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European motion manufacturers draw up FireWire standard

01 December, 2002

European motion manufacturers draw up FireWire standard

Several European motion companies including Control Techniques, Leroy Somer, Kollmorgen Seidel, maxon motor, and Stöber, have joined forces to define a standard that will allow devices from different suppliers to communicate with each other via the high-speed FireWire bus system.

The "1394 Automation" group, led by Wago and the Dutch motion control specialist Nyquist, is basing its work on Nyquist`s industrial implementation of FireWire — a technology which was originally developed by Apple Computer as a high-speed communications link for computers and video signals.

They aim to produce an open standard that will allow companies to develop their own products that can share a FireWire bus without interfering with each other. The standard will define the message mechanism, not the content of the messages.

The group wants an independent institute to implement a defined layout for the protocol which, together with certification, will lead to a widely accepted, interoperable standard.

Nyquist`s chief executive Eric Hezemans argues that FireWire has advantages over rival communications technologies such as Sercos and Ethernet. For example, he says that Sercos` response time decreases as more axes are added to an installation. "It`s not possible to implement a high-end motion application if you have more than eight or ten axes," he argues, adding that "FireWire is not affected by the number of axes".

According to Hezemans, Ethernet was not designed for real-time applications, unlike FireWire which was developed to carry video signals. Also, FireWire provides jitter-free synchronisation, and higher transmission rates than standard Ethernet. Another attraction, he contends, is that it allows PCs to be used for control applications, without having to open them up to insert cards or cables.

The 1394 Automation group, which was formed at last year`s Hanover Fair, aims to have its specification completed in time for the first compliant products to be demonstrated at this year`s Fair in April.

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