New Chips are Bringing Factory Automation into the Era of Industry 4.0

The key is new processors with longer range sensing and multi-protocol communications

Texas Instruments has sponsored the following story

Communications between pieces of factory equipment have come a long way. This boom in machine to machine communication has prompted the German initiative Industry 4.0. It’s called 4.0 after the fourth industrial revolution, that of communications, which follows the use of steam, mass production, and automation. Some call it the Internet of Industrial Things.


Figure 1 – What will you make smart?


The latest industrial communications allow factory equipment to send and receive data more efficiently and farther than traditional serial communications and Control Area Networks. This is in part thanks to the use of Ethernet and industrial Ethernet Cables that are able to link equipment as far apart as 100m (328 ft) and 160 m (525 ft) respectively.  These advances are reliant on advanced industrial communication processors that can package more functionality into increasingly powerful packages.

These new processors make Industrial Communications possible for a wider range of production systems. Imagine a system that can text your phone and automatically launch a maintenance cycle as soon as a sensor reports a machine is down. Or consider a production facility that automatically updates product mixes based on reviews and buying habits as soon as the marketing department reports sales numbers. With Industry 4.0, a production manager can even assess equipment downtime and bottlenecks all from a phone or home PC in real-time.


TI’s Sitara Processor Eases the Change
Texas Instruments (TI) has boosted the power of Industrial 4.0 in its Industrial Communication Engine (ICE).  It is driven by the AM3359 Sitara™ Processor. As seen in Figure 2, the power of Sitara is the ability to interconnect various tools communicating on various protocols with only one chip.

Figure 2 – ICE general block diagram

Additionally, Sitara includes a PRU-ICSS (programmable Industrial Communication Sub System) embedded into the chip. This can account for a 30% reduction on the bill of materials as external communication devices like an ASIC or FPGA are no longer necessary.

The true power in the Sitara system is its deterministic packet delivery that increases data transfers. It also allows for time-triggered events allowing for smart system changes as data updates. Additionally the system features longer connection distances and safe, reliable topologies.

Here is a list of features that outlines the subsystems or control registers of the chip:

  • Up to 1-GHz Sitara ARM Cortex-A8 32‑Bit RISC Processor
  • External Memory Interfaces (EMIF) and On-Chip Memory (Shared L3 RAM)
  • Inter-Processor Communication (IPC)
  • LCD & Touch screen controller
  • Graphics Accelerator


Protocol Integration

Figure 3 – Connectivity Applications

This Industrial Communication Engine “ICE” was built with large system development in mind. However, as seen in Figure 3, it can also be adapted to make a vast list of products just as smart. Some interesting examples include Sensors, PLCs, Phones, Printers, Motors, Security and GPS locators.

All of this connectivity is made possible thanks to the wide range of protocols that can be seamlessly converged into one system. This convergence is achieved by the Programmable Real-Time Unit Subsystem and Industrial Communication Subsystem (PRU-ICSS).  Of specific importance is the PRU-ICSS’ ability to integrate various Ethernet protocols like EtherCAT, EtherNET/IP, Ethernet Powerlink and more.

To help product interconnectivity, the Sitara system also includes:

  • 2 – TLK110 – PHYTER Industrial Temperature 10/100 Mbs Ethernet Physical Layer Transceiver with integrated cable diagnostics and distances up to 150 meters.
  • An ISO1176T – Isolate ProfiBus transceiver with integrated transformer driver ideal for long transmission lines.
  • An ISO1050 – Isolated 5v CAN transceiver that meets ISO11898-2 standard and provides galvanic isolation of up to 5000 VRMS.
  • And a TPS65910 – Integrated Power Management IC with 4 DC/DCs, 8 LDOs and RTC in 6×6 QFN.


What an Industrial Communication Engine can do for your design
Thanks to its extensive feature set, the Sitara system is a platform that can help design engineers produce the smart system they want with a minimum of design effort.

As always, TI offers tools to help with development. The SYSBIOSSDK-IND-AM335x development kit and Code Composer Studio will get new designs in real-time communications running with less development time than you may have thought possible.