How to add EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT and PROFINET to an automated factory in an economical way



The Sitara AMIC110 processor is an entry-level device that can achieve high integration at low cost and simplify development and warehouse management processes. The price per unit is only $4. With an industrial-grade solution that has passed compliance tests of various protocols, the Sitara processor implements Profinet Isochronous Real-Time (IRT), Profinet RT, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT support.

Remember a scene in a science fiction movie showing a fully automated factory managed by artificial intelligence? There is such a factory now!

Autonomous factories rely on real-time communication between various components (such as motion controllers and robots), and this communication must take place in real time. For example, delays in motion commands sent by a programmable logic controller (PLC) to the robot 100 feet away may cause defects in the final product.

Advances in Ethernet-based real-time communication protocols have solved this problem. These protocols enable the networks connecting large equipment in the factory to communicate with each other in real time, while also providing sufficient bandwidth to send diagnostic and control data to the cloud.

But there is a problem; although there are many real-time Ethernet protocols that facilitate this communication, the different protocols are not compatible with each other. Therefore, even if two devices use Ethernet connections, the device that is set to communicate via a real-time Ethernet protocol cannot easily accept another device that uses a different protocol. There are two questions here: Which protocol should your device support? Can you enable multiple protocols?

Watch our multi-protocol demo: learn how to connect Sitara evaluation modules to three common industrial networks

Challenges of supporting multi-protocol systems

The industrial market mostly uses three main industrial Ethernet protocols: Profinet, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT. It is usually safer to choose one of these three, but in traditional ASIC settings, single-protocol and multi-protocol support have their own advantages and disadvantages, as listed in Table 1.

Single agreement

Multi-protocol

advantage

All devices using this protocol adopt a hardware design

Use different protocols to occupy more market segments

Challenges of using multiple ASICs

Can only enter one market segment

Each protocol requires a different and costly application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)
Each protocol has a separate circuit board design
More complex inventory management.

Table 1: Precautions for single protocol and multi-protocol when using multiple ASICs

Reduce your hardware investment with Sitara™ processors

Obviously, from a business perspective, supporting multi-protocol is the right choice, but for everyone, implementing multi-protocol solutions throughout the entire cycle from engineering to procurement can become costly and prone to problems. Figure 1 shows the process of a company using various ASICs to support multiple protocols. As you can see, each Ethernet solution requires multiple devices to make communication modules, which makes the creation of various stock keeping units (SKUs) more complicated.

How to add EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT and PROFINET to an automated factory in an economical way
Figure 1: The traditional process of multi-protocol support

This process may make it difficult for many factory equipment manufacturers to enable multiple protocols on their products. Today, devices that support multiple protocols (such as Sitara processors) can be used to connect to multiple protocols. Sitara processors (such as AMIC110) support multiple protocols in a single design, overcome the potential challenges of designing a multi-protocol environment, and provide another way to design factory equipment that supports various industrial Ethernet protocols. With its advantages, Sitara devices can simplify the process of creating various SKUs, as shown in Figure 2.

How to add EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT and PROFINET to an automated factory in an economical way
Figure 2: Multi-protocol process implemented by Sitara processor

With the industrial communication subsystem integrated in each processor, you can create a single hardware design for multiple SKUs. You only need to load the new image onto the processor to connect the board to the new network. This method can not only reduce the cost of your system design, but also provide the following advantages:

• Reallocate inventory from one agreement to another within minutes to meet sudden demand changes.
• Reduce hardware purchases to one supplier.
• Significantly reduce the complexity of warehouse management.
• A single hardware design can meet the needs of multiple markets.

In this video, we have created a set of demos showing how to use a single Sitara AMIC110 industrial communication engine to connect to a Profinet, EtherNet/IP or EtherCAT network.

Download the software now and run these demos on our evaluation module.

