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Gateway Connects Flow Controllers from EtherCAT to EtherNet/IP


An automation solutions company working in the batch control industries has found a simple way to connect networked thermal Mass Flow Controllers (MFCs) from one Real-Time Ethernet network to another. Using Hilscher’s netTAP 151 protocol adapter, the company was able to connect EtherCAT-enabled MFCs to the EtherNet/IP network standard the company had adopted.

The netTAP 151 gateway adapter transmits IO data bi-directionally between the two Real-Time Ethernet networks. It is able to navigate the master/slave relationship with EtherCAT and EtherNet/IP to provide complete operational transparency and the ability to add or replace devices at will.

Open Standards Provide Flexibility

Panacea Technologies Inc. is a Process Control and Automation company headquartered in Montgomeryville, PA. The company serves pharmaceutical, biotechnology, oil, gas, chemical, and industrial gas industries as well as the food and beverage arenas. It has a policy of openness for its solutions and mainly uses “off-the-shelf” software and hardware, selected according to its customers’ needs.












Adwait Palsule, Business Unit Lead for the OpenBIO family from Panacea


Panacea also has a range of own-brand products, among them OpenBIO, a bioreactor control system that enables pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to control and manage their labs, R&D spaces, and manufacturing operations from anywhere.

OpenBIO has a global installed base ranging from small scale reactors to several thousand-liter capacity single use bioreactors.  

OpenBIO is essentially a high-functioning center piece for laboratory, process development, and manufacturing. With features like automated feeds, setpoint and process control algorithms, recipe and formula driven software, and a tablet-based interface, the platform allows customers to run recipes and formulas on any reactor, view every parameter from anywhere, and receive role-based remote notifications. OpenBIO allows the transfer of recipes across sites and countries, with an extensive package of “out of the box” algorithms available for process control.


Typically, OpenBIO provides for up to three separate inlet gases to be available for custom-mixed gas additions to processes. Open BIO has two versions – OpenBIO for lab/bench top use, and OpenBIO Max, which caters to larger production systems and reactors of up to 2,000 liters capacity and involving gas flows of 50 liters/min and more.  With precise control and flexibility a priority for controlling gases, thermal MFCs were used to handle gas mixing and distribution.


                                                     OpenBIO front view (top) and rear view (bottom)


“OpenBIO is built utilizing standard, off the shelf components and configured with standard control and visualization software,” says Adwait Palsule, Business Unit Lead for the OpenBIO family.  “Our philosophy is to provide a platform that the customer is in control of,” he adds “and we use networking protocols extensively, mainly EtherNet/IP, for process control and network access.” Networking enables turnkey systems to be easily configured and peripheral equipment, such as weigh scales and agitators, are readily added to customize each application.


Several years ago the company wanted to adopt EtherNet/IP within the product itself.  “This was mainly to give us more flexibility, for example to configure systems more easily and to add MFCs when a customer requested upgrades,“ says Palsule.  “We also wanted to simplify replacements if a device ever goes down.”

Under this philosophy, all major equipment categories in OpenBIO are EtherNet/IP devices, except for the Mass Flow Controllers.

This caused a project issue because the MFC devices chosen used the EtherCAT Real-Time Ethernet protocol. Like EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT is a Real-Time Ethernet networking solution that easily delivers the required performance, but it is incompatible with EtherNet/IP, so connectivity was compromised.

“Navigating the master/slave relationship with EtherCAT and EtherNet/IP can be confusing” says Palsule. “However, with the help of Hilscher’s local distributor Applied Controls of Malvern, PA, we quickly found the answer. They introduced us to Hilscher’s netTAP 151 gateway adapter and gave us very good support in deploying first systems.”  Each netTAP 151 acts as a slave device on OpenBIO’s 


                           Hilscher's netTAP 151 connects EtherCAT-enabled MFCs to main EtherNet/IP network in Panacea’s OpenBIO system


“By fitting one netTAP 151 alongside the controller PLC in OpenBIO we were able to quickly connect our MFCs and their data to the main EtherNet/IP network. We now have complete operational transparency, plus the ability to add or replace MFCs at will – it’s a perfect solution.” Around 50 Hilscher netTAP 151 units have already been supplied to Panacea Technologies.


About Hilscher’s netTAP 151 Real-Time Ethernet Gateway

netTAP 151 is part of Hilscher’s family of protocol adapters.  Hilscher specializes in bridging the interoperability gap between the many real-time Ethernet networking protocols. It uses its own netX chips to allow gateways to be customized for each application simply by downloading appropriate firmware.  All protocol software is fully certified by the relevant trade associations so deployment is straightforward and reliable.  Some 25 different networking protocols can be accommodated, in both master and slave formats.


Hilscher netTAP 151 Gateway AdapterWith netTAP 151, a maximum of 200 EtherCAT slaves can be connected. The maximum data conversion time is less then 10ms on a large network. Device replacement can be achieved in seconds via memory card-based loading utilities. There is also a USB diagnostic and configuration port.  Secure network separation is provided by two Ethernet controllers each connected to a dual Ethernet port with integrated switch, allowing star, ring and inline network topologies to be created without further peripherals. Each Ethernet controller handles the protocols independently and exchange only the IO data across a data buffer.



Hilscher netTAP 151 Gateway Adapter


For more information about netTAP 151, visit the Hilscher website.