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TwinCAT system software by Beckhoff turns almost any compatible PC into a real-time controller, with a multi-programmable logic controller (PLC) system, numerical control (NC) axis control, programming environment and operating station. TwinCAT brings far greater levels of data visualisation to automation software and fieldbus control, to better handle large data quantities with increased data transparency.


A strong 12.2 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected of the global industrial Ethernet market up to the year 2023, rising to a valuation of $40.6 billion, according to Market Research Future (MRFR). EtherCAT and TwinCAT will be at the forefront of this growth.


The EtherCAT real-time Ethernet system was developed by Beckhoff in response to the drawbacks of conventional Ethernet networks. Prior to EtherCAT, most industrial-focussed network protocols had long update or cycle times of more than 10 m/s — which isn’t coordinated enough for motion control applications.








The enhanced capabilities of EtherCAT include a fast update time. The system is actually an implementation of the IEC 61158 standard, or Fieldbus — a family of industrial computer network protocols used for real-time distributed control — but certain ethernet protocol requirements are bypassed to enable fast cycle times.


EtherCAT for PC-based control automation technology can handle both hard and soft motion control requirements and achieve cycle times of less than 100 µs, with an effective data rate of more than 100 Mbit/s of Ethernet protocol and low communication jitter of less than 1 µs for faster synchronisation. The processed data is typically exchanged through 1,000 distributed digital Inputs/Outputs (I/Os) that can take 30 µs.

TwinCAT system software

EtherCAT’s modular architecture allows an almost unlimited network size, and optimum vertical integration with Ethernet and internet technologies. Up to 6,000 modules can be controlled from a single Controller PC. With the EtherCAT I/Os, real-time Ethernet is available down to each I/O module in a large selection for all signal types. Highly dynamic Servo Drives enable an integrated, fast control technology.


Beckhoff’s EtherCAT has a flexible topology and simple line or tree structure that requires no expensive infrastructure com­ponents. This replaces the costly Ethernet star topology — where all nodes are connected to a central connection point. The result is outstanding, cost-effective performance and a simple configuration.


From users, all types of Ethernet devices can be integrated via a switch or switch port. Whereas other Ethernet systems require special master or scanner cards, EtherCAT utilises very cost-effective standard Ethernet interface cards. Beckhoff EtherCAT components are designed to be fast, flexible, precise and always cost-efficient.


Beckhoff offers ideally-suited components and streamlined automation systems for the EtherCAT real-time Ethernet system. While Industrial PCs and Embedded PCs offer a high-performance basis for PLC and motion control, EtherCAT is integrated in further Beckhoff components, such as the Fieldbus Box in protection class IP 67 and EtherCAT Box modules, also in class IP 67.


Faster automation

Modular automation software

TwinCAT controllers

With Beckhoff TwinCAT automation software, it’s possible to turn almost any compatible PC into a powerful real-time controller. EtherCAT in combination with TwinCAT offers the foundational technologies and tools needed to implement Industry 4.0 concepts and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity — all via PC-based control.


But what exactly is TwinCAT? Put simply, it consists of reliable and powerful software run-time systems that execute control programs in real-time and develop environments for programming, diagnostics and configuration.


Not only can up to 6,000 modules be controlled from just a single Controller PC, but it can be done so through any Windows programs. Windows NT, 2000/XP/Vista, Windows 7, NTXP Embedded can all be run directly through the controller. TwinCAT brings widespread industry power to your PC through visualisation programs or Office programs, data access through Microsoft interfaces, command executions, an embedded IEC 61131-3 software for PLC, NC and computer numerical control (CNC).


Furthermore, TwinCAT Analytics saves the process data locally, on the server or in the cloud in synchronisation with the machine cycle. TwinCAT IoT Communication supports common protocols for cloud communication and push messages to smart devices. TwinCAT IoT is quick and easy to configure and, together with an Industrial PC or Embedded PC as the IoT controller, establishes a seamless connection between the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services.

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