EtherCAT & TSN

EtherCAT is the dominant technology in the fieldbus domain, and Ethernet is the standard for wired office applications using switching technology. TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) is the enabler for real-time communication in a heterogeneous environment. In some cases, a combination of these two technologies is required. A better understanding of TSN and the streaming concept is a precondition for a successful implementation at the factory floor. The adoption of EtherCAT in this environment can be done very efficiently, with an upgrade at the master side and no changes to the slaves, and a moderate extension in the bridges connecting EtherCAT segments.

What is TSN?

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) is a set of bridging standards that enable real time communication in a switched network. TSN can be used in heterogeneous networks and offers different functions such as

  • Time synchronization
  • Scheduled traffic with time slices reserved for real time traffic
  • Frame preemption (interruption of low priority frames with continuation after interrupting traffic is completed)
  • Stream reservation

All functions are based on a streaming concept with a talker sending not more as a specified amount of data to one or more listeners. EtherCAT can use streams for the transport of data between Master and EtherCAT segments. No changes are required to support the TSN adaptation. The master can use TSN to run several applications and control multiple EtherCAT segments which allows a higher flexibility on a standard platform.

TSN enables isolation of EtherCAT communication in a network