Together with the EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG), Technews Publishing recently organised a series of breakfast seminars at venues across the country, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg. Accredited for CPD points, the seminars focused on EtherCAT technology and its many advantages over classical Ethernet technologies. The highly informative and entertaining sessions were presented by Martin Rostan, executive director of the ETG.
Executive director of EtherCAT Technology Group, Martin Rostan.
The events were sponsored by Beckhoff Automation, Ana-Digi Systems, Festo, ifm electronic, Omron and SA Power. They were accompanied by an exhibition held in parallel to the seminars, where the sponsor companies demonstrated their individual EtherCAT products and applications.
EtherCAT is an open, high performance, easy to deploy, cost-effective application layer protocol for Ethernet applications, and it is widely regarded as one of the best industrial networks to date. One reason for its growing popularity is that it is several orders of magnitude faster than Profibus, DeviceNet, and ModbusTCP. Its outstanding synchronisation capabilities and full bandwidth utilisation are also very attractive for motion applications where synchronising a large number of axes may be required. It is also an enabler for Industry 4.0 applications.
The EtherCAT event organisers and sponsors (left to right): Evert Janse van Vuuren, Omron Electronics; Frans Esterhuizen, SA Power Services; Marcus Gericke, Festo; Jane van der Spuy, Technews Publishing; Martin Rostan, EtherCAT Technology Group; Kenneth McPherson, Beckhoff Automation; Soh Mntambo, ifm electronic and Mornay Steyl, Ana-Digi Systems.
Starting with an overview of the technology, Rostan highlighted the benefits. For example, he explained that three primary factors limit the performance of standard Ethernet in real-time communication applications: bandwidth utilisation, stack delays and switch delays. With EtherCAT the need for stacks and switches in the network is completely eliminated.
This was followed by a user-oriented presentation on ‘EtherCAT in practice’. It included hints and advice for installation, the use of proper cabling, and a whole range of useful diagnostic features and capabilities. Rostan also explained how to smooth the migration path from classical fieldbus to EtherCAT.
He then went on to describe a wide range of applications showing how it is possible to generate competitive advantage with EtherCAT through reduced downtime, cost savings, precision, performance, robustness, and throughput efficiency. The applications ranged from dancing Kuka robots, to injection moulding and plate bending machines, to hydraulic control of the sails on a race winning yacht, to test and measurement by Airbus, VW and Porsche, to electric propulsion drives retrofitted by the Canadian Coastgard, to the world’s largest telescope on the International Space Station, to oil well rod pump control, and finally, a wave making system in the UK.
Based in Germany, the ETG is the world’s largest industrial Ethernet and fieldbus organisation, with 5047 member companies in 65 countries. Its core purpose is to promote EtherCAT technology through the development of the open EtherCAT standard. ETG brings together manufacturers and users who contribute through technical working groups to the advancement of the technology. Rostan explained that membership is growing by 500 companies every year. “If you are looking for a fieldbus solution that is high performance, affordable and easy to install, why go for something slower just because it is more expensive,” he concluded.
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