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Ethernet and Motion Control

Embedded Control Via Ethernet

Ethernet was developed as a high speed method of communication between two computers. When looking at motion controller it is obvious that it is nothing more than a highly specialized computer. Therefore it seems understandable to use Ethernet for high speed communication between an industrial computer and a motion controller.

Embedded control is becoming very popular these days. Unfortunately, keeping up with all of the options that motion control manufacturers produce can be daunting. Questions arise as to what bus architecture is needed. ISA, PCI, VME, CompactPCI, STD, PC/104 and PC Card are just a few of choices available. Each bus architecture must have a unique motion control board specifically designed to operate with it. Problems are compounded when a new bus architecture is specified. At that point a new motion control card must be purchased.

Ethernet offers a clean solution to this problem. Due to its open standard, Ethernet communication cards can be purchased inexpensively for every popular bus architecture available. The CSMA/CD protocol ensures that any Ethernet communication device will communicate with any other device. Now, one motion controller with Ethernet capability is able communicate with computers regardless of architecture.

Ethernet Flexibility

Ethernet advantages don't stop at bus architecture versatility. On the market today are hundreds and thousands of products with Ethernet communication capability. A motion controller using Ethernet can join these products on a LAN and share information with I/O modules, sensors, PLCs, HMIs and vision systems to name a few. Additionally, Ethernet controllers allow connectivity to not just one PC but literally thousands. For example, a dedicated PC/104 embedded controller is limited to communicating with just its host computer. An Ethernet controller can have several host computers located throughout an entire factory.

Incorporating TCP/IP protocols in an Ethernet controller also allows for access to the Internet and other software and devices utilizing TCP/IP. Now, you can sit your desk and upload or download information to a motion controller on the factory floor. The factory floor might be in another building, another state or another country.


Ethernet is a flexible alternative to traditional bus-based control. It also offers an attractive networking solution on a widely accepted platform. It is important however to understand how the 6K integrates on an open network. For applications requiring minimal data transfer such as periodic scanning of product status or program downloads, this can be accomplished on an open network. For highly data intensive applications such as continuously updating visual interfaces, Compumotor recommends a direct PC to 6K Ethernet connection via a crossover cable. For applications requiring intensive data transfer network access, isolate the 6K from the open network using an Ethernet switch.

Utilizing Ethernet as a motion control communication scheme makes sense from an economic, technological and adaptability standpoint. The sheer number of Ethernet compatible products, the low cost of obtaining Ethernet technology and the planned upgrades to 100-Mbps Ethernet make it an attractive solution for many years to come.

Additional References

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