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TI plans to integrate EtherCat into its chips

25 April, 2011

Texas Instruments has become the first major semiconductor manufacturer to integrate an industrial Ethernet interface in its processor chips. It has licensed the EtherCat industrial Ethernet technology, which it plans to embed in some of its forthcoming ARM-based Sitara microprocessors, due to reach the market in the fourth quarter of this year.

Announcing the development at the recent Hannover Fair, TI said that it demonstrates its commitment to the industrial market. Matthias Poppel, TI’s director for embedded processing for the EMEA region, said that the deal will mean that real-time control and communication will become available on a single chip. Embedding EtherCat slave controllers in the chips will allow tight coupling to the processors, resulting in high throughputs, low latency levels, and savings in board space and total costs.

“We are thrilled about this milestone development which will open entirely new markets for EtherCat,” declared EtherCat Technology Group (ETG) executive director, Martin Rostan (above). “This turns EtherCat into a mainstream technology also beyond the automation world.

“I am convinced that this will help EtherCat to establish a strong position in a wide range of embedded applications and further accelerate the adoption of EtherCat in the automation market,” he added.

“The TI approach to EtherCat with a programmable real-time unit (PRU) on its ARM-based processors allows for flexible implementation that can adapt as industrial standards evolve,” TI’s Poppel said, adding that “the EtherCat protocol technology sets new standards for real-time performance and flexibility which is critical for TI’s embedded ARM devices geared toward the industrial market”.

The real-time EtherCat technology was developed originally by Beckhoff and is now promoted by the ETG, which has more than 1,600 members worldwide, including 85 drives-makers. On its Hannover stand, ETG was hosting a demonstration of 35 interoperating axes driven by EtherCat-compatible products from 24 different drives suppliers. 

♦ TI is buying its smaller rival National Semiconductor for about $6.5bn. In 2010, TI was market leader in the $42bn analogue semiconductor market with revenues of $6bn (14% of the market) while National’s revenues were $1.6bn (3%). National brings a strong position in the industrial power market.

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