Dedicated controller IC offers real-time characteristics for EtherCAT

August 18, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
Trinamic has introduced an IC for EtherCAT networks; the first slave controller IC offering latency-free advanced peripherals; the device is intended to be the first in an Interface Device family

The EtherCAT-compliant slave controller IC, TMC8460, incorporates PWM and Step/Dir I/O peripherals that do not require routing through the firmware of an application processor, eliminating latency for applications requiring real-time response. The TMC8460 extends the feature set of the core EtherCAT technology with an array of peripherals and features: an integrated smart peripherals block accessible from an MCU or EtherCAT master and, in addition to a PWM unit and Step/Dir interface, an SPI master and encoder interface that can be directly mapped to the PDO (Process Data Object) by the memory manager. This unique SPI interface enables latency-free read from an ADC or write to a DAC.

The IC includes a standalone mode that enables direct mapping of integrated peripherals to bus registers, while in parallel an external MCU can perform higher layer protocol operations. To enable wide interoperability, the TMC8460 communication hardware has been verified as 100% compatible with the existing Beckhoff EtherCAT Slave controller through extensive interoperability testing.

"Trinamic has a well-established track record of delivering embedded motor drives with high-level bus interfaces for the industrial motion control market. We’re now responding to the increasing demand for EtherCAT support as this standard gains traction around the world,“ explained Trinamic CEO Michael Randt. “We are meeting an increasing demand for cutting-edge, real-time operation where jitter and latency caused by routing process data through a protocol stack is not accepted. So we decided to directly connect our EtherCAT slave controller to the motion control specific peripherals."

As an exceptionally stable standard that industrial developers can rely on for long life cycle products, EtherCAT continues to utilise the same interface first established in 2004, even as the protocol has continued to evolve. TMC8460 uses Trinamic’s comprehensive development eco-system, called “Landungsbrücke”, which includes evaluation boards, reference designs and, for this new device, sample EtherCAT software stacks for Cortex MCUs. All configuration and parameterisation tools are incorporated into Trinamic’s Integrated Development Environment. The