The German motion control specialist Trinamic has announced what it claims is the world’s first EtherCat slave controller to integrate real-time, latency-free I/O peripherals. The TMC8460 chip is the first in a family of EtherCat-compliant interface products that Trinamic is developing, based on its membership of the EtherCat Technology Group (ETG).
The chip incorporates PWM and step/direction I/O peripherals that do not need to be routed through the firmware of an application processor, thus eliminating latency for applications needing a real-time response.
The chip extends the core EtherCat technology with functions including a smart peripheral block accessible from an MCU or EtherCat master, and an SPI master and encoder interface that can be directly mapped to the PDO (Process Data Object) by the memory manager. This interface allows latency-free reading from an ADC, or writing to a DAC. The chip can be used with any MCU with an SPI interface, or in an SPI emulation mode.
A standalone mode supports direct mapping of integrated peripherals to bus registers while, in parallel, an external MCU performs higher layer protocol operations.
“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,” explains Trinamic’s CEO, Michael Randt. “So we decided to connect our EtherCat slave controller directly to the motion-control-specific peripherals."
The new chip will cost $50 in 1,000-off volumes. Trinamic plans to release more members of its EtherCat family over the coming months, including integrated devices and modules designed to further minimise costs and board space.
More than 3,000 companies worldwide have endorsed the EtherCat standard. It uses the same interface that was established back in 2004, even though the protocol has continued to evolve.