Remember when science fiction movies would have a scene showing a fully automated factory managed by artificial intelligence? Such factories exist now!
An autonomous factory relies on real-time communication between individual components such as motion controllers and robots, and this communication must happen in real time. For example, one delayed motion command to a robot controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC) 100 feet away could result in a defective end product.
Advancements in real-time Ethernet-based communication protocols have solved this problem. These protocols enable a large network of devices inside the factory to communicate with each other in real time, while also providing enough bandwidth to send diagnostic and control data to the cloud.
There’s a catch, however; although many real-time Ethernet protocols facilitate this communication, they aren’t interoperable. The result is that equipment set up to communicate through one real-time Ethernet protocol cannot easily accept another piece of equipment speaking a different protocol – even though both are using an Ethernet connection. So two questions arise: Which protocol should your equipment support, and can you enable multiple protocols?
Watch our multiprotocol demo
The challenges of supporting multiprotocol systems
Three major industrial Ethernet protocols have captured the majority of the industrial market: Profinet, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT. Picking one of these three is generally a safe bet, but there are benefits and drawbacks to both single and multiprotocol support in a traditional ASIC setup, as listed in Table 1.
One hardware design for all equipment using that protocol
Captures more market segments using different protocols
Challenges with using multiple ASICs
Ability to access only one segment of the market
Table 1: Single vs. multiprotocol considerations with multiple ASICs
Reduce your hardware investment with Sitara™ processors
It’s apparent that from a commercial perspective supporting multiple protocols is the right answer, but implementing a multiprotocol solution can become costly and problematic for everyone from engineering to procurement. Figure 1 shows the flow of a company supporting multiple protocols using various ASICs. You can see that there are multiple devices required to make communication modules for each Ethernet solution, resulting in more complexity when creating various stock-keeping units (SKUs).
Figure 1: Traditional flow for multiprotocol support
This flow can deter many factory equipment manufacturers from enabling various protocols on their products. But today, it’s possible to connect to more than protocol one using a multiprotocol-enabled device like a Sitara processor. A Sitara processor such as the AMIC110 enables many protocols with a single design, overcoming the potential challenges of designing a multiprotocol environment. However, Sitara processors offer an alternative way to design factory equipment that supports a variety of industrial Ethernet protocols. The benefits of Sitara devices simplify the flow for creating various SKUs as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Multiprotocol flow with a Sitara processor
The industrial communication subsystem integrated into each processor enables you to create a single hardware design for various SKUs. All you have to do is load a new image onto the processor to connect the board to a new network. This strategic approach can not only lower your system design costs, but can also deliver these advantages:
In this video, we’ve created a set of demonstrations to show how to connect to a Profinet, EtherNet/IP or EtherCAT network using a single Sitara AMIC110 industrial communications engine.
Download the software today and run the demos on our evaluation module.
The Sitara AMIC110 processor is an entry-level device that can enable high integration and simplify development and warehouse management flow at a low cost—only $4 USD per unit. Sitara processors enable support for Profinet Isochronous Real Time (IRT), Profinet RT, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT, with a single industrial-grade solution that has passed conformance for each of these protocols.
All content and materials on this site are provided "as is". TI and its respective suppliers and providers of content make no representations about the suitability of these materials for any purpose and disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to these materials, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement of any third party intellectual property right. No license, either express or implied, by estoppel or otherwise, is granted by TI. Use of the information on this site may require a license from a third party, or a license from TI.
TI is a global semiconductor design and manufacturing company. Innovate with 100,000+ analog ICs andembedded processors, along with software, tools and the industry’s largest sales/support staff.