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Are control cabinets a thing of the past?

Control and automation expert Beckhoff is removing the need for bulky control cabinets with the launch of its new MX-System. The MX-System is a holistic, modular system that supplies electrical power and EtherCAT communication from a slim baseplate to plug-in modules that connect directly to nearby systems. This minimises the need for large electrical control cabinets and can allow engineers to entirely substitute conventional control panels.

The MX-System’s plug-in approach means that it can be placed directly by the machine, due to the way the system balances being robust with a discrete profile. The modular elements allow operators to adapt the system for their own needs.

The baseplate for the MX-System can contain up to three rows, with a maximum of 24 slots per row. These slots can distribute different voltages and communicate between the slots using the EtherCAT bus, allowing the system to be easily adjusted to equipment requirements. Each module connected to the baseplate is treated as a separate EtherCAT device, which means comprehensive diagnostics are available for the whole system.

“The MX-System is a fraction of the size of a traditional control cabinet,” explains Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff UK. “This allows it to be installed without taking up the mass amount of space that a control cabinet usually does.

“The plug and play aspect of the MX-System means that installation time has been reduced from 24 hours to just one hour. This install can be done by integrators, giving business’ more freedom on when they choose to install the new system.”

The MX-System’s power feed modules each have their own fuse, which can be replaced when the system is in a de-energised state. To reach this state, the power supply modules have a load-break switch as a main switch, so that the MX-System can also be de-energised under load, which makes the system safe to maintain. The power supply modules are available in different sizes for 16 A, 32 A or 63 A.

The mains voltage and the DC link voltage is distributed over the entire power backplane. The outgoing connectors of the respective MX slots can supply the plugged-in modules with both voltages and are loadable with up to 35 A and the entire backplane can be loaded with up to 63 A. Furthermore, the 400 V AC and the 600 V AC voltages can be fed out of the MX-System with power feeder modules and be fed into other MX baseplate stations.

The MX-System is equipped with EtherCAT, which means that complicated machines can achieve cycle times of >1ms. Using EtherCAT also allows modules to be exchanged or additional modules can be added during machine operation. The consistent use of EtherCAT also allows TwinSAFE to be used with each module, which increases the safety features of the device.

The move away from conventional control panels is revolutionising the automation industry. Watch managing owner, Hans Beckhoff, discuss the new MX-System on the Live + Interactive page of the Beckhoff website.

For more information about Beckhoff’s MX-System, UK-based companies and machine builders can call +44 1491 4105-39 or email

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