Toward a holistic delay analysis of EtherCAT synchronized control processes

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This paper analyzes the end-to-end delay of EtherCAT-based control processes that use the events of message frames and global clock for synchronized operation. With the end-to-end delay defined as the time interval between the start of a process cycle and the actual input or output, we develop a holistic delay model for control processes with EtherCAT, by taking into account the time for in-controller processing, message delivery, and slave-local handling. Based on the measurements from a real EtherCAT control system, we discuss the average and deviation of the process delay as we vary the number of slaves and process cycle time. The experiment results show that the output delays are mainly increased by the average controller delay, whereas the input delays are more affected by the deviation rather than the average of the controller delay. Our in-depth analysis on the controller reveals that the DMA (Direct Memory Access) overhead chiefly enlarges the controller delay for increasing number of slaves, while task release jitter is the main cause of the increased delay for longer cycle time. The presented delay model and evaluation results can be essentially used for the design of EtherCAT-based automation that requires highly synchronized operations, such as for coordinated motion and high-precision data sensing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-621
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Computers, Communications and Control
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • Automation system
  • End-to-end delay
  • Real-time ethernet
  • Synchronized processes


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