The Benefits of Pluggable EtherCAT Modules – Cabling, Part 3
Suited to series production, pluggable EtherCAT I/O terminals reduce cabling in electrical cabinets
In addition to eliminating cables and switches in the field, simplifying the control cabinet cabling promotes a cleaner system with fewer points of failure. Especially when numerous I/O points are involved, cabinets traditionally become crowded, which complicates wiring and makes errors more likely. EJ series EtherCAT I/O terminals from Beckhoff plug directly into signal distribution boards with no wires, offering an especially important advance.
Using prefabricated cables with application-specific plug connectors, power and control signals are distributed from the routing circuit board to the plug-in EtherCAT terminals. The approach offers an especially good ROI for series production machinery. This method effectively eliminates point-to-point wiring within cabinets through a compact, application-specific electromechanical design. By essentially embedding the I/O system into the machinery, machine builders and end user manufacturers also minimize cable management efforts, labor costs and potential wiring errors.
In addition, pluggable EJ series terminals are often more compact than DIN rail-mounted I/O, as much as 50% smaller in some cases. Combined with the wiring reductions, this makes reduced equipment footprint an additional benefit of the plug-in terminal approach.
This demonstrates how effective EtherCAT fieldbus and I/O technology can mitigate cable management concerns in electrical enclosures. However, circuit board-based I/O systems are best suited for new installations rather than retrofits. Reducing cables in the field via OCT, on the other hand, is just as amenable to brownfield and greenfield applications.
Smart cable management is part of smart machine design
Innovative networking technologies eliminate extraneous cables. By considering these factors during the early phases of a retrofit or new machine design, engineers are far less likely to be burned by cable management issues later. Many of these cable-reducing solutions are still emerging technologies, and though they already offer numerous benefits today, they will only continue to provide increased capabilities as they mature.
Even at this time, plug-in I/O terminals and EtherCAT P solutions empower engineers to build control cabinets with drastically reduced cabling and to design fieldbus architectures with power and data in single-cable runs. The automation industry is quickly churning out streamlined solutions for every aspect of the engineering design and implementation processes. Cable management should not be an area that gets tangled up in hindsight.
Want to learn more about the benefits of EtherCAT for limiting cabling? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.
Sree Swarna Gutta is the I/O Product Manager for Beckhoff Automation LLC.
A version of this article previously appeared in Control Engineering magazine.