I know most vehicles are controlled via CAN (Controlled Area Network) protocol through an ECU (Electronic Control Unit) which send/receives data using this protocol and then sends/receives Amps/Volts to appropriate sensors throughout the vehicle.

I was wondering what is the standard network protocol to control motor-driven robots that is analogous to CAN/ECU controlling vehicles.

  • $\begingroup$ most common could be what hobbyists use ... hobby servos with PWM position control ... i would hazard a guess that home made projects outnumber all others $\endgroup$
    – jsotola
    Mar 23, 2021 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Robotics, the big pescado, but I'm afraid that it is not clear what you are asking. We prefer practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face, so please include details of what you want to understand, what you've researched so far, what you found & what you expected to find. Please take a look at How to Ask & tour for more information on how stack exchange works and work through the Robotics question checklist to edit your question to be clearer. $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Nov 15, 2021 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ You're mentioning CAN, which is a low-level network protocol (layers 1/2), and asking about control. An ECU is just an embedded processor. The "common system to control robots" would generally be embedded controllers, so basically ECUs, but it's hard to tell if you're asking about physical networking or network protocols or processing. $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Nov 15, 2021 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Chuck, yes I know the question above is a bit general, but I'm asking in the context of network protocols. Is there a standard network protocol for robotic systems? akin to how J1939 is higher-level protocol of CAN used in large machinery. Does this make more sense? $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2021 at 19:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To give you more specific feedback. Please understand that you make an assumption that there is "a standard network protocol" for all "motor-driven robots". Robots come on all scales with many different requirements. To that end there's not even standard hardware interfaces, some prioritize high throughput, some high reliability, some physically light weight, some high power. Some are network based, some are point to point. As jstotla mentioned PWMs are likely one of the highest volume ways to communicate. It all depends on your definition of robot. $\endgroup$
    – Tully
    Nov 15, 2021 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


In modern industrial motion control, the communication between the controller (motion controller, robot controller, CNC contoller) is typically done with:

  • Profinet
  • CanOpen
  • Sercos
  • EtherCAT

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