Network processor targets industrial Ethernet applications

1 min read

Industrial communications specialist HMS Industrial Networks has launched a network processor targeted at real time industrial Ethernet applications.

The Anybus NP40, based on Microsemi's SmartFusion technology, is said to allow industrial devices to communicate over any industrial network and forms the core of the company's chip, brick and module concept. The NP40 can support a range of industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus networks by downloading new firmware. This reduces development time by allowing device manufacturers to download the firmware they need. David Folley, UK general manager, said: "While fieldbus still represents 74% of all industrial networking nodes, Ethernet is growing at 30% a year and it is predicted there will be 45million nodes by 2015." He said fieldbus remains more popular because devices such as sensors don't have the necessary processing power to connect to Ethernet. "It's hard to move all automation devices into the Ethernet domain." Anybus NP40 is a single chip network processor that includes a ARM Cortex-M3 processor core and an fpga fabric. The ARM core runs the protocol and application stacks, while the fpga fabric is used to implement the various real time Ethernet interfaces. The NP40 also includes proprietary HMS blocks, such as its Real Time Accelerator. A real time switch integrated into the fpga fabric supports synchronous cyclic messaging in real time networks. Since the network processor is flash based, it can be reprogrammed for different industrial Ethernet networks. In use, the NP40 is said to exhibit virtually zero delay in passing signals between the network and host, making it suitable for applications that require high level synchronisation or motion profiles. Folley said servos and drives represent 'huge growth' potential for network. "Servos used to have special networking because of the required response time. Now, they are attractive to open protocols." HMS' chip, block and module approach is said to provide users with a choice of connectivity options. At the chip level, the NP40 and general purpose NP30 processors can be integrated into the user's design. Bricks are aimed at those with limited space or who wish to add their own choice of connector. Finally, modules give the quickest time to market for system builders.