TwinCAT Runtime for Real-Time Linux

New application possibilities for real-time control with industrial PCs

  • Picture: Beckhoff Automation
    Picture: Beckhoff Automation

Beckhoff’s TwinCAT runtime for real-time Linux® is opening up new application possibilities for real-time control. The ability to execute several TwinCAT runtimes on a single industrial PC means users can now combine different system parts on one high-performance computer to streamline programming and diagnostics. It also makes it possible to access a GPU (graphics card) from the real-time environment, providing a hardware accelerator for particularly computing-intensive applications such as vision – and much more besides.

TwinCAT runtime for real-time Linux is based on Beckhoff’s own Linux® distribution, which expands the existing spectrum of operating systems beyond Windows and TwinCAT/BSD. This distribution was developed using the free Debian operating system and includes a Linux® real-time kernel as standard for real-time execution of the runtime. The Debian package system also makes it easy to install additional software.

Modular container technology

This all combines to provide a TwinCAT runtime for stable real-time control on a Linux platform. Using container technologies such as Docker®, Podman, or LXC, several TwinCAT runtimes can be executed on a single IPC to achieve modularity in machine and other control applications. The individual execution of several TwinCAT runtimes on a single industrial PC facilitates hardware consolidation with corresponding cost advantages due to the improved utilization of the available computing capacity.

Linux users can take advantage of a whole new world of automation possibilities, while the familiar TwinCAT application programming remains unchanged. Benefits include the optimized execution of several real-time applications on a single CPU, increased user flexibility thanks to the modular control code, simplified addition or replacement of application modules, and the targeted execution of updates for individual applications. There is even a reduced overall investment in terms of both time and costs for engineering.

TwinCAT runtime for real-time Linux® will initially be available for the new ARM-based CX82x0 and CX9240 Embedded PCs (with ARM Cortex™ A53 CPU). The Beckhoff Linux distribution will then be successively rolled out for all of the company’s other industrial and embedded PCs.