The goal of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) is to put together the diverse areas of engineering, design and production processes, material inventory, sales and purchasing, and accounting and administration into a single interactive closed loop control system [1]. Essential to this distributed total manufacturing system is the integrated communications network over which the information leading to process interactions, and plant management and control will flow. Such a network must be capable of handling heterogeneous real-time (e.g., data packets for inter-machine communications at the factory floor) and non-real-time (e.g., Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings, design specifications, and administrative information) traffic. This sequence of papers in two parts presents the development and analysis of a novel fiber-optic-based medium access control (MAC) protocol for integrated factory and office communications. Its adaptation as the common MAC layer protocol in the fiber-optic-based version of Manufacturing Automation Protocol (MAP) [2] and Technical and Office Protocols (TOP) [3], will make their specifications identical up to the presentation layer; only the application layer which is user-specific could be different. This first part provides the necessary background for the reported work and details of the protocol which is represented by a finite-state-machine model. Part II [4] presents the performance analysis of the protocol using a statistical model, and a comparison of the simulation and analytical results.

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