Representing a “major endorsement” of the EtherCAT industrial networking protocol, semiconductor maker Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) announced at Hannover Fair in Germany on April 4 that it has licensed the industrial Ethernet technology for its ARM- and DSP+ARM-based embedded processors. TI offers close to 1,000 differentiated ARM processors across its microcontroller (MCU) and microprocessor (MPU) portfolios, addressing a variety of embedded design needs. EtherCAT will be featured in TI's upcoming Sitara ARM microprocessors planned for the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2011, and in TI's C6-Integra DSP+ARM processors beginning in 2012.
According to Martin Rostan, executive director of the EtherCAT Technology Group, TI is the first semiconductor manufacturer to the license the technology, and its integration of an EtherCAT interface in several product lines, “turns EtherCAT into a mainstream technology beyond the automation world.” He said the move is a "major endorsement" and “will open entirely new markets for EtherCAT [and help it] establish a strong position in a wide range of embedded applications."
EtherCAT technology is based on the principle of fast processing on the fly. EtherCAT messages are passed from node to node and processed while they are passed, which improves speed and efficiency in industrial systems. Overall industrial application performance is also improved with shorter reaction times, enabling increased operational efficiency.
Ram Sathappan, industrial automation manager for TI, said the EtherCAT protocol technology “sets new standards for the real-time performance and flexibility that are critical” for TI's embedded ARM-based devices geared toward the industrial market. “With its popularity today in industrial drive and input/output applications, EtherCAT is used to allow master and slave controllers to communicate with each other without a host computer in high-noise industrial environments,” he explained.
Sathappan said the TI approach to EtherCAT—with the programmable real-time unit (PRU) on TI's Sitara ARM MPUs and C6-Integra DSP + ARM processors — allows for “flexible implementation that can more easily adapt as industrial standards evolve over time." TI’s embedded ARM-based system-on-a-chip solution is based on TI's most advanced silicon technology, integrating the EtherCAT slave controller. This on-chip integration allows the user to be tightly coupled to the application processor, which provides high throughput, low latency access, board space savings and lower total costs, he said.
TI’s ARM Platform Technical Overview