EtherCAT – the Ethernet fieldbus

By O Fels, Beckhoff Automation

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Published in:

Electricity+Control. April 2013 (pages 10 – 14)




EtherCAT’s key functional principle lies in how its nodes process Ethernet frames. Each node reads the data addressed to it and writes its data back to the frame - all while the frame is moving downstream. This leads to improved bandwidth utilisation (one frame per cycle is often sufficient for communication) while also eliminating the need for switches or hubs.

The fastest industrial Ethernet technology, EtherCAT synchronises with nanosecond accuracy. This is a huge benefit for all applications in which the target system is controlled or measured via the bus system. The rapid reaction times work to reduce the wait times during the transitions between process steps, which significantly enhances application efficiency. The system architecture reduces the load on the central processing unit (CPU) by 25 – 30% in comparison to other bus systems (given the same cycle time).


Take note

  • EtherCAT is the fastest Ethernet technology available.
  • EtherCAT is optimised for automation and control networks.
  • EtherCAT is widely supported and aims to remain open for all potential users.