22 Jul 2024


Comms chip links almost any system to any network

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The Swedish industrial communications specialist HMS Industrial Networks has developed a chip that will allow industrial devices to communicate with almost any industrial network. The chips will allow the same hardware platform to support several different networks simply by downloading new firmware. Equipment manufacturers will be able to install a universal communication interface into their products and download the appropriate firmware before delivering a product to a customer.

The Anybus NP40 network processor supports all major industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus networks. It has been designed for demanding applications, in particular those using real-time industrial Ethernet.

The chip includes a high-performance ARM core and an FPGA (field-programmable gate array). The core runs the protocol and application stacks, while the FPGA is used to implement various real-time Ethernet interfaces. A real-time switch in the FPGA supports synchronous cyclic messaging in real-time networks such as Profinet IRT, Powerlink, EtherCat and Sercos III. Because the chip is Flash-based, it can be re-programmed for different Ethernet networks.

The chip supports latencies down to a few microseconds. There is almost no delay between the network and host API, thus allowing high-performance applications requiring synchronisation or motion profiles.

“Industrial Ethernet is now demanding more performance and a new architecture,” says HMS chief operating officer, Jörgen Palmhager. “The new industrial Ethernet networks are getting more and more specialised, which requires a lot from a network processor that has to handle the ‘translation’ between different networks and protocols.

“The NP40 technology gives users the best of both worlds,” he adds. “They get the speed and accuracy they need for demanding applications, and the flexibility to adapt to different networks simply by downloading new firmware.”

The NP40 chip is already being trialled in pilot installations. Its wider release, in Anybus embedded devices, will take place later this year.