Renesas Launches EtherCAT Dedicated Communication SoC

SANTA CLARA, CA --- Renesas Electronics America Inc. introduces the EC-1, a low-cost EtherCAT dedicated communication system-on-chip (SoC) that will help boost production efficiency in factories. The EC-1 is intended for high-speed, high-precision control of slave devices such as sensors, actuators, sensor networks, and I/O modules that require deterministic communication.

The new EC-1 controls the EtherCAT slave controller, an industrial network protocol for which demand is expected to expand. The EC-1 simplifies the adaption of EtherCAT by allowing users to get started with development of an EtherCAT slave with much shorter development time to build slave devices such as remote I/O.

The advancement of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) brings with it a growing need to boost factory productivity. The use of Ethernet-based networks in factories is becoming more widespread, as deterministic, safe communications across all levels of the factory are more critical than ever. This need for automation in factories is driving this shift from the slower, less robust serial communication to open standards based on Ethernet technology, such as EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP™, and PROFINET. EtherCAT provides highly efficient data transfer that makes high-speed and high-precision control possible. Its use is growing, especially in sensors and actuators used in industrial robots and manufacturing devices, which require high-speed and high-precision control.

EtherCAT has been one of the leading protocols in the industry for its high-performance, low-cost, and flexible topology technology. There are more than 3,800 members worldwide registered as EtherCAT consortia members. With the recent announcement by one of Japan’s leading automakers of its intention to fully adopt EtherCAT in its factories, the spread of such networks can be expected to continue.

Typical EtherCAT embedded solutions are either higher cost programmable logic solutions, or processor and memory limited ASIC solutions. But these solutions are either more complex to implement, or are functionally limited. EC-1 is an efficient solution that is simpler to implement, yet has the processing power to handle the I/O as well as the network interface. In order to achieve optimal performance, users have to re-evaluate their current microcontrollers (MCUs) and microprocessors (MPUs) because their processing capabilities will be insufficient. This can result in major changes to existing systems. Also, it may not be possible to reuse existing software resources, resulting in additional increases in development time and cost.

The EC-1 enables users to adopt and implement EtherCAT networks with minimal effort, so they can focus on developing the applications. The EC-1 integrates a real-time CPU core and tightly coupled RAM on a single chip to achieve high performance and determinism for EtherCAT communication. The EC-1 has enough processing power as a standalone device, sufficient for both application processing and EtherCAT communication. By also connecting to an existing system via a serial interface, it is easy to upgrade the existing system to a system supporting EtherCAT. This highly integrated hardware provides the end user with a lot of flexibility to connect to external devices or memory using serial interfaces, quad serial peripheral interface (QSPI) and USB high speed (USB-HS). Renesas also provides an EtherCAT Remote IO solution and sample SW for users to quickly get started and expedite the development time for such applications.

Key features of the EC-1:

(1) Certified remote I/O solution cuts development time by approximately 60 percent

The EtherCAT-enabled remote I/O solution is comprised of a ruggedized remote I/O board, software, documentation, and circuit diagrams. It allows the user to get started with development of an EtherCAT slave with significantly lower risk, and much shorter development time. The developer can carry out application-level development in a configuration very close to that of the actual product. It also enables a reduction of about 60 percent1 in the actual work hours required for development. The solution was designed with remote I/O as the target application, and the board is designed to operate on the same 24-volt (V) power supply typical of actual products. The user can also refer to the supplied circuit diagrams when designing their own product. The sample software has been certified using a conformance test tool.

(2) Simplifies the transition from low speed serial communication to EtherCAT

The EC-1 enables the user to devote their time to application development without spending a lot of time to replace the communication protocol. In addition, the sample software includes a CiA4022 drive profile for motor drive devices, as stipulated in IEC 61800-7-201 and IEC 61800-7-301, and ETG.5003.1 and ETG.5003.0002 device profiles3 for semiconductor manufacturing devices. This makes it possible to quickly construct internal control systems for industrial manufacturing devices using servo controllers, mass flow controllers, process controllers, and temperature controllers supplied by manufacturers of slave devices.

(3) Connectivity with master devices from ten leading manufacturers

Connectivity has been verified with master devices from approximately ten manufacturers, making it easy to implement EtherCAT slave devices with a high level of compatibility. In addition to an EtherCAT slave controller, the EC-1 employs as its CPU the ARM® Cortex®-R4 with FPU functionality, which is designed for real-time processing at 150MHz. Therefore, the EC-1 provides an excellent configuration to send the analog data from an external A / D converter to the master devices.

Samples of the EC-1 has are available now. For more information, visit

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