IT in Manufacturing

EtherCAT conformance tool updated

June 2022 IT in Manufacturing

Conformance to protocol standards is the basis for the problem-free interaction of devices from different manufacturers in the same network, also referred to as interoperability. Interoperability and standards are thus both vital to the success of a communication technology. Therefore, the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) attaches great importance to the conformance of EtherCAT devices: all ETG member companies commit themselves to testing their devices with the EtherCAT Conformance Test Tool (CTT) before market release.

Every manufacturer of EtherCAT slave devices is therefore familiar with the CTT. It represents the official reference for the specification-compliant implementation of EtherCAT technology in field devices. The first version was released in 2008, and so far all updates have proven to be functional extensions and not functional changes.

Version 2.3 inherits all functionalities and tests from the first version and thus underlines the stability of EtherCAT technology itself. This full backward-compatibility has proven to be a significant advantage for suppliers and users of EtherCAT solutions.

The CTT extensions – whether in tool functionalities or test coverage – are, as usual, based on practical requirements as well as feedback from device manufacturers. Over the years, the tool has evolved from a pure test tool that checks conformance after development is completed, to become a helpful ‘development companion’ software package that can be used to configure EtherCAT devices, put them into the desired state and, crucially, to stimulate them to behave in certain ways.

This trend continues with many of the new functionalities. For example, additional user interfaces have been added for controlling and testing specific EtherCAT protocol properties, as well as at the lower layers of the ISO/OSI models. The CTT now allows read and write access to the PHY registers, which is convenient and rarely supported by other tools – a particularly valuable feature during initial hardware prototyping.

All CTT functionalities are accessible for script-based control, and they thus allow for automated test sequences that can be integrated into the overall device acceptance test. Besides the many functionalities supporting the EtherCAT implementation itself, the core of the CTT has also been extended in terms of test coverage. Many semiconductor device profiles have been added to the standard test set. Coverage for the Servo-Drive-Profile according to IEC 61800-7-2 (the equivalent to CiA DS402) has been significantly increased as well.

The test logic and the tests themselves are defined and released by a special working group within the EtherCAT Technology Group, called the ‘Technical Working Group Conformance’. The CTT software itself, on the other hand, which executes the logic defined in the tests and evaluates the behaviour of the EtherCAT devices based on this logic, is developed and maintained by Beckhoff. This ensures continuous further development of the tool. This includes new functionality with a built-in configurator as well as support for all current Windows operating systems, including the 64-bit architecture. Version 2.3 of the Conformance Test Tool is available now to all ETG members.

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