How Can I Implement EtherNet/IP?

I had an interesting call last week from a guy in Texas. I love Texas. I love the food – best ribs I’ve ever had. I love the weather – yeah it’s hot but I love it. And I love the sharply dressed women – won’t say any more about that though I’d love to.

So, this Texas guy believes in doing pretty much everything himself. He’s not a little guy either. He’s not one of those “All Hat – No Herd” kind of guys. He’s the real deal. He’s independent and doesn’t want to buy anything from anybody. He’s built his own PLC. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. So am I. Why in the world would you build your own PLC? Well, he has kind of a strong hold on his market. They’re not going anywhere and the simple answer is “he can”.

But now he needs EtherNet/IP and Profinet IO [He’s getting Modbus TCP from me and he’s going to implement it but I haven’t told him that yet]. He’s a smart guy and he’s looked into it and he knows that it’s just not practical to either build it yourself or get one of the “free” ones. Building it is what his software engineers recommend but they know they just don’t have 2-3 years to get it done and get it right. It’s not Modbus after all. And since it’s not their first rodeo (another Texas reference) they know that over time the free ones are actually very expensive.

So, the insightful question he asked me is “How do I go about this?” He wanted to know if a chip made sense, some kind of add on PCB, software or a gateway. Excellent question. Something that a lot of my customers have asked.

Let’s start with a gateway. We sell a lot of Industrial Automation Device Converters and Gateways. Why do people use a gateway? Usually because there’s a low volume need to move data from one place to another. If you’ve got <ahref=””>data on Modbus and you need it in a ControlLogix PLC, then a gateway is an easy way to fix that. You use that Modbus to ControlLogix gateway because it’s quick to get, easy to install and not a big investment in time or money. But he needs to do EtherNet/IP and Profinet IO a lot. Adding a gateway isn’t a good architecture move for him.

Well, what about some kind of add on board or chip solution. That’s not a bad choice. There’s a lot of those. The Hilscher NetX is one that has always particularly impressed me. That kind of solution makes a lot of sense if you have a processor that is tied up with some really intensive processing, critically important or time sensitive algorithm and you don’t want to take a chance screwing that up. In that case, you want to offload EtherNet/IP and Profinet IO to another processor. But this guy doesn’t have that so I wouldn’t recommend something like the NetX to him.

So, that leaves us with a software solution. We have royalty free EtherNet/IP Adapter, royalty free EtherNet/IP Scanner and royalty free Profinet IO Device-side software that he can put right in his processor. It’s not very processor intensive software and EtherNet/IP doesn’t need much in the way of flash or ram resources (Profinet IO needs a lot more). So, if you have the flash and ram, this is really an excellent solution.

Now my friend with the large hat needs an EtherNet/IP Scanner solution and I have that for him. What I don’t have for him is a Profinet IO Controller-side solution. That’s really only available as a chip solution or as an add-on board.

So in the end I recommended our EtherNet/IP Scanner and one of the add-on hardware solutions to get the Profinet IO Controller communications.

And I got him to agree that he would take me out for Texas sized plate of ribs the next time I’m in Texas…