New CANopen specs

CAN in Automation (CiA) has released several new and some updated CANopen specifications. Most important, says CiA managing director Holger Zeltwanger, is the CiA 311 XML electronic data sheet (EDS) specification. It defines the XML scheme to be used for the electronic description of CANopen devices.

The specification is based on the ISO 15745 standard. In the future, XML electronic data sheets will substitute the well-known ASCII-based EDS as specified in CiA 306. EDS are used by configuration, diagnostic, or testing tools to get information about the CANopen device to be configured, diagnosed, or tested.

"ASCII was fine in its way, but it doesn't provide that much in detailed specifications of the device being used," says Zeltwanger. "With XML format, you can have more information and more powerful configuration tools."

He describes the new specification as a step forward in the field of machine automation, though he acknowledges there is a tradeoff. "The XML files are larger, so more memory space will be required in your tools. For the simpler packaging machines being built today, perhaps this is not so applicable. But for a sophisticated, multi-axis servo-driven packaging machine, this new specification is both attractive and powerful. It's a big help in system integration."

Also new is the CiA 414-1/2 specification, which describes the CANopen interface for feeders on weaving machines. What does this have to do with packaging machines? "We'll be developing further device profiles for modular machines, including packaging and printing machines," says Zeltwanger.

CiA is the international users' and manufacturers' group for Controller Area Network (CAN). The non-profit association was founded in 1992 and is supported by more than 450 members. Members develop CAN-based higher-layer protocols and device profiles.

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