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Q&A with Frenzel + Berg

“We are constantly developing new versions of CANopen chips”

Erich Frenzel from Frenzel + Berg (Germany) answered questions about the CANopen I/O chip used in many different applications.

Erich Frenzel: “We are constantly developing new versions of CANopen chips. We do not limit ourselves to the CiA 401 device profile” (Photo: Frenzel + Berg)

ERICH FRENZEL AND STEFAN BERG founded the company in 1990. They developed CANopen products including the CANopen I/O chip series. Other CANopen products include PLCs and I/O devices with CANopen connectivity. Erich Frenzel answered the questions of the CAN Newsletter Online editors.

Q: Which are the most important markets for your CANopen I/O chips?

A: This is not easy to define. Around 10 years ago you would still have said that it was mechanical engineering, and especially the development of the associated electronics, here in Germany or even in neighbouring countries. But over time this has changed so that now the bulk of the chips are sold around the world in a wide variety of sectors. For example, these now include medical equipment, heavy goods vehicle and specialist vehicle construction, and the transport, production and the packaging industries. Alongside these, however, new fields of use are also emerging with increasing regularity, which open up new markets. As a result, our challenges include adapting to this constant change. This really only becomes apparent, however, if you consider that the overwhelming majority of the chips sold are specifically adapted for the customer and do not appear in our standard portfolio.

Q: With which CiA 401 version is your joystick chip compliant?

A: The joystick chip this question refers to in particular (CO4013) was developed around 15 years ago, based on the V2.x version. At that time we had already implemented other joystick-specific items such as "Dead-Band" and similar, which did not match those implemented in this standard when the device profile was further developed. However, as far as possible the items were augmented for a certain period of time. So it is not possible to name a specific version. But even in the joystick sector there were virtually no chips sold as standard once the customer recognised the potential the chips offered if they were adapted to the specific needs of the customer. These are also compatible with the latest version of the standard.

Q: Why don’t all of your I/O chips support the latest CiA 401 specification?

A: The reason for this is to maintain compatibility with customer products. The chips are also used in applications for which any modification would involve completely retesting the entire application. This could be very complex and expensive for these customers.

Q: Are there some new CiA 401 chips in the pipeline?

A: We are constantly developing new versions of CANopen chips. We do not limit ourselves to the CiA 401 device profile. As mentioned, in most instances these are customer-specific chips. Thanks to our own CANopen stacks and the modular software structure, it is possible for us to implement new versions in a very short time at low cost. What is more, in many cases it is in fact possible to implement parts or even all of the application processes of the customer application at the same time. It also has to be said that for many device profiles, the implementation of a standard chip separately from its application is simply not possible. As a result, the standard versions will always only form a small but important proportion of the chips on offer. Just like the visible tip of an iceberg.

Q: Are you going to implement CANopen FD when it is available?

A: A decision has not yet been made in this respect. As we still have not yet had any inquiries concerning CANopen FD, we do not currently see any need to commit ourselves. Should this situation change, we are in a position to respond at short notice.

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Frenzel + Berg