Empowering communication

Blog: Hilscher Embedded Modules: Market Leader for more than a Quarter of a Century

Embedded modules in industrial automation

The use of an embedded module has always been a sensible alternative to the traditional and complex Design-In process of a chip. For more than 25 years, Hilscher has been a leader in factory automation with embedded modules for industrial communication and that with a consistent concept.

Hilscher now takes you on a journey into the past and shows you where Hilscher technology from the last millennium is still used today and where the now well-known comX modules have their origin.


1986 - Company Foundation
Since 1986, Hilscher's core expertise has been the technology, development, and production of industrial communication solutions for modern factory automation. Hilscher’s products range from PC cards, embedded modules, and gateways to OEM plug-in modules right through to high-performance SoCs with associated protocol stacks. Hilscher has been successful in the market in the field of embedded modules for over 25 years. Since then, the communication modules have been gradually optimized to become the leading comX module that companies around the world use in their field devices today.


1995 - Communication Modules for PROFIBUS-DP
Hilscher's first communication modules for the industrial protocol PROFIBUS-DP were launched on the market in 1995. COM-DPM and COM-DPS were based on an AMD network controller and capable of master and slave functionalities. A very compact module of its time with the dimensions 63x77x14 mm (LxWxH) and a 2 kByte dual-port memory (DPM) as a parallel interface to the host processor on which the actual application runs.

2003 - Expansion of the protocol range
With the expansion in the industrial automation market, customers have placed more and more requirements on the COM module over time, which has resulted in Hilscher constantly adapting it. On the one hand, the form factor of the module has more than halved, the data width doubled and set to low-loss 3.3 V components. With the advent of further fieldbus technologies, such as DeviceNet and CANopen, Hilscher also recognized the chance to equip its COM modules with all industrial protocols quite early on.

The first multiprotocol-capable embedded module was born.


With only 10 mm, the COM-AS set the focus on a minimum component height.
It is used for parallel mounting below a front panel with vertical fieldbus connector/LEDs/switch.
Allows the installation of an industrial communication interface even in very flat devices.

The COM-BA, on the other hand, focuses on a minimum front width of 40 mm when mounted at right angles behind a front panel with angled fieldbus connector/LEDs.
As a COM-BN variant, the signals for the fieldbus/LEDs/switches are also routed to the host board, which results in additional space savings and greater flexibility during installation.
Allows the installation of an industrial communication interface even in very slim devices.

In the COM-CA and COM-CN, the focus was on a minimum module size (LxWxH): 30x70x1.5 mm.
Equally, 2.5 mm of free space is provided below the module for SMD components on the host board.
All connectors are placed on the outer edge, which saves space on the host board.

Key figuresData  
Publication year2003
Processor EC1
Host InterfaceMax. 32 kByte DPM, 8-/16-bit
Dimensions (LxWxH)40x70x26 mm40x70x21.5 mm70x30x21.5 mm
Supportes ProtocolsAS-Interface master
CANopen slave, master
DeviceNet slave, master
EtherNet/IP adapter
PROFIBUS-DP slave, master
AS-Interface master
CANopen slave, master
DeviceNet slave, master
EtherNet/IP adapter
PROFIBUS-DP slave, master
AS-Interface master
CANopen slave, master
CC-Link slave
DeviceNet slave, master
EtherNet/IP adapter
Interbus slave
PROFIBUS-DP slave, master
SERCOS, passive
Operating Voltage+3.3 V / 300 ... 800 mA
Operating Temperature±0 ... +60 °C (optional -20 ... +70 °C)


2004 - Communication Modules based on netX SoC
In addition to the first-generation COM modules, the second-generation COM-CA and COM-CN have become established in the market. Thus, the first two generations of communication modules continue to contribute to the growth of Hilscher today.

Over the years, the communication modules have become more and more widely used in factory and process automation.
Today, first and second generation modules are still used in a wide range of applications. These include the use

  • in a redundant distributed control system (DCS),
  • in a power supply unit for electroplating plants,
  • or in an industrial PC (IPC).

In 2004, Hilscher set the next milestone with the release of the netX processor family. This network processor was also used for a fundamental new development of the communication modules: the comX.

Read more about the small universal and multi-protocol capable communication module in the next part of our series of blogs!

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Four different embedded modules from Hilscher on a colorful background. The devices are slightly mirrored on the bottom.

Embedded modules from Hilscher are the ideal solution for integrating a fieldbus or Real-Time Ethernet interface into a compact automation device. They allow field devices such as drives or controllers to be quickly and easily integrated into automated systems.

The future prospects for the semiconductor industry are quite positive, with a projected growth of around 9% in 2022. However, the industry is repeatedly faced with supply bottlenecks due to the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, amongst other factors. By developing a new comX communication module, especially suited for the semiconductor industry, Hilscher is supporting to cope with the current situation.

Hand holding a pair of tweezers over a Hilscher printed circuit board

The comX communication module was developed to equip automation devices with a network interface. Here, all communication tasks are executed autarchically on the module - independent of the target platform processor.