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HMS launches open comms chip with high speed signal synchronisation

21 January 2013

A new network processor from HMS Industrial Networks is targeted at real-time industrial Ethernet applications. The Anybus NP40 allows industrial devices to communicate over any industrial network and forms the core of HMS’s new CompactCom chip, brick and module concept.

The NP40 can support several different Industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus networks by simply downloading new firmware. This reduces systems development time because there is no need for redevelopment for each additional network, allowing device manufacturers to simply install a communication interface into a product and then simply download the firmware they need before sending their products off to the end customer.

In use the NP40 exhibits virtually zero delay (in reality a few microseconds) in passing signals between the network and host API (Application Programming Interface). This makes it highly suitable for applications that require high level synchronisation or motion profiles.

“What we have seen over the past few years is that industrial Ethernet is now demanding more performance and a new architecture,” says Jörgen Palmhager, chief operating officer at HMS. “The new industrial Ethernet networks are getting more and more specialized which requires a lot from a network processor that is to handle the ‘translation’ between different networks and protocols. In the NP40, HMS combines a powerful ARM Cortex M3 core with an FPGA fabric on the same chip, allowing both fast data transfer and real-time synchronisation in hardware/FPGA. 

The NP40 technology gives users the best of both worlds. They get the speed and accuracy they need for demanding applications, and the flexibility to adapt to different networks by simply downloading a new firmware. The solution is based on MicroSemi SmartFusion technology but integrates HMS’s unique blocks like our RTA™ (Real Time Accelerator) for industrial communication.”

The Anybus NP40 is a single chip network processor that includes a high-performance ARM core and an FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) fabric. The ARM core runs the protocol and application stacks while the FPGA fabric is used to implement the various real-time Ethernet interfaces. 

A real-time-switch is integrated into the FPGA fabric and it supports synchronous cyclic messaging in real-time networks such as PROFINET IRT, Powerlink, EtherCAT and Sercos III. Since the network processor is flash-based, it can be re-programmed for several different industrial Ethernet networks. 

The NP40 is built on technology from Microsemi Inc. and the architecture is designed to combine performance, low power consumption and flexibility in a single chip design.




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