CAN in Automation celebrates first 15 years - Embedded.com

CAN in Automation celebrates first 15 years

Since its formation in 1992, 466 companies have become members of the CAN in Automation (CiA) international users’ and manufacturers’ group .

The nonprofit association headquartered in Erlangen, Germany, promotes the use of the internationally standardized controller area network (CAN) serial bus system (ISO 11898-1). Many microcontroller manufacturers have implemented CAN, which is mainly used in passenger cars. In 2006, more than 500 millions of CAN controllers were sold.

However, the main focus of CiA is the non-automotive market. This includes industrial control systems, medical equipment, and many other embedded control system applications. In particular in medical applications CAN is one of the market-leading embedded network technologies. GE Healthcare, Philips Medical Systems, Siemens Medical Solutions, and many small- and medium-sized companies are using CAN extensively in their medical devices as open and embedded networks.

CiA has developed the CANopen application layer (CiA 301/EN 50325-4) and a lot of CANopen profiles for generic and dedicated devices and application fields. “The development of CANopen profiles will be continued in the next years,” said Holger Zeltwanger, initiator and managing director of the CAN organization. “We are just calling for experts in photovoltaic, wind power and low-voltage gear devices, in order to develop profiles for these markets.”

Professional photovoltaic control systems consist of many sensors, inverters, and other devices that have to be connected. CANopen is dedicated embedded network for outdoor applications. CiA has scheduled a workshop in March in order to explain the possibilities of CANopen in this application field.

The CANopen profile for special-purpose passenger cars (taxi and police cars) is already under development as well as the profiles for laboratory automation. “The broad range of applications that are covered by CANopen is a benefit for low-volume application, because they can use a lot of already for reasonable prices available CANopen hardware, software, and tools,” stated Arnulf Lockmann, CiA business director. This is also true for construction machines and other off-road vehicles. The workshops in March in Germany and in April in USA will show first applications and the future strategy in standardizing dedicated CANopen profiles for this business.

The CANopen specifications include the recently published CiA 309 Ethernet/CANopen gateway specification. It has been developed jointly with the ModbusTCP association.

“First implementations have been successfully installed in packet sorting systems,” said Heinz-Juergen Oertel CiA technical director. In February, CiA organizes a workshop on gateways, routers, and bridges presenting also the CANopen multiple network specification and the standardized gateway to AS-Interface.

More than 20 CANopen special interest groups cover applications fields including maritime electronics, rail vehicles, lift control systems, and garbage trucks.

“The next year, CiA will focus on modular machine design and will support interested machine builders in standardizing interfaces for up- and downstream devices,” said Holger Zeltwanger. The first profiles for extruder downstream devices have been already recently updated (CiA 420).

The majority of CiA members are located in Germany and Switzerland. Nevertheless, the association organizes marketing activities all over the world. “The main focus is of course Europe, because we have to serve first our members and their main customers,” said the CiA managing director. “But we also increase our activities in North America and Far East.”

This year, CiA organizes several technical trainings in China, India, Malaysia, and Singapore. In Saint Petersburg (Russia), CiA held the CANTech conference in March. The entire list of conferences, seminars and workshops is available on CiA’s website.

“The 15 years old group is still young and not all engineers have been educated yet in CAN technology,” said Holger Zeltwanger. The number of new standardization projects is just one indicator. Other ones are the still increasing number of members, and the companies requesting unique CANopen vendor-IDs, which are necessary to produce CANopen products.

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