IndustrialNETworX.com targets system-on-a-chip capabilities
To lower the cost and time associated with network development, Hilscher has announced the launch of www.industrialNETworX.com , a new open-source, developer community. The “netX Community Platform” targets product managers, operators and developers of automation devices who use Hilscher’s netX, a processor used to communicate among dozens of industrial networks. More than 150 companies work with netX.
Hilscher donated a large portion of netX and made available other code — about 30 man-years of effort — for the project. Opening the source code and making slave stack software available in the open-source environment will shorten development time for network-enabled products and broaden netX use in more operating systems, such as Linux and WindRiver’s VxWorks, says Phil Marshall, business development manager for Hilscher North America Inc. The site includes download area, tutorials, forum, chat rooms, and tools for working with the source code and managing revisions, as well as areas where work from others can be uploaded and shared. It also has free slave source code for EtherCAT, Modbus/TCP, EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, CANopen, SERCOS III, Profinet, Profibus, and Ethernet PowerLink.
Hans-Jürgen Hilscher, CEO of Hilscher Ges.f.Sys.mbH and company founder, has been involved in site development. He told Control Engineering that he expects the online community to “greatly broaden the stack solutions we offer, and allow more OEMs that have specific OS preferences such as VxWorks, Linux, Microsoft Windows CE, etc., to easily utilize our technology, resulting in more products with more network options to end users.”
The netX system-on-a-chip processor offers an Ethernet connection, up to four fieldbus connections, an IEEE 1588 clock for real-time Ethernet protocol capabilities, I/O for motion control, PLC capabilities, and, on the largest chip, an integrated flat-panel driver. Four netX chips are in production. “The actual netX chip, about the size of a Euro coin, has a 270- or 360-pin array. Definitely an OEM product,” Marshall laughs, “not for faint of heart.”
The chip can replace higher priced field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) in many applications, and, Marshall says, with appropriate configuration, offer cost-effective redundancy. “It’s smaller than an FPGA, and we are one company providing hardware and software, thus ensuring interoperability. We have put this into a gateway product and in six months we have released 160 protocol gateways with a potential of 1,000 conversions possible,” he says.