stops working and reroutes traffic to the next best path automatically to provide fail-safe operation.

Unlike other mesh networks, the PlantMESH system is designed so that it can handle a very high number of nodes per subnet, effectively limited only by the number of hops, not by the total number of nodes. "This means that a system could have hundreds of nodes, as long as the longest route doesn't exceed six to seven wireless hops from the last node to the nearest MeshCORE," McKay added. "Conventional mesh systems send all radio traffic to all nodes, which limits them to between four and six total nodes before speed drops off drastically for the whole network."

"PlantMESH implementation costs as well as the total cost of ownership are dramatically lower than industrial wired alternatives," McKay noted. "In the typical manufacturing plant environment, wired networks cost between $500 and $2,500 per connected device to install," he said. "In addition, they have long installation times; don't offer complete plant coverage; are difficult to expand; are hard to troubleshoot; have single points of failure; and have no way to support mobile vehicles like forklifts. By comparison, PlantMESH installations average $50 to $350 per connected Ethernet device in a whole plant scenario.

The base cost for PlantMESH modules are $2,495 for the MeshCORE supervisory controller; $1,650 for each MeshSTATION module; $1,595 per MeshLINK unit; $349 to $429 for MeshNODE modules; and $749 for each MeshMOBILE module. Quantity discounts are available for large volume orders. For more information on PlantMESH™, please visit http://plantmesh.com.

About WingTip
WingTip was founded in June of 2006 and has locations in Washington, Oregon, California and Texas. The company provides best-of-breed solutions for plant and outdoor networking and security, real time performance improvement, wind farm and power generation networking and security, automation device change management and automation networking. Perhaps even more important is the training, technical support, and the technical expertise to achieve customers' goals. WingTip partners with Schneider Electric, MDT Software, Canary Labs, Byres Security and Kepware for complimentary solution technologies.

WingTip serves customers throughout industries that include oil and gas, petrochemical and petroleum refining, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, pulp and paper, power generation and utilities, metals and mining, water/wastewater, manufacturing, and many other vertical industries. WingTip has served manufacturing companies throughout North America and in the Oceania region.

For more information on the company's product and service offerings please visit the web site at http://wingtipllc.com/Software/About-WingTip.html

Contact Information

  • Editors
    For additional information please contact:
    David McKay
    Director of Business Development
    Phone: +1 (509) 378-2601
    Email: Email Contact