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EtherCAT – The measurement technology bus

  • 01-Feb-2018
  • Articles|Technical Articles
As the inventor of EtherCAT, Beckhoff still plays a leading role in the ongoing development of this pioneering industry-standard technology and continues to develop innovative new products for EtherCAT, in particular the modular EtherCAT Terminal I/O system.
EtherCAT has become widely established in the area of measurement technology in the meantime. With 100 Mbit data rates, EtherCAT covers many of the requirements for measurement technology in laboratory and production environments. Additional benefits for device manufacturers include simple integration and a huge range of supporters in the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG), which after 14 years includes almost 4,000 members, 100 of which are master device manufacturers. An EtherCAT interface is now available for almost any sensor type.
With its EtherCAT-based modular I/O system and PC-based control software TwinCAT, Beckhoff provides the complete automation infrastructure for many machines and now extends this system with highly precise measurement technology in a DIN rail-mountable format. This makes control cabinet design more efficient, saves installation space and simplifies procurement, because all components can be supplied from one source.
The direct integration of precise measurement technology into the control system via EtherCAT ensures simple system configuration and reduced complexity as a result. It also comes with fieldbus technology highlights such as simple parameterization based on EtherCAT standards, synchronous sampling through distributed clocks (up to external synchronization with any time sources via PTP/IEEE 1588 and others) and integrated diagnostics from the controller to the I/O level.
A measured value has two main characteristics: the measuring uncertainty (what is the value?) and the precise time determination (when did the measurement take place?). EtherCAT enables high-precision time synchronization of all inputs and outputs based on distributed clocks, typically with time uncertainties of significantly less than 1 µs, both relative between the devices in the network, and absolute to a higher-level global reference time. On the other hand, the EtherCAT measurement modules significantly improve determination of the values with high-precision measurements. Together, these capabilities enable much more precise determination of measured values in terms of time and value when compared with conventional automation technology.
Fast: Up to 50,000 samples/s in the basic configuration with 24-bit resolution.
Precision timing: Exact synchronisation in < 1 µs enabled by EtherCAT Distributed Clocks, internally as well as externally with higher-level clock.
Precision values: Measurement accuracy of 100 pm and better, with high temperature stability depending on measurement range.
Proactive: Integrated connection and functional diagnostics to ensure long-term operational realiability – better safe than sorry!

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