Altera Corporation is making available a fully verified EtherCAT (Ethernet for Control Automation Technology) protocol intellectual property (IP) for Altera FPGAs. This announcement is the latest offering from the collaboration between Altera, EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) and Softing Industrial Automation GmbH, for a licensing structure that gives developers access to Industrial Ethernet protocols with no upfront license fees, no per-unit royalty reporting or protracted negotiations, simplifying the integration of FPGA-based Industrial Ethernet designs.
“Customers have wanted to leverage the performance of the EtherCAT protocol IP in the FPGA for some time, but have always been hampered by licensing costs,” said Brian Jentz, director, industrial business unit at Altera. “By removing that barrier our customers can leverage the performance and integrate a discrete EtherCAT device in an existing FPGA with confidence and minimum effort.”
Altera’s Industrial Ethernet solutions implement both the protocol IP and software stack into an FPGA using programmable logic and a soft embedded processor. In this way, a single board with the same Altera FPGA can work with a range of protocols without hardware modifications. The same FPGA can also be used to implement various industrial automation functions, such as sensor interfaces, accelerators and custom control logic in addition to the communication function.
“The ETG is excited that Altera now provides the fast-growing EtherCAT protocol to customers designing systems with FPGAs via a new and unique licensing strategy,” said Martin Rostan, executive director at ETG. “As EtherCAT adoption grows, this facilitates efficient and easy access to our technology.”
Altera also works with a range of industrial automation partners to support multiple design options. Altera’s Industrial Networking Partner Program provides an ecosystem of established networking experts that enable customers to evaluate Industrial Ethernet and fieldbus solutions on a common FPGA-based platform. These partners provide IP, reference designs and design services that meet network communication and FPGA development needs.