EtherCAT's Roots in Fiber

EtherCAT Continues to Support Fiber-Based Equipment and Components Today

By Ian Verhappen, ISA Fellow, Certified Automation Professional

Beckhoff Automation developed Lightbus in 1989 with microsecond range transmissions. Still in use today, the standard, plastic, fiber-optic-based Lightbus was the precursor to EtherCAT, and it should be no surprise that EtherCAT continues to support fiber-based equipment and components today.

SEE ALSO: Copper and Fiber Convert and Connect

Beckhoff's fiber-optic junction systems provide the connection between fiber and copper on a junction box residing on the EtherCAT terminals I/O backplane. Available in either multimode or single-mode glass fiber with SC interfaces, the junction not only provides the long distance and electrical immunity benefits of fiber, but also enables conversion between 100BaseTX (copper) and 100BaseFX (fiber) physical layers. The devices can include ID switches for assigning to a group of EtherCAT components, which can be located anywhere within the EtherCAT network in a number of different topologies.

Typical fiber applications using this technology are in solar or wind projects, where individual units, such as wind towers, are a kilometer or more apart, yet can be integrated into a single system using a fiber ring to connect the EtherCAT terminals at each node.

This article is a part of the Industrial Networking Quarter 4 feature story, "Fiber Optics in Manufacturing."