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Time Synchronization for Electronic Distributed Systems



John D. Gale, Ya-Shian Li-Baboud


Synchronization of clocks in electronic distributed systems has become critical in an increasing number of applications. Accurate knowledge of the correct time facilitates error trapping, productivity, security and safety. By knowing the precise sequence of events on different systems, faults can be traced back to the source. In other systems, productivity is enhanced because automated parts can be finely tuned to function simultaneously or in a specified sequence, faster and with finer granularity of control. When today's systems produce many billions of operations per second, or gigaflops, a timestamp control that is accurate enough to stamp each piece of data correctly is needed. In the semiconductor industry, e-Manufacturing and other applications driven by increasing technological demands and complexity require more accurate time synchronization methods. There are a number of synchronization technologies currently available, and more are being developed to optimize features for specific applications. This paper is intended to give an overview of the current methods used among different industries relying primarily on Ethernet technologies, and therefore have potential to be incorporated in a semiconductor fabrication network. The paper has a summary of NTP, IEEE 1588, and SynUTC, and includes each protocol's documented accuracy capabilities, advantages and their drawbacks. These technologies are the most prominent in terms of the mechanisms available to meet stringent time synchronization requirements in factory network systems.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7116
Report Number


e-Manufacturing, IEEE 1588, NTP, Time Synchronization


Gale, J. and Li-Baboud, Y. (2004), Time Synchronization for Electronic Distributed Systems, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD (Accessed June 13, 2024)


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Created May 27, 2004, Updated October 12, 2021