Using EtherCAT Motion Drives with NI Real-Time Controllers


What is NI SoftMotion and SoftMotion Drive Interface?

The LabVIEW SoftMotion Module (no longer sold by NI) was an add-on for LabVIEW that helped with the control of motors and drives using high-level commands and develop custom motion applications using NI real-time and FPGA. 

The SoftMotion Drive Interface (SDI) is the solution NI developed to standardize communication with third-party EtherCAT motor drives.  Conventional communication with an EtherCAT-capable motor drive is done by reading and writing commands to PDO and SDO memory registers on a drive.  The SDI takes care of this low-level communication to PDO and SDO registers for you, and allows you to focus on the high-level control aspects of your application using the SoftMotion API. SDI Plug-ins contain all the necessary components to add the EtherCAT drive to your LabVIEW Project and control the drive using SoftMotion.

What Hardware is Required to use SDI?

The table below lists the EtherCAT motor drives compatible with SDI. Only the single-axis variant of each drive is supported.

SDI also requires the use of a controller that supports EtherCAT and LabVIEW Real-Time. This includes CompactRIO, CompactDAQ, PXI, and Industrial Controllers with LabVIEW Real-Time. For a more comprehensive list, refer to SoftMotion Compatibility with LabVIEW Real-Time Controllers.

Download SDI Plug-ins

You can download SDI Plug-ins from the NI Tools Network. The SDI framework was introduced with SoftMotion 2014 SP1 and newer, although some plug-ins require later versions of LabVIEW and SoftMotion.  Plug-ins install as VI Packages through the VI Package Manager.  SDI Plug-ins are hosted on the LabVIEW Tools Network, and the currently supported list of NI's Drive Partners is below.

Who is an NI Drive Partner?

Vendor NameVendor Drive ModelSDI Plug-in LinkMinimum Software Set Version
Cs, C, M, Mi, ML
Copley ControlsAccelnet Plus
Stepnet Plus
Xenus Plus
Xenus Plus Compact
Delta Products CorporationASDA-A2Install2016
Dunkermotoren GmbHBG ECInstall2016
Elmo Motion ControlGold EtherCATInstall2016
Jenaer Antriebstechnik GmbHECOVARIOContact Supplier2015
KollmorgenEtherCAT AKDNatively Supported2010
maxon motorMAXPOSInstall2016
Mitsubishi ElectricMR-J4-TMInstall2016
PanasonicMINAS A5BInstall2016
Parker MotionP SeriesInstall2016
E SeriesInstall2016
Schneider ElectricLexium 32M
Lexium 32i
YaskawaSigma-7 100/200VInstall2016

Note: VI Package Manager must be installed to install plug-ins. The Minimum Software Set Version applies to LabVIEW and the LabVIEW SoftMotion Module. For full compatibility notes, see the related link below.

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