With pressure on machine builders and manufacturers to find ways to lower equipment costs, companies are looking to suppliers for help—and a good place to start is lowering the installation cost of cabling that connects I/O and field devices.
In an effort to meet industry needs, Beckhoff Automation introduced the concept of EtherCAT P (EtherCAT + Power) in 2015, with the EtherCAT Technology Group publishing a first draft of the official EtherCAT P technology spec at Hannover Messe last year. Last week, during PACK EXPO East, the company had the technology on display and highlighted its benefits during a presentation on the Innovation Stage.
EtherCAT P is an addition to the EtherCAT technology on the cabling level, enabling the use of the standard 4-wire Ethernet cable not only for data, but also for two electrically isolated, individually switchable 24V/3A power supplies. This technology facilitates the cascading of several EtherCAT devices and therefore only requires one cable to connect and power I/O and field devices.
With EtherCAT P, the Us (system and sensor supply) and Up (peripheral voltage for actuators) voltages are directly coupled into the 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT communication line, which leads to reduced cabling, compact, cost-effective wiring, lower system costs and smaller footprint for devices, equipment and machines.
Since EtherCAT P carries both power and data, which can be dangerous to transfer to a network that doesn’t support it, the cable connectors are specially designed for EtherCAT P in order to prevent false connections.
And, while a cable that combines power and communications may not seem so remarkable, it can save a lot of time and money. “One cable means stocking less parts, less potential for failure of parts and less commissioning time,” said Andy Garrido, I/O market specialist at Beckhoff.
EtherCAT P covers all types of apps from the 24V I/O level to drives with 400V AC or 600V DC. A complete machine can be supplied with one line and include all the advantages of EtherCAT, including choice of topology, high-speed and optimized bandwidth utilization. And, when designing the machine, connections and cabling, Beckhoff has software that can help calculate the maximum distances and loads without having to test it with hardware.
“To summarize, EtherCAT P is one cable with power and data combined. We have a deterministic high-speed protocol to send and receive data almost simultaneously and a design tool and error-proof connectors,” Garrido said. All of this “increases production and decreases cost.”