We have compiled a list of the 5 most significant benefits of using an EtherCAT-based data acquisition system. If you’re not already familiar with EtherCAT, prepare to be enlightened. If you’re among the many engineers that use EtherCAT in your testing lab then you can consider this a confirmation of why you do what you do – and an excellent place to direct those who still think Industrial Ethernet is not suitable for high-performance testing applications.
What is EtherCAT?
EtherCAT (Ethernet for Control Automation Technology) is an Ethernet-based communication protocol developed specifically with industrial automation in mind. Due to its high speed, efficient data exchange and low costs of implementation, EtherCAT has now become one of the most popular networks for seamless integration between data acquisition and control systems from different manufacturers for ground vehicle, aerospace, and industrial testing applications. And here are the five most important benefits.
1. Ethernet down to the field level
The advantage of Ethernet is that every PC, notebook, or other device is equipped with an Ethernet interface. It enables high-speed data transmission over long distances using low-cost hardware. The drawback is that with standard Ethernet, the collision detection principle leads to variable data transfer rates; thus, it is not suitable for real-time, synchronized data acquisition & control applications. EtherCAT implements a master/slave architecture over standard Ethernet cabling. EtherCAT is high-speed and deterministic based on the principle of ‘on-the-fly’ processing.
Compare it to a railway where each station can offload and reload railway cars while the train passes through the station at high-speed. One EtherCAT frame holds data for many network nodes. Each EtherCAT node reads the data specifically addressed to it from the frame and inserts data into the frame while that frame passes through the node at full speed. Because frames are passed before being processed in each node, EtherCAT operates at high speed and efficiency. For test benches with many I/Os, the transmission overhead can be significantly reduced, making EtherCAT an ideal solution for multichannel, mixed signal data acquisition.