Concluding remarks

The Sitara AMIC110 processor is an entry-level device that can achieve high integration at low cost and simplify development and warehouse management processes. The price per unit is only $4. With an industrial-grade solution that has passed compliance tests for various protocols, the Sitara processor supports Profinet Isochronous Real-Time (IRT), Profinet RT, EtherNet/IP, and EtherCAT.

Remember a scene in a science fiction movie showing a fully automated factory managed by artificial intelligence? There is such a factory now!

Autonomous factories rely on real-time communication between various components (such as motion controllers and robots), and this communication must take place in real time. For example, delays in motion commands sent by a programmable logic controller (PLC) to the robot 100 feet away may cause defects in the final product.

Advances in Ethernet-based real-time communication protocols have solved this problem. These protocols enable the networks connecting large equipment in the factory to communicate with each other in real time, while also providing sufficient bandwidth to send diagnostic and control data to the cloud.

But there is a problem; although there are many real-time Ethernet protocols that facilitate this communication, the different protocols are not compatible with each other. Therefore, even if two devices use Ethernet connections, the device that is set to communicate via a real-time Ethernet protocol cannot easily accept another device that uses a different protocol. There are two questions here: Which protocol should your device support? Can you enable multiple protocols?

Watch our multi-protocol demo: learn how to connect Sitara evaluation modules to three common industrial networks

Challenges of supporting multi-protocol systems

The industrial market mostly uses three main industrial Ethernet protocols: Profinet, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT. It is usually safer to choose one of these three, but in traditional ASIC settings, single-protocol and multi-protocol support have their own advantages and disadvantages, as listed in Table 1.

Single agreement

Multi-protocol

advantage

All devices using this protocol adopt a hardware design

Use different protocols to occupy more market segments

Challenges of using multiple ASICs

Can only enter one market segment

Each protocol requires a different and costly application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)
Each protocol has a separate circuit board design
More complex inventory management.

Table 1: Precautions for single protocol and multi-protocol when using multiple ASICs

Reduce your hardware investment with Sitara™ processors

Obviously, from a business perspective, supporting multi-protocol is the right choice, but for everyone, implementing multi-protocol solutions throughout the entire cycle from engineering to procurement can become costly and prone to problems. Figure 1 shows the process of a company using various ASICs to support multiple protocols. As you can see, each Ethernet solution requires multiple devices to make communication modules, which makes the creation of various stock keeping units (SKUs) more complicated.

How to add EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT and PROFINET to an automated factory in an economical way
Figure 1: The traditional process of multi-protocol support

This process may make it difficult for many factory equipment manufacturers to enable multiple protocols on their products. Today, devices that support multiple protocols (such as Sitara processors) can be used to connect to multiple protocols. Sitara processors (such as AMIC110) support multiple protocols in a single design, overcome the potential challenges of designing a multi-protocol environment, and provide another way to design factory equipment that supports various industrial Ethernet protocols. With its advantages, Sitara devices can simplify the process of creating various SKUs, as shown in Figure 2.

How to add EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT and PROFINET to an automated factory in an economical way
Figure 2: Multi-protocol process implemented by Sitara processor

With the industrial communication subsystem integrated in each processor, you can create a single hardware design for multiple SKUs. You only need to load the new image onto the processor to connect the board to the new network. This method can not only reduce the cost of your system design, but also provide the following advantages:

• Reallocate inventory from one agreement to another within minutes to meet sudden demand changes.
• Reduce hardware purchases to one supplier.
• Significantly reduce the complexity of warehouse management.
• A single hardware design can meet the needs of multiple markets.

In this video, we have created a set of demos showing how to use a single Sitara AMIC110 industrial communication engine to connect to a Profinet, EtherNet/IP or EtherCAT network.

Download the software now and run these demos on our evaluation module.

Concluding remarks

The Sitara AMIC110 processor is an entry-level device that can achieve high integration at low cost and simplify development and warehouse management processes. The price per unit is only $4. With an industrial-grade solution that has passed compliance tests for various protocols, the Sitara processor supports Profinet Isochronous Real-Time (IRT), Profinet RT, EtherNet/IP, and EtherCAT.

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