Kithara Real-Time EtherCAT Master

Real-time automation with EtherCAT and CANopen on Windows

The industrial Ethernet protocoll EtherCAT® is one of the fastest and widespread Ethernet field busses for PC-based automation. Some of the main reasons are:

  • Automation in real time
  • Short cycle times at high data rates
  • High-performance I/O system with extremely fast reaction times
  • Flexible topologies as well as their combinations: Line, Tree, Ring, Star, Bus, etc.
  • Fast data transfer (PDO/SDO)
  • Efficient real-time Ethernet, highly suitable for machine and plant automation

The EtherCAT Master is part of Kithara RealTime Suite and acts as a highly efficient function library to implement complex automation tasks. Its easy usability allows for low development effort and high flexibility, extending EtherCAT with the following real-time functions:

  • Achieves "hard" real-time capabilities due to accurate and high-frequency real-time timers
  • Cycle times of down to 50 µs
  • Reaction times of I/O data processing in the microsecond range
  • Automatic detection of the present EtherCAT topology
  • Fast process data and service data communication (PDO/SDO)
  • Mailbox communication as well as "CANopen over EtherCAT" (CoE)
  • Extendable with a variety of additional protocols and functions: FoE, SoE, EoE, FSoE, etc.
  • EtherCAT Automation Protocol: Plant-wide real-time networking at command level with up to 40 Gbit/s
  • Supports PCs as EtherCAT slaves
EtherCAT: Structure schematic

With the increasing trend towards industrial Ethernet systems, EtherCAT has emerged as one of the fastest and most adaptable Ethernet field busses in the industry. The EtherCAT Master has been specifically develeped by Kithara as an industrial Ethernet control solution for Windows, allowing for reaction times in the microsecond range and data transfer rates of up to 100 Mbit/s in order to implement efficient I/O systems. All EtherCAT topologies are automatically detected and integrated. Furthermore, all familiar EtherCAT features are fully supported such as process data and service data exchange (PDO/SDO), mailbox communication as well as integration into a CANopen Master (CANopen over EtherCAT).

The EtherCAT Master has been developed as an open function library and thus enables the seamless integration of devices into the automation process. In contrast to other EtherCAT alternatives, this allows for much more flexible and cost-efficient solutions that are also significantly easier to implement. Additionally, the EtherCAT Master can be extended with all known EtherCAT function and protocols: FoE, SoE, EoE, FSoE, hotplug-capability as well as cable redundancy. Finally, the EtherCAT Master supports PCI slave cards as well as the EtherCAT Automation Protocol for complete plant networking with up to 40 Gbit/s.

Automation in real time


For real-time automation, the modular system of Kithara RealTime Suite provides the following components:

EtherCAT Module

EtherCAT Master in real-time

  • Common
  • Features

Kithara EtherCAT Master is internally based on a priority-based, preemptive real-time multi-tasking system. Through utilization of hardware parallelism by multiple CPU cores, it is possible to disseminate several real-time tasks to CPU cores. Thus, a high scalability of real-time processing up to extreme real time at exclusively used CPU cores in dedicated mode is possible.

  • Independent EtherCAT Master
  • Automatic identification of EtherCAT topologies with XML files
  • Process data communication (cyclic I/O data exchange) in real-time
  • Short cycle time: down to 50 microseconds or less
  • Hot connect and cable redundancy
  • Based on Network Module
  • Network interface from RealTek and Intel are supported
  • I/O terminals, servo inverter etc. of every manufacturers are supported (e. g. Beckhoff)
  • Modular structure of EtherCAT Masters: basis module + options
  • Process data communication (PDO)
  • Service date communication (SDO)
  • Mailbox communication
  • CANopen over EtherCAT (CoE)
  • Ethernet over EtherCAT (EoE)
  • File over EtherCAT (FoE)
  • Distributed Clock (DC)

EtherCAT PC Slave Module

Implementation of simple PCs as EtherCAT Slaves

  • Common
  • Features
  • Hardware Support

A typical EtherCAT networking solution is generally set up by installing specialized hardware, couplers and clamps without any actual graphical user interface, behind a PC-based master. Kithara's EtherCAT PC Slave Module now provides exactly this feature, allowing for a significantly higher degree of scalability. The option to utilize a PC, employing an EtherCAT interface, as a slave enables users the target-oriented and flexible conception, integration and customization of sophisticated automation processes.


  • Common API with EtherCAT Master and EtherCAT EAP
  • Process data and service data communication (PDO/SDO)
  • File transfer (FoE)
  • Creation of custom PDO mappings
  • SII (EEprom) data can be initialized to custom values (e.g. Vendor ID, Product ID, Revision)

Beckhoff – EtherCAT Slave devices

  • FC1100, PCI EtherCAT Slave Card
  • FC1121, PCIe EtherCAT Slave Card
  • CX5000 CCAT(Beckhoff CX50xx, CX20xx, CX51xx Embedded PCs)

ESD – EtherCAT Slave card

  • ECS-PCIe 1100, PCIe EtherCAT Slave Card

    This list always refers to the latest version of our software.

EtherCAT Automation Protocol

Real-time communication between all terminals within a network

  • Common
  • Features

The EtherCAT Automation Protocol allows for real-time comm­uni­ca­tion between all terminals within a network, which achieves a whole new level of connectivity in the field of automation systems. This can be all PC-based controls, machines, testing rigs, conveyor belts, robots, facilities for quality assurance or MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems).

  • Transfer rate of e. g. 1000 Mbit/s, 10 Gbit/s or 40 Gbit/s
  • Process data and service data exchange (PDO/SDO), file transfer
  • application compatible with EtherCAT Master

CANopen Module

CANopen Master in realtime

  • Common
  • Features

The CANopen Module of Kithara RealTime Suite includes a PC-based master for the automation protocol CANopen®. It is based on the CAN Module of Kithara RealTime Suite and requires hardware supported hardware.

  • automatic determnitation of CANopen topologies
  • management of CANopen slave states
  • process data and service data communication (PDO+SDO)
  • mailbox communikation

Your Benefits of Kithara EtherCAT Master

Kithara EtherCAT Master is provided as a function library. Function extensions are possible at any time and modular. The developers can simply implement the EtherCAT Master in a quick way into their applications. Thus, programming languages like C/C++, Delphi or C# are directly supported and the developers can work in their ordinary programming environment. This prevents a time-consuming initial training as it is the case with complex soft SPS systems. Due to the provided function library the developers have a far more flexible option to perfect their application.

Master Monitor for EtherCAT

The Master Monitor for EtherCAT is a graphical Windows application for visualization and management of EtherCAT topologies and already included in the basis module of the EtherCAT Master. It also serves as an EtherCAT configurator. It is possible to save the identified structure of the connected slave devices in a special XML file in order to prove the compliance automatically for eventual implemented structure. However, the file can be manually combined by single modules.

Ethercat master1 Ethercat master2 Ethercat master3 Ethercat master4

EtherCAT® and Safety over EtherCAT® are registered trademarks and patented technologies, licensed by Beckhoff Automation GmbH, Germany.
CANopen® is a registered trademark of the CAN in Automation e. V.
GigE Vision® is a registered trademark of the Automated Imaging Association.
USB3 Vision® is a registered trademark of the Automated Imaging Association.