With decades of progress, the system architecture for automation equipment has gradually shifted from conventional centralized control systems, which involve control through plug-in expansion boards, to decentralized control systems. The trend has prompted more protocols to be rolled out and published, with EtherCAT as the highly favored communication technology among all by virtue of its advantages — openness, high-precision synchronization, good real-time performance, low hardware cost, and easy deployment. Therefore, EtherCAT is widely introduced and adopted by numerous large automation system and equipment manufacturers.
EtherCAT (Ethernet Control Automation Technology) is an industrial communication fieldbus built on the Ethernet network. In the realm of industrial automation, EtherCAT has emerged as the mainstream choice with its ultra-fast and real-time communication capabilities, aligning perfectly with the industry’s pursuit of high precision, high efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
EtherCAT is the fastest Industrial Ethernet technology for automation applications in which machinery is controlled. It achieves high-speed, reliable, and efficient data transmission through Ethernet, with a short cycle time (≤ 100 µs) to refresh data. It can connect to I/O modules, servo motors, stepper motors, encoders, intelligent sensors, etc. All EtherCAT slave devices are equipped with two EtherCAT ports, enabling flexible network topologies that avoid additional hardware such as switches, hubs, or routers. In comparison to conventional systems using motion control boards that involve high costs and complex cabling, the advantages of EtherCAT allow it to be a game changer.
Why ICP DAS?
ICP DAS provides customers with one-stop EtherCAT shopping services. A comprehensive range of products includes master boards, motion controllers (EtherCAT master), and dozens of slave devices, offering compatibility with various brands. The master devices have the capability to update multiple slave devices in real time, with a cycle time of up to one millisecond. This functionality enables various applications, including motion control for 32-axis devices and multiple groups of single-axis devices.
Some ICP DAS EtherCAT master series follow the IEC 61131 standard and include SoftPLC functions, enabling customers to integrate EtherCAT slave devices of different brands easily. For slave devices, ICP DAS offers I/O modules, junction modules, converters, gateways, motion control modules, etc. ICP DAS EtherCAT products, with outstanding and real-time performance, effectively reduce loads in the system and improve control, precision, and production efficiency.
High compatibility: Devices included in ICP DAS EtherCAT solutions have successfully undergone tests using EtherCAT Conformance Test Tool (CTT), ensuring that various EtherCAT servo drives used can be integrated with third-party EtherCAT products. The flexibility allows users to choose any EtherCAT components as required with no compatibility issues.
Distributed clocks for high-precision synchronization: The EtherCAT distributed clock (DC) mechanism enables the synchronized operation of local clocks in all EtherCAT devices, thereby controlling each device synchronously and ensuring jitter in the system is within 1μs. The DC function in EtherCAT slaves supports multi-axis synchronous operation in which interrupts are controlled or digital input and output are triggered.
Easy system setup with automatically assigned node addresses: Configuring EtherCAT systems is relatively simpler than traditional fieldbus systems. The node addresses are automatically assigned and configured on the EtherCAT system without network tuning. The integrated diagnostic information accurately locates errors without configuring switches or complex handling of MAC and IP addresses.
ICP DAS EtherCAT modules are suitable for applications in various fields that require quickness, low wiring costs, space-saving designs, and single or multi-axis motion control. Some notable examples include IC Test Handlers monitoring, the process monitoring system for vacuum coating machines, and the monitoring system for hard disk drive production lines. Applications also cover multi-axis AOI motion control systems for automobile assembly lines, remote control of continuum manipulators, building motion simulators, etc.
Among a wide range of applications, ICP DAS EtherCAT multi-axis motion control boards of the ECAT-M801 series have been deployed to control the multi-axis actuators of the continuum manipulators. The continuum robot, with a high degree of flexibility, was developed by the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (Atomic Energy Council of Taiwan Government) for the clean-up and dismantling of nuclear facilities.
During the dismantling process, equipment, components, and facilities containing high levels of radioactive contaminants pose health hazards to on-site workers. Therefore, the Nuclear Energy Research Institute employs the continuum manipulator to obtain waste survey data from the field for data visualization and analysis. The management personnel will thus be able to estimate the workloads, optimize dismantling tasks, and minimize personnel exposure to radiation.
After completing the on-site survey, the continuum manipulator can be equipped with tools to dismantle the facility. The robot control is enabled by connecting all cables to their corresponding linear actuators inside the control box.
By leveraging the 30-year expertise in the automation industry and know-how of the R&D team, ICP DAS constantly advances in presenting diverse solutions. We offer EtherCAT motion control solutions, focus on decentralized control systems, to answer the call for short cycle time to refresh data, low jitter for accurate synchronization in the communication system, and low hardware costs. We are committed to expanding product lines and optimizing solutions to better meet customer-specific requirements in the future.
ICP DAS was established in 1993 and strongly focuses on innovation and the enhancement of industrial automation technology. ICP DAS continuously endeavors to develop a comprehensive selection of products ranging from remote I/O controllers, distributed I/O modules, I/O data acquisition boards, programmable automation controllers, industrial communication modules, web-related products, motion control systems, SCADA/HMI software to automation solutions for applications critical to energy management, motion automation, smart factories, intelligent buildings, and smart cities. Our ambition is to provide a wide range of high-quality products and versatile applications, together with prompt and efficient services, that can be implemented to assist in the continued success of our clients worldwide.