EtherCAT® is the fastest Industrial Ethernet technology and stands for high-performance, low-cost, ease of use and a flexible topology. It was introduced in 2003 and became an international standard and a SEMI standard in 2007. The EtherCAT® Technology Group promotes EtherCAT® and is responsible for its continued development. EtherCAT® is also an open technology: anyone is allowed to implement or use it.

Ether Cat Cable Left

1. Exceptional performance

EtherCAT® is by and large the fastest Industrial Ethernet technology but it also synchronizes with nanosecond accuracy. This is a huge benefit for all applications in which the target system is controlled or measured via the bus system. The rapid reaction times work to reduce the wait times during the transitions between process steps, which significantly improves application efficiency. Lastly, the EtherCAT® system architecture typically reduces the load on the CPU by 25 – 30 % in comparison to other bus systems (given the same cycle time). When optimally applied, EtherCAT®’s performance leads to improved accuracy, greater throughput, and thus to lowered costs.

2. Flexible topology

In EtherCAT® applications, the machine structure determines the network topology, not the other way around. In conventional Industrial Ethernet systems, there are limitations on how many switches and hubs can be cascaded, which thus limits the overall network topology. Since EtherCAT® doesn’t need hubs or switches, there are no such limitations. In short, EtherCAT®is virtually limitless when it comes to network topology. Line, tree, star topologies and any combinations thereof are possible with a nearly unlimited number of nodes. Thanks to automatic link detection, nodes and network segments can be disconnected during operation and then reconnected – even somewhere else, if the master supports this feature. Line topology is extended to a ring topology for the sake of cable redundancy. All the master device needs for this redundancy is a second Ethernet port, and the slave devices already support the cable redundancy anyhow. This makes switching out devices during machine operation possible.

3. It’s simple and robust

Configuration, diagnostics, and maintenance are all factors that contribute to system costs. The Ethernet fieldbus makes all of these tasks significantly easier: EtherCAT® can be set to automatically assign addresses, which eliminates the need for manual configuration. A low bus load and peer-to-peer physics improve electromagnetic noise immunity. The network reliably detects potential disturbances down to their exact location, which drastically reduces thetime needed for troubleshooting. During startup, the network compares the planned and actual layouts to detect any discrepancies. EtherCAT®performance also helps during system configuration by eliminating the need for network tuning. Thanks to the large bandwidth, there is capacity to transmit additional TCP/IP together with the control data. However, since EtherCAT® itself isn’t based on TCP/IP, there is no need to administer MAC-addresses or IP-addresses or to have IT experts configure switches and routers.

Ether Cat Milestones 2003 2013

4. Integrated Safety

Functional safety as an integrated part of the network architecture? Not a problem with Functional Safety over EtherCAT (FSoE). FSoE is proven in use through TÜVcertified devices that have been on the market since 2005. The protocol fulfills the requirements for SIL 3 systems and is suitable for both centralized and decentralized control systems. Thanks to the Black-Channel approach and the particularly lean Safety-Container, FSoE can also be used in other bus systems. This integrated approach and the lean protocol help keepsystem costs down. Additionally, a non-safety critical controller can also  receive and process safety data.

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For these reasons, EtherCAT® is often seen in:

  • Robotics
  • Machine tools
  • Packaging machines
  • Printing presses
  • Plastic manufacturing equipment
  • Presses
  • Semiconductor manufacturing machines
  • Test benches
  • Pick & Place Machines
  • Measurement systems
  • Material handling applications
  • Baggage handling systems
  • Stage control systems
  • Automated assembly systems
  • Pulp and paper machines
  • Welding machines
  • Sawmills
  • Window manufacturing equipment
  • Building automation systems
  • Iron and steel works
  • Furniture manufacturing equipment
  • Milling machines
  • Automated guided vehicles
  • Entertainment automation
  • Medical devices
  • Woodworking machines
  • Flat glass manufacturing equipment
  • Weighing systems

EtherCAT® is the open real-time Ethernet network trademarked by Beckhoff. EtherCAT® sets new standards for real-time performance and topology flexibility.




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