Why an EtherCAT Master Stack Alone Can't Facilitate Machine Production

April 12, 2023

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Having just an EtherCAT Master stack is insufficient to program and get a machine into production for several reasons outlined in this blog post.

EtherCAT, short for Ethernet for Control Automation Technology, is a high-performance, low-cost, easy-to-use Industrial Ethernet technology with a flexible topology. It is utilized in real-time industrial Ethernet systems for automation. An EtherCAT Master stack is a software component that implements the EtherCAT master functionality.

However, having just an EtherCAT Master stack is insufficient to program and get a machine into production for several reasons:

  1. Machine-Specific Programming
    Each machine has specific requirements and functionalities. The EtherCAT Master stack cannot automatically know and execute all the commands the machine requires. There needs to be a control program that gives commands to the EtherCAT Master, which in turn communicates with the EtherCAT slaves.
  2. Hardware Interaction
    The EtherCAT Master stack mainly communicates between the master and the slaves using PDO and SDO raw data channels. But it doesn't directly deal with the machine's specific servo/stepper or I/O hardware. You still need ESI files, system configuration files, and possibly additional interface hardware.
  3. System Integration
    An EtherCAT master stack only manages the communication protocol. It doesn't provide overall system functionality like integration with other systems (e.g., HMI, data acquisition, cloud connectivity), handling of safety requirements, alarm management, etc. These aspects require additional software and hardware components.
  4. User Interface
    Machines typically require some sort of user interface for operators to interact with. This could be anything from a simple control panel to a complex UI/HMI on a PC. The EtherCAT Master stack doesn't provide this; it is solely for communication with EtherCAT slaves using PDO and SDO channels.
  5. Troubleshooting and Maintenance
    Finally, for maintenance, troubleshooting, and potential updates or modifications, you need more than just an EtherCAT Master stack. You may need diagnostic tools, debugging capabilities, software updates, etc.


Therefore, while an EtherCAT Master stack plays a crucial role in machine control and automation, it is only one piece of the puzzle. A comprehensive, well-integrated motion controller is required to fully program and get a machine into production. This typically includes a motion controller like RMP EtherCAT, UI (User Interface) or HMI (Human-Machine Interface), various software components for programming and system integration, and potentially other hardware and software tools for maintenance and troubleshooting.

Hence, it is important for OEMs to select an EtherCAT motion controller like the RMP instead of a master stack so software engineers can focus on developing and innovating their machine programs by leveraging a fully functional featured motion controller.

To learn more about RMP EtherCAT motion controller, click on the following:

https://www.roboticsys.com/rmp-ethercat-motion-controller

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