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Installing Realtime Ethernet Driver Through TwinCAT

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Assigning real-time capability to an Ethernet port on a standard desktop PC (Or IPC) is something that is very simple to do, and allows you to interface with real EtherCAT hardware and do testing/debugging without requiring a specific Beckhoff PLC or IPC to function as your master device.

Installing the RT capable Driver:

First, you must have a compatible Network Interface Card. This is currently only supported by Intel branded NICs and I have found won't work with a lot of laptops. Most desktop PC PCI Ethernet adapters seem to work just fine.

You can check compatibility as well as install the driver by going to the TwinCAT Tab and selecting "Show Realtime Ethernet Compatible Devices:

The following window will pop up:

As you can see from the picture I have already installed the device driver for this, so it shows up in the "Installed and ready to use devices" tree. If you have a compatible device, with no driver installed, it will show up in the "Compatible devices" Tree. Simply click on the device and push the "Install" button. It will guide you through a series of simple steps to install.

Adding EtherCAT Master to Project:

Add an EtherCAT master to your project. This can be done by Finding IO, and then highlighting "Devices" in the solution Explorer:

Right Click on "Devices" , and click "Add New Item":

Select "EtherCAT Master" and name you device. Click OK:

Open up the Master options by clicking on it, then navigate to the Adapter Tab:

Click the "Search" option to the right of the PCI Bus/Slot area:

Select the adapter that you installed the Driver to, and click ok. This will assign the EtherCAT master to the realtime capable NIC that you just installed the driver for.

Your standard RJ45 ethernet port can now be hooked to a real Beckhoff Hardware Device (such as an EK1100), which will allow you to extend control functionality to physical IO devices, without requiring a PLC.

From there, you simply scan in the EtherCAT device as you normally would with any other piece of hardware and assign IO / Execute code just like you can with an actual PLC.

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