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Communication Interfaces

Given the wide range of applications that come under heading “motion control”, there is clearly no single best solution for all problems. Industrial Ethernet offers advanced features that are extremely valuable to designers of large, complex factory systems. However, for smaller, more self-contained applications, simpler technologies such as fieldbus (CANopen, PROFIBUS) or point-to-point wiring (SSI, Bit-Parallel, or even Analog) have a place. POSITAL position and motion sensors, including IXARC rotary encoders, TILTIX inclinometers and LINARIX linear position sensors are available with a full range of communications interfaces.

Incremental Interfaces for Encoders


Incremental encoders generate an output signal each time the shaft rotates a certain amount. The number of signals per turn defines the resolution of the device.


HTL (Push-Pull) and TTL (RS422) are forms of serial connections that are suitable for continuous streams of data, such as would be generated by an incremental encoder (i.e. an encoder that produces a signal each time the shaft rotates through a certain amgle).

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Fieldbus Interfaces for Encoders


Fieldbus networks were developed for vehicle, work cell and factory automation systems. Applications range from conveyors and manufacturing facilities to mobile equipment, medical equipment, wind turbines and solar panels. These networks are based on a bus topology, which simplifies wiring for systems with a significant number of devices. They also support powerful diagnostic tools to help with system setup and trouble-shooting.


Profibus is available on many PLCs and one of the most common fieldbus technologies in factory automation and other areas. It is based on RS485.

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CANopen is a fieldbus protocol using CAN networks. CANopen is available on many PLCs and widely used in factory automation and mobile machines.

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DeviceNet is a fieldbus system based on CAN networks and CIP protocol. DeviceNet is managed by ODVA, widely used in factory automation and available on many PLCs.

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The CANopen Safety framework for safety-relevant communication is an add-on to the CANopen application layer and communication profile.

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CANopen Lift is a fieldbus protocol for elevator applications. It is similar to CANopen and based using CAN networks.

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Interbus is a fieldbus technology developed by Phoenix Contact. Is has been popular in automotive production plants. It can be based on different electrical networks and fiber optics.

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IO-Link Interfaces for Encoders


IO-Link is communications system designed to simplify connections between large-scale fieldbus or industrial Ethernet networks and sensor or actuator devices located on the factory floor. On one side of an IO-Link master gateway device is an interface to the plant-wide network, while the other side has multiple point-to-point connections to individual sensor devices.


IO-Link is a point-to-point interface allowing transmission of process, diagnosis and configuration data making devices ready for Industry 4.0.

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Analog Interfaces for Encoders


Analog interfaces can be cost effective for simple control systems. Using point-to-point wiring, they are easy to implement for small networks (1-5 sensors). Analog installations are common in applications like vehicles, medical equipment and energy management.

Industrial Ethernet Interfaces for Encoders


While it shares core technology with ‘office’ Ethernet, Industrial Ethernet systems incorporate special hardware and software aimed at providing ‘industrial-strength’ ruggedness and performance. Industrial Ethernet supports larger and more complex networks. It also enables seamless connections between the factory network (Industrial Ethernet) and the enterprise network (office Ethernet) which can simplify the integration of production, inventory control and enterprise management systems.


EtherNet/IP is an industrial communication protocol developed by Rockwell Automation and managed by ODVA. It is based on CIP and TCP/IP protocol.

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EtherCAT is an open high performance Ethernet-based Fieldbus system. EtherCAT require short data update times with low communication jitter and low hardware costs.

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Serial Interfaces for Encoders


Serial interfaces use point-to-point wiring systems, but with a digital interface that connects directly to digital PLC’s or microcontrollers. They offer good speed, high resolution, flexible cabling and reliable communication over distances up to a few hundred metres.


SSI is a widely used serial interface with point-to-point connection between PLC/Master and encoder. It is based on the RS422 standard.

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Parallel Interfaces for Encoders


Parallel interfaces can provide very high-speed communications over short distances but require bulky cables with individual wires for each bit.

BiSS Interfaces for Encoders


The BiSS Interface (bidirectional/serial/synchronous) protocol is an – Open Source – digital interface which enables a digital, serial and secure communication between controller, sensor and actuator.



BiSS Line uses the core BiSS definitions and device content but maps the communication on an RS485 half duplex line. The BiSS Line protocol is usable with a 2-wire or 4-wire setup. The 2-wire setup combines communication and power supply on a single twisted pair of lines. BiSS Line provides multi device capability and forward error correction (FEC).

The BiSS Interface (bidirectional/serial/synchronous) protocol is an – Open Source – digital interface which enables a digital, serial and secure communication between controller, sensor and actuator.

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Safety-critical applications targeting up to SIL3 can now be fully covered by BiSS Safety and the BiSS interface. The safety communication level "BiSS Safety" is certified by TÜV Rheinland and follows in extracts the requirements stated in DIN EN 61784-3:2011 and can be used in safety applications up to SIL3 according IEC61508:2010.

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