Traditionally, integrating a third-party EtherCAT motor drive into control software is a process of learning the correct PDO/SDO data registers, the data requirements for these registers, and when to communicate with them from code. Despite most EtherCAT-capable drives conforming to the CiA 402 standard, many operational behaviors differ between drive vendor implementations of CiA 402. These differences have presented a challenge to integrators that have expressed time and again, the need for a unified interface to reduce development time and cost.
National Instruments provides a unified command framework called the SoftMotion Drive Interface as a solution to this issue. The SoftMotion Drive Interface (SDI) enables you to easily work with third-party EtherCAT motor drives in SoftMotion by installing Plug-ins for third-party drives. These Plug-ins are built to translate high-level move and configuration commands into the necessary communication to a third-party drive. Instead of learning which PDO a user needs to send a command to, the user can simply send a command using the hardware-agnostic functions provided by the NI SoftMotion Module in LabVIEW.
Since the functions provided by NI SoftMotion are hardware-agnostic, the same LabVIEW control code can be re-used with a variety of different hardware with little to no change to the code. Integrators can use the SoftMotion Drive Interface as a method for developing code that can work with any hardware for which a SDI Plug-in is available.