A model for function block communication and diagnostic messaging with EtherNet/IP

Richard Piggin (Rockwell Automation, Milton Keynes, UK)
Vivek Hajarnavis (Rockwell Automation, Brussels, Belgium)

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Publication date: 22 February 2008



This paper aims to propose a model for the provision of EtherNet/IP device‐specific function blocks by discrete industry device vendors and to outline how multi‐vendor network environments can benefit from the use of function block programming to encapsulate code for configuring communication, diagnostics and visualisation tools.


The approach makes use of function blocks to facilitate simpler use of the EtherNet/IP protocol. The EtherNet/IP messaging mechanisms are described, along with the methodology for configuring communication for both time‐critical and non‐time‐critical messaging, including device‐specific status and diagnostic data. The same approach is utilised for communication to visualisation systems.


Validation of the model was found to make data transfer between controller and device easier and faster, owing to a reduction in the number of operations a programmer was required to implement. Implementation time was found to be just 6.25 per cent of that needed to achieve the same functionality without the use of function blocks.

Practical implications

The use of function blocks to describe EtherNet/IP communication was tested with a commercial product in an application environment, and subsequently adopted by multiple vendors. A reduction in technical support was noted owing to the use of identical interfaces for multiple device instances. With complete device functionality described and readily available to the end‐user, greater device functionality is utilised and more often may otherwise not have been implemented for time, cost, or complexity reasons.


In the discrete industry, it is uncommon for device vendors to provide device‐specific function blocks describing network communication interfaces and functionality, since they reside in the controller, not the device. This research presents a novel method that provides a consistent, yet flexible approach for the configuration of EtherNet/IP communication for differing devices from multiple vendors within a controller.



Piggin, R. and Hajarnavis, V. (2008), "A model for function block communication and diagnostic messaging with EtherNet/IP", Assembly Automation, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 36-42. https://doi.org/10.1108/01445150810848993

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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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