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EtherCat terminal system expands into hazardous areas

02 May, 2017

Beckhoff has expanded into process control applications with a series of EtherCat terminals with IS (intrinsically safe) I/Os that can connect directly to field devices in Zone 0, 1 and 2 hazardous areas. Using the company’s PC-based controllers, automation and process technologies can now be combined, and EtherCat benefits such as diagnostics applied in hazardous areas.

The compact ELX series IS terminals add explosion protection to the EtherCat system which already supports more than 100 different types of signal. The slim I/O terminals have either 12mm housings with up to four intrinsically safe inputs, or 24mm housings with up to eight inputs. The terminals are claimed to reduce space requirements in control cabinets by up to 50%. Hazardous areas with confined spaces usually need elaborate and costly enclosures.

The terminals will include analogue and digital inputs and outputs as well as specialised devices such as IS Namur encoder inputs. The system also includes a 24V DC, 1A power supply with galvanic isolation which ensures a 50mm air distance between non-IS and IS circuits.

The EtherCat terminals with built-in safety barrier functions can connect directly to connect IS field devices. Beckhoff says that eliminating the need for external barriers will cut installation efforts and costs “significantly”.

Users of the new terminals will benefit from EtherCat capabilities such as time-stamp functions, which ensure high measurement accuracy and precise synchronisation, even in widely distributed applications. The system’s built-in diagnostics with 100 Mbit data rates will allow fast, convenient error identification, simplifying maintenance and reducing downtime.

Beckhoff's ELX EtherCat terminals offer intrinsically safe I/Os and allow direct connection of field devices in hazardous areas up to Zone 0/20.

Beckhoff expects that upcoming certification will confirm compliance with Atex and IECEx, allowing the terminals to be used in most markets around the world.

Beckhoff is also expanding its CPX Control Panels and Panel PCs to include models suitable for use in Ex Zone 2/22. Its TwinCat control software will support interfaces specific to process technology.

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