Adding Industrial Communications to your Smart Sensor, Remote I/O, PLC or PAC designs
Bruce Schreiner posted on August 19, 2013 | 12713 views

Texas Instruments has sponsored the following story

Your next industrial sensor, remote I/O, or PLC design can have a set of industrial communication options while allowing you to focus on the application level design. This new set of TI microprocessors is called the Industrial Communications Engine (ICE).

You might use ICE to enhance a proximity sensor with an industrial Ethernet interface for two-way communication to report how close an object is for diagnostic feedback. Or to develop a remote I/O device with a choice of communication protocols, providing flexibility for the end user.

There are a host of applications within the industrial automation field for these new processors that integrate industrial Ethernet, EtherCAT, PROFIBUS® RS485, and CAN network I/O inside the chip. The AM3359 industrial communications engine (ICE) implements the most common industrial communication standards and works with the AM335x ARM® CortexTM-A8 processor family.

The architecture also supports standard microcontroller features; digital I/O, SPI, UART, and JTAG (via USB). The result is microprocessor performance with all the benefits of microcontroller I/O with specific design emphasis in the industrial communications area.

The timing of the release of these new products coincides with the continued increase of networking and inter-communications in the industrial automation industry. PLCs are morphing into PACs with the increased communications capabilities of industrial Ethernet, PROFIBUS, EtherCAT and many other standards. This also leads to the influx of smart sensors and remote I/O that can communicate with PACs, making low chip-count and small footprint solutions enticing as front-end communication solutions.

TI's TMDXICE3359 Industrial Communications Engine is available from Digikey now. There are a number of white paper and other resource tool download links at the end of this article or on the TI AM3359 ICE page.

One of the key features of the TI ICE is that they’ve included industrial Ethernet to provide industrial communication sophistication for all levels of devices. The deterministic messaging, industrialized connectivity, timed and scheduled events, and multiple Ethernet topologies that come with the industrial Ethernet standards will allow TI ICE-based designs to span the range of simple to complex devices.

These devices could be smart sensors connected on small and concentrated industrial networks or sophisticated network-connected PLCs or PACs that form part of larger total-plant automation solution that include SCADA data collection for production planning and decision making.

The ICE platform is powered by the TI Sitara AM335x processor that includes the UART, timer, and PRU for implementing an isolated PROFIBUS RS485 or Industrial Ethernet interface. Decisions to use the TI devices are not limited to just industrial Ethernet, the same chips can be used for implementing other network protocols with the same advantages (small footprint and low chip count) while maintaining the same processor core architecture and programming language.

Specifically for EtherCAT slave implementation, there are three major software components. The first is the micro-code that implements Layer 2 functionality in the PRU; the second is the EtherCAT slave stack that runs on the ARM MPU and the third is an industrial application that is dependent on the end equipment in which this solution is used.

There are additional supporting components, such as the protocol adaptation layer and device drivers that are provided by TI in the software development kit. To simplify the evaluation process, there are also a series of development boards and software available that allow these innovative devices to be easily exercised and tested.

The AM339 Industrial Communications Engine (ICE) board allows for industrial communication design development for smart sensors and networked I/O modules. ICE boards come with TI’s Industrial Software Development Kit (SDK) that uses real-time SYS/BIOS operating system.

The capabilities of the ICE hardware and complementary TI low-level software position the TI chips to become the communication front-ends for PLCs and PACs, smart sensors, motor drives and motor drive feedback, and I/O devices in the industrial automation area. Designs using TI ICE technology allow for 10/100 Ethernet, PROFIBUS, CAN, EtherCAT and other Industrial Ethernet protocols in a small footprint with few support ICs.


The AM3359 Industrial Development Kit (IDK) board has ICE functionality as well as industrial motor control features. In addition to leveraging the Sitara AM335x processor, the IDK includes TI Piccolo™ and Stellaris® solutions to evaluate a complete TI embedded processing solution for industrial motor control applications.



Texas Instruments has sponsored promotion of their industrial communications solutions on They have no editorial input to this post - all opinions are mine. Bruce Schreiner

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