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One cable automation combines communication and power

New connector technologies expand EtherCAT and EtherCAT P communication with additional power supply.

Sree Potluri and Andy Garrido, Beckhoff Automation
12/04/2017

Figure 1: With various performance classes for the connection of components via the ECP and ENP connector variants, One Cable Automation provides the ideal foundation for modular machine and plant design. Courtesy: Beckhoff AutomationConnecting individual field devices, decentralized terminal boxes, and machine modules using one cable is accomplished by combining industrial Ethernet communication via EtherCAT with the power supply required by the connected components. For the 24 V field level, this was implemented using the EtherCAT P technology expansion connected via special M8 connectors. To provide additional power supply capabilities via one cable, new ENP and ECP connector types combine EtherCAT or EtherCAT P communication with additional power conductors in one cable. They are easy to use, are mechanically coded to prevent installation errors, and offer an IP67 protection rating.

The flexible single-cable automation design works for many applications. Different sections in a network can be connected by selecting appropriately designed combined power and Ethernet cables for devices and components according to power requirements. Unrestricted openness for mixed network topologies enables flexible transitions between: 

ECP and ENP connector types implement the combination of communication and power elements in different performance classes that range from 3 amps to 64 amps, in one compact design. The connector system is a completely new development and meets the full scope of OCA requirements regarding connected devices and modules, including drives, sensors/actuators, electrical cabinets, and entire machine modules. The following are benefits of this connector system including: 

EtherCAT P, 24 V, one cable

With EtherCAT P, EtherCAT technology has expanded to combine high-speed EtherCAT communication with a 24 V system and peripheral power supply (US or UP), in a standard Ethernet cable. Special M8 connectors were developed for EtherCAT P with mechanical encoding that eliminates possible confusion with connectors used for standard EtherCAT devices.

Figure 2: The EtherCAT P one cable solution is an ideal bus system for sensor, actuator, and measurement devices at the 24 V field level. Courtesy: Beckhoff AutomationFigure 3: Connectors from the ECP series (illustrated) and the ENP series are designed for uses such as connecting stepper motors with controllers (B12), asynchronous motors with frequency converters and smaller control cabinets or decentralized terminal boxes (B17), along with complete control cabinets and robotics applications (B23/B36). Courtesy: Beckhoff Automation

A specific machine's design or plant installation is simplified using PC-based control software tools that help specify all individual EtherCAT P consumers and cable lengths to configure the highest performance and most cost-effective EtherCAT P network. 

Connector types: EtherCAT, EtherCAT P

If higher power or supplies are required in addition to the 24 V system and peripheral power supply via EtherCAT P, power can be supplied via corresponding hybrid cables with the ECP and ENP connector types for this purpose:

Connector sizes from B12 to B36 are available with a varying number of power pins (two to six pins) so they can be adapted to the requirements of different network types and the power consumption for connected consumers. The complete and full-length 360-deg shielding of the central trapezoidal element continues the typical high-performance of EtherCAT. The compact design provides adequate space for the power pins, ensuring high current-carrying capacity and dielectric strength. The bayonet connection, and broad flange spectrum in the diverse housing variants-for rear panel, front panel, and square installation—provide further design flexibility. Connector versions for field assembly can save installation time. 

Figure 4: The sophisticated design of the connector elements also facilitates time-saving, error-free installation in the field. Courtesy: Beckhoff AutomationFigure 5: The new power distributor I/O boxes provide EtherCAT communication in combination with a 2 x 24 V power supply and a protective conductor via the B17-ENP connectors for higher power requirements or longer distances. Courtesy: Beckhoff Automation

Broad range of applications

The ECP and ENP connector families, with the EtherCAT P-encoded M8 connector type, cover all applications from 24 V dc on the input/output (I/O) level to drive systems with 480 V ac and a maximum of 64 amps. The high-flexibility of the connection system is available in most application areas. Depending on specific needs, EtherCAT, EtherCAT P, or a mixture of both can be used. Typical engineering requirements for small and mid-sized systems are covered by EtherCAT P with up to 3 amps for US and UP in combination with M8 or ECP connectors. In contrast, the ENP connector series helps with larger installations involving longer transmission distances. The same also works for applications without EtherCAT P.

Figure 6: Power over EtherCAT capabilities exceed the Power over Ethernet (PoE) voltages, as shown in this display at the Beckhoff Automation booth at ProMat 2017 in April. The One Cable Automation (OCA) philosophy from Beckhoff is based on the connection of individual field devices, decentralized terminal boxes, and machine modules using one cable. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE MediaExpanding the one-cable designs with the growing diversity of the EtherCAT P, ECP, and ENP devices and components also expands the range of application options for users.

Sree Potluri, I/O application specialist; and Andy Garrido, I/O product marketing, Beckhoff Automation. Edited by Emily Guenther, associate content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, eguenther(at)cfemedia.com.

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Keywords: Power over Ethernet, EtherCAT, industrial Ethernet 

Key Concepts

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How much time or space could an automation design save by using one cable power and EtherCAT in a standard Ethernet cable design?

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