Products – EtherCAT Library for LabVIEW

Solutions for Measurement and Control

EtherCAT Library for LabVIEW

!!!Attention!!! The real-time support of the EtherCAT Library does not work under Windows 10 version 2004!

With the Windows 10 update 20H2 the problem is solved. Version 2004 is and will not be supported.

EtherCAT is an open Ethernet-based deterministic fieldbus. Because of its speed and functional principle, it is perfectly suitable not only for control automation but also for measurement tasks. It has gained a huge manufacturer base, giving users a wide range of products to choose from.

The EtherCAT Library for LabVIEW functions as an EtherCAT Master and makes these benefits available for the development of LabVIEW applications. It uses an industry-proven master stack with a wide range of features. To have deterministic timing, it integrates with PC-based real-time technology for use on normal Windows PCs. Nevertheless, it can also be used non-deterministically on plain Windows for applications that do not need real-time.

EtherCAT gives users a low-cost technology to integrate different devices with synchronized process data on one bus. It can be used to create measurement and control systems of any kind.

Areas of application for the library are:
  • Automation of machines
  • Measurement applications
  • Test of EtherCAT slave products
The library provides the following functionality:
  • Real-time process data exchange (PDO)
  • Writing and reading of service data objects (CoE)
  • Files over EtherCAT (FoE)
  • Servodrive profile over EtherCAT (SoE)
  • FailSafe over EtherCAT (FSoE)
  • Access to slave memory
  • Access to slave EEPROM
  • Access to slave object dictionary

We offer discounts for universities and schools.

Additional Links

Application Framework

Add-on library to the EtherCAT Library for LabVIEW for easier application development and extensive slave libraries

NI Tools Network

Approved for NI Tools Network


EtherCAT Library

  • How does it work?

    The LabVIEW Library for LabVIEW is a set of VIs that controls an EtherCAT Master application running in Windows or in a real-time extension parallel to Windows. We therefore use an industry proven EtherCAT Master stack that is thoroughly tested to grant full fulfillment of the EtherCAT standard. Any EtherCAT slave device following the EtherCAT standard can be connected to LabVIEW.

  • Is real-time necessary?

    The EtherCAT fieldbus principal is based on cyclic telegrams that pass through every slave to collect and set process data. The EtherCAT technology allows very fast bus cycles up to 10 kHz. The question if real-time is necessary depends on the necessity to collect or set process data with a deterministic rate. If for example sensor data has to be collected with 1 kHz sample rate or a sine waveform hast to be generated on an analog output, real-time is needed. Windows execution can only be used, if single samples are read or set.

  • How does the real-time work?

    We use a hypervisor solution that makes it possible to run a real-time operating system on a PC parallel to Windows. For this some hardware resources have to be made available for the real-time system. This is one CPU core and one network adapter. The network adapter (NIC) has to be an Intel or Realtek chip. USB network adapters do not work. The real-time system is optionally installed with the library. All setup is done by the installer.
    The real-time jitter behavior depends on the used PC hardware. Laptops usually have higher jitter, because of energy saving concepts and graphic card integration. Industrial PCs like Beckhoff IPCs and alike have very low jitter. Applications that require up to 10 kHz bus cycle rates are no problem on this PCs.

  • Can I use it for measurement applications?

    Definitely! EtherCAT is very well suited for measurement applications.
    EtherCAT uses cyclic process data telegrams that pass through all connected slaves to collect and set process data. Our system allows bus cycle rates of up to 10 kHz. That means sensor data can be read with up to 10.000 samples per second. Also, outputs can be updated with this speed. When using slaves that use oversampling technology, even sampling rates of up to 100.000 samples per second for inputs and outputs can be achieved. With Distributed Clocks a vera accurate time synchronization among all slaves can be done.
    A great benefit of this technology is, that a lot of different devices can be integrated over the same interface technology. That means all types of digital and analog IOs can be combined with motion controllers or even smart cameras. Also, the communication with other automations systems like PLCs can be easily integrated. You can exchange data with other EtherCAT Masters or fieldbuses like Profinet, Profibus, Ethernet/IP, etc.
    Because the technology is based on Ethernet, the system architecture can be created as distributed systems. Place the digital conversion near to the sensors. Ethernet cabling can be more than 100 meters without problems. With fibre optic conversion it can even be kilometers. The flexible terminal approach from Beckoff make it very cheap to create multiple distributed IO stations.

  • Does it work with LabVIEW Real-Time?

    No. The EtherCAT Library for LabVIEW is a solution for LabVIEW on Windows only.

  • Can I create real-time applications?

    The EtherCAT Master is executed in real-time with deterministic bus cycles to manage the process data. The LabVIEW code is executed in Windows. So, the LabVIEW application is not a real-time application. A control loop in LabVIEW does not execute with deterministic timing.
    But there are two further options if real-time functionality is needed.
    The first option is a set of predefined functions called data processing functions, that can be executed in the real-time with each bus cycle. These functions use the process data input information to calculate and set outputs. For example, the function limit monitor can compare an analog input value against a limit and set an output bit if the limit is exceeded. This output can be anything from a digital output to an enable bit from a motion controller. When the bus cycle rate is 1 kHz, this reaction is set deterministically within 1 ms. There are multiple functions like digital logic, limit monitor, PID control and more.
    The other option is to implement custom functions in a C dll, that are call each bus cycle. With this approach almost anything is possible, but it requires C or C++ programming. We also offer this service.
    These two options can be used to create deterministic control systems with LabVIEW on Windows, that would normally require costly hard- and software.

  • What is the license model?

    The EtherCAT Library for LabVIEW only has run-time licenses. One run-time license is needed to execute the EtherCAT master functionality on one PC. It makes no difference between the LabVIEW Development Environment or a LabVIEW Executable. There is no development license.
    There are 3 different run-time license types:
    • Limited to 10 slaves
    • Cyclic process data
    • CAN over EtherCAT (CoE)
    • Unlimited count of slaves
    • Cyclic Process Data
    • CAN over EtherCAT (CoE)
    • Faillsafe over EtherCAT (FSoE)
    • Access Slave Memory
    • Access Slave EEPROM
    • All of standard license
    • File over EtherCAT (FoE)
    • Distributed Clocks (DC)
    For evaluation of the software a 30 days trial license is available.

  • What are the license activation options?

    There are two different types of license activation.
    License Activation Server
    The license activation is received from a license activation server using an activation code and unique hardware id. The license activation data is stored in the PC registry and only needs to be fetched from the server once. The activation information can be read online or offline. A PC does not need to be connected to the internet. Licenses can be deactivated and moved to another PC. This also does work for online and offline PCs.
    USB Dongle
    A USB dongle can be added to a license to hold the license information. The dongle just needs to be plugged in to activate the license for a PC.

  • Do I need anything in addition?

    The EtherCAT Library comes with the real-time system and EtherCAT Master license. If real-time is used, a normal network port with Intel or Realtek chipset is needed. No extra hardware is needed.
    The EtherCAT setup needs to be configured and this configuration needs to be saved as XML file called ENI. This configuration can be done with the library itself for simple systems. For more complex systems with different process data configurations or Distributed Clocks setup, additional software is needed. We recommend the following options:
    • TwinCAT from Beckhoff (free of cost but complex)
    • EtherCAT Studio from KPA
    • EC Engineer from Acontis
    • EtherCAT Workbench from ESD

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