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Monday, March 13, 2017

Multicore controller combines real-time and network redundancy protocols in a single chip for Industry 4.0

By Nick Flaherty

Renesas has used a multicore architecture to combine real time network protocols and redundancy protocols in a single chip for the next generation of industrial systems.

The R/N Series of industrial networking communication processors simplify network-based application development in network switches, gateways, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), operator terminals, and remote I/O units. 

With differing time constraints and network control technologies, existing factory networks consist of field networks, which implement communication between control devices and other devices, and control networks, which implement communication between control devices and other control devices. Field networks require real-time control and use real-time industrial network protocols such as EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, ETHERNET Powerlink, PROFINET, Sercos, and CANopen. In contrast, control networks, which prioritize reliability, use network redundancy protocols such as Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP), Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP), and High-Availability Seamless Redundancy (HSR).

So far there has been little development in unifying these two types of networks, which meant that when developing network devices, it was necessary to use components supporting one or another of the available protocols.

The RZ/N brings together multiple industrial networking technologies within a single chip, enabling system manufacturers to develop systems supporting a variety of industrial network protocols and network redundancy protocols in less time. Renesas also delivers broad 
The ecosystem support is essential for system manufacturers’ software development, offering a general application programmable interface (API) that provides a unified support for network protocol stacks implemented by partners, in addition to compiler and OS environments. 

The RZ/N lineup comprises three product groups for scalability: 
  • RZ/N1D Group for high-end applications
  • RZ/N1S Group for mid-range applications
  • RZ/N1L Group for low-end applications.
The multi-core architecture includes an Integrated R-IN Engine and five-port Gigabit Ethernet switch for single-chip support of leading industrial network protocols and network redundancy protocols

The R-IN Engine uses an ARM Cortex-M3 processor to provide both real-time processing of communication data and redundancy protocol operation. The R-IN Engine improves power consumption and throughput, reduces jitter, and has already been successfully implemented in existing products and will be further developed in future. The RZ/N Series supports on a single chip a variety of industrial network protocols and network redundancy protocols.

The RZ/N1D has dual ARM Cortex-A7 cores for applications such as network switches, PLCs, and gateways. The RZ/N1S uses a single A7 for nano-PLCs and operator terminals. The RZ/N1L is aimed at industrial equipment communication blocks or slave devices such as remote I/O units and enables system developers to develop devices that are more compact and low cost.

With the recent advancement of Industry 4.0 to implement network connections in factories for increased efficiency, there are growing demands for network devices with support for industrial network protocols enabling real-time processing, protocol gateway functionality, protected networking functionality, and support for network redundancy protocols to ensure highly reliable and efficient communication.

To assist system manufacturers with evaluation, Renesas has developed CPU modules populated with the new RZ/N Series, boards equipped with a variety of peripheral functions, and solution kits configured including OS and protocol stacks sample software from Renesas partners. Renesas is also working with industry-leading protocol vendors to make available to system developers protocol stacks from PORT, TMG Technologie und Engineering, CANNON-Automata, and Net Module, among others.

Renesas provides a Generic Abstraction layer API that will deliver unified support for a variety of industrial network protocols without performance tradeoffs. Using such API will enable system developers to combine supported protocols as needed with minimal impact on the application software, and to shorten the development time of industrial network devices by as much as 50 percent. System developers can also use compiler environments including IAR Embedded Workbench from IAR Systems and OS environments including Linux, VxWorks and ThreadX from Express Logic.

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