IP for EtherCAT puts verified interface into industrial drive & control FPGAs

July 30, 2013 // By Graham Prophet
Altera has released fully-verified EtherCAT Protocol IP that is free of upfront licensing fees; the EtherCAT Protocol IP is the latest Altera Industrial Ethernet design offered in partnership with EtherCAT Technology Group and Softing

The intellectual property (IP) for Altera FPGAs is the latest offering from the collaboration between Altera, EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) and Softing Industrial Automation, for a licensing structure that gives developers access to leading Industrial Ethernet protocols with no upfront license fees, no per-unit royalty reporting or protracted negotiations, ultimately simplifying the integration of FPGA-based Industrial Ethernet designs.

Altera’s Industrial Ethernet solutions implement both the protocol IP and software stack into an FPGA using programmable logic and a soft embedded processor. In this way, a single board with the same Altera FPGA can work with a range of protocols without hardware modifications. The same FPGA can also be used to implement various industrial automation functions, such as sensor interfaces, accelerators and custom control logic in addition to the communication function. Customers simply download the entire EtherCAT protocol IP including the software stack from Softing. The protocol IP and reference designs are hardware tested on both the Altera Industrial Networking Kit (INK) the Softing FPGA RTEM Cyclone III kit.

“Customers have wanted to leverage the performance of the EtherCAT protocol IP in the FPGA for some time, but have always been hampered by licensing costs,” said Brian Jentz, director, industrial business unit at Altera. “By removing that barrier Altera customers can leverage the performance and integrate a discrete EtherCAT device in an existing FPGA with confidence and minimum effort.”

Altera also works with a range of industrial automation partners to support multiple design options. Altera’s Industrial Networking Partner Program provides an ecosystem of established networking experts that enable customers to evaluate Industrial Ethernet and fieldbus solutions on a common FPGA-based platform. These partners provide IP, reference designs and design services that meet network communication and FPGA development needs.

Altera; www.altera.com/industrialethernet