Understanding Industrial Networks

Learn Logix Part 4.0. In this article, we get an overview of industrial networks and learn about the main components that make up an industrial network.

Learn Logix is a series of articles designed to teach you everything you need to know to work with Rockwell Automation’s Studio 5000 Logix Designer and the Logix 5000 series of PLCs.

In the last part of the series, we learned about routines in a Studio 5000 Logix Designer project. Specifically, we learned what routines are and how to create them. In this part of the series, we’ll learn about the industrial networks and the main components that make up an industrial network.

Eventually, you will need to connect to a controller when working with a Logix 5000 system. A connection to the controller is required for everyday tasks such as;

  • Downloading a Studio 5000 Logix Designer project to a controller,
  • Uploading a project from a controller, and
  • Monitoring a project while troubleshooting or maintaining a system

To go online with a controller, you need to understand the two physical connections that can be used to create a connection with a controller. The two possible connections are;

  • Point-to-point connection using a USB cable
  • Network connection through an industrial network

This article introduces the concept of industrial networks in a Logix 5000 systems. In subsequent articles, we will look at how to create a connection to a Logix 5000 system in a step-by-step way.

Industrial Networks

Overview of an Industrial Network

An industrial network is basically a group of connected devices that communicate with each other.

Each device on a network is called a node and communication is the transfer of data between two or more devices through a communication medium.

Let’s look in more detail at the roles of the components that make up an industrial network.

Network Nodes

A node is a physical device on an industrial network. A node may be any hardware device connected to the network such as a controller, communication module, or computer.

In older Logix 5000 systems, nodes were referred to as connections. You may still hear this term used in place of nodes.

Communication Modules

A communication module is a hardware device that allows data to be passed between devices on a network.

Most Logix 5000 controllers have at least one embedded Ethernet port which allows them to communicate on a network. For these controllers, a separate communication module is not required to communicate on a network.

Some Logix 5000 controllers, such as the ControlLogix L7x controller, do not have an embedded Ethernet port. These controllers require a dedicated communication module to communicate on a network.

Communication Medium

A communication medium is a physical channel used for data transmission over a network.

The communication medium used depends on the industrial network being used. In an EtherNet/IP network, the communication medium used is Ethernet cabling.

Communication Driver

A communication driver is a piece of software that allows a computer to communicate with a specific type of hardware such as a controller or a communication module.

A computer requires a communication driver to communicate with the devices on an industrial network.

In a Logix 5000 system, RSLinx Classic is used to configure the communication drivers between your computer and nodes on an industrial network.


In this article, we learned about industrial networks and the main components that make up an industrial network.

In the next part of the series, we will learn how to configure communications drivers using RSLinx Classic to allow your computer to communicate with nodes in an industrial network. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the mailing list below to be notified when the next part is available.

Update: You can find the next part of the Learn Logix series, Introduction to RSLinx Classic, here. In this article, we get an overview of RSLinx Classic, the software tool used to configure communications drivers with a Logix 5000 system.

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