Line, tree or star: EtherCAT supports almost any topology. The bus or line structure known from the fieldbuses thus also becomes available for Ethernet. Particularly useful for system wiring is the combination of lines and branches or stubs. The required interfaces exist on the couplers; no additional switches are required. Naturally, the classic switch-based Ethernet star topology can also be used.

Wiring flexibility is further maximised through the choice of different cables. Flexible and inexpensive Industrial Ethernet fieldbus cables transfer the signals in Ethernet mode (100BASE-TX) up to a cable length of 100 m between two devices. The complete bandwidth of the Ethernet network – such as different optical fibres and copper cables – can be used in combination with switches or media converters. For each cable distance, the signal variant can be selected individually. Since up to 65,535 devices can be connected, the size of the network is almost unlimited.

Freedom in the choice of topology

Freedom in the choice of topology | Maximum flexibility for wiring: with or without switch, line or tree topologies can be freely selected and combined. Address assignment is automatic; no IP address setting is required.


Distributed clocks

Accurate synchronisation is particularly important in cases where spatially distributed processes require simultaneous actions. This may be the case, for example, in applications where several servo axes carry out coordinated movements simultaneously.

The most powerful approach for synchronisation is the accurate alignment of distributed clocks. In contrast to fully synchronous communication, where synchronisation quality suffers immediately in the event of a communication fault, distributed aligned clocks have a high degree of tolerance vis-à-vis possible fault-related delays within the communication system. With EtherCAT, the data exchange is fully based on a pure hardware machine. Since the communication utilises a logical (and thanks to full-duplex Fast Ethernet, also physical) ring structure, the “master clock“ can determine the run-time offset to the individual “slave clocks“ simply and accurately – and vice versa. The distributed clocks are adjusted based on this value, which means that a very precise network-wide timebase with a jitter of significantly less then 1 microsecond is available.

However, high-resolution distributed clocks are not only used for synchronisation, but can also provide accurate information about the local timing of the data acquisition. Thanks to new, extended data types, very precise time stamps can be assigned to measured values.

Distributed clocks

Distributed clocks | Local absolute system synchronisation for CPU, I/O and drive units