The Importance of EtherCAT as Industrial Ethernet Network

As increasingly more devices are connected to industrial networks, the need for systems to transfer data in real-time grows. Hence the creation of EtherCAT, the high performance industrial communication protocol.

Thanks to its features, using EtherCAT as an industrial Ethernet network offers companies several advantages: from speed to cost cutting.

EtherCAT: what it is and why use it as an industrial network

EtherCAT (Ethernet Control Automation Technology) is a deterministic industrial Ethernet technology originally developed by Beckhoff in 2003 and published in the IEC61158 standard. The protocol immediately became a standard in the sector, as demonstrated by the foundation of the EtherCAT consortium in November of the same year.

This success is mainly due to its ability to meet real time hardware and software requirements in automation and in several other applications. In fact, from the beginning it has been characterized as a real-time high-performance deterministic bus.

According to a study on the industrial networks market, the number of new nodes connected to industrial networks increases every year, with a + 10% in 2019 alone. It is then evident that a technology such as EtherCAT is the ideal solution to support the growing company and production digitization in Industry 4.0, making it sustainable.

Advantages of EtherCAT as an industrial Ethernet network

The EtherCAT protocol expands the IEEE 802 standard and enables data transfer with predictable timing and precise synchronization. Plus, the guaranteed cycle time is <= 100 microseconds, with a maximum jitter time of 1 microsecond. This means that such architecture allows to develop real time and CNC hard motion applications with architectures distributed along the fieldbus.

As a result, the use of EtherCAT applications in industrial automation sky-rocked. So much so that today the EtherCAT bus is recognized as a standard for distributed applications in this sector. This standardization has generated an additional advantage: a significant cost reduction of devices with EtherCAT interface.

In conclusion, choosing EtherCAT as an industrial Ethernet network has numerous competitive advantages. In particular:

  • Simple and inexpensive Ethernet cabling.
  • Hard real time performance.
  • Opening towards devices of all houses.
  • Low costs.

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