What is an EtherCAT Motion Controller?

October 21, 2022

 • 
by 
JP Garza

Introduction

Motion controllers are a critical piece for industrial automation companies that need to move and control objects in a precise way. In the past, companies had to rely on motion controllers that were old, complex to learn and program, hardware-dependent, and expensive. Thankfully, times have changed.

With the advent of EtherCAT and software motion controllers, industrial companies now have a much more affordable and scalable option for motion control. Let's take a closer look. 

What is EtherCAT? 

EtherCAT is an “open” protocol Ethernet-based Fieldbus network that makes it possible to achieve real-time process data transfer consistently and efficiently using dedicated hardware and software, ensuring optimal machine performance, and is used to solve demanding motion control applications. 

One of EtherCAT’s most impressive features is its open protocol. EtherCAT technology is specified by the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG). The ETG consists of control vendors, OEMs, and machine builders to ensure protocol interoperability among different vendors. The “open” philosophy ensures users can freely select their preferred vendor without the risk of being tied to one vendor. The ETG also provides configuration tools, documentation, and guidelines for users. [1]

EtherCAT is proven to optimize machine performance with its deterministic performance, flexible topology, and diverse set of features. [1] It can process 1,000 I/O points in 30 microseconds and communicate with 100 servo axes in 100 microseconds. [2]

EtherCAT was developed by the industry leader Beckhoff Automation in 2003 and has been an international standard since 2007, making it a trusted solution for industrial automation applications.

[4]

What is an EtherCAT Soft Motion Controller?

When it comes to industrial automation, EtherCAT-based software motion/master controllers reign supreme. 

A soft motion controller is a software program that runs directly on your PC, it uses the latest CPUs to compute its motion algorithms and transfers data via a NIC card for input and output. An EtherCAT soft motion controller uses the powerful EtherCAT protocol, which gives you unified real-time connectivity between all of your devices. Whether you're using servos, stepper motors, or drives.

EtherCAT-based soft motion controllers are an appealing solution for OEM machine builders. They are incredibly powerful, offer amazing performance, and allow you to leverage all the great features that modern operating systems have to offer. They are versatile due to the fact that they allow motion applications to be built using the latest and most popular programming languages such as C#, C++, Python, and more. This allows machine builders to create fast and easy-to-program applications that can leverage open-source libraries such as machine learning, IoT, computer vision, and more.   

Why is RMP a great choice for your EtherCAT Motion Controller?

RSI has made it its mission to innovate in this space and make it easier than ever to create controlled automated solutions. RSI is the perfect choice for you because we have invested years in making an EtherCAT master/motion controller that is easy to program and uses the latest technologies.

Our RMP EtherCAT Soft Motion Controller (EtherCAT Master) is a powerful and economical solution that RMP was purposely built for enhanced coordinated axes and IO performance and comes with many benefits, including: 

  • Deterministic performance
  • Flexible topology
  • Operating systems agnostic
  • Multiple programming languages (C#, C++, Python, etc)
  • 5 available APIs for real-time axis, robotic, or CNC motion control.
  • Up to 128 coordinated axes, 12,000 digital, and 1,000 analog I/O points.
  • 50+ integrated EtherCAT node manufacturers and counting (custom integrations available)
  • A diverse set of motion and IO features
RMP Architecture

Learn more about the RMP EtherCAT Soft Motion Controller.

Conclusion

An EtherCAT Motion Controller is a motion software program/process that uses EtherCAT and mathematical algorithms to synchronize and control the motion of motors/axes/actuators and other devices. It can be used to create an amazing synchronized motion solution.

RSI provides an EtherCAT Software Motion Controller, that allows you to create machine control applications using your favorite programming language. Perfect for OEM machine builders. RSI also provides custom solutions, so if you need something specific, we can help you out. Contact us today to learn more!

Resources

[1] 5 Advantages of Using EtherCAT for Motion Control
[2] What is EtherCAT?
[3] Why use EtherCAT?
[4] EtherCAT – The Automation Backbone Made by Beckhoff (PDF)

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