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Taking the cabinets out of control automation

It’s time to take control cabinets out of industrial control and automation applications. This is the view of industrial technology specialist Beckhoff Automation UK, who has published a new whitepaper laying out the company’s view of the future of automation and exploring the concept of automation without cabinets. The whitepaper is available here.

The control cabinet is a staple of modern factory environments, used to supply necessary power to automation systems and equipment. However, Beckhoff UK argues that as plants invest in a growing number of automated systems, these cabinets are limiting the productive capabilities of businesses. According to the company, modern automation and cabling technologies can minimise the footprint of control cabinets, or even remove the need for them entirely.

“Put simply, automation without cabinets is the idea that we can develop machines and equipment that fit onto the factory floor and operate without the need for a control cabinet,” explained Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff Automation UK. “Simply by addressing the issues around cabinets, we can reduce transport and installation costs for machine builders and system manufacturers and provide higher output per square metre of production space for industrial businesses.”

In the whitepaper, Beckhoff explains the background of the concept, the technology that makes it achievable and the benefits for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end-users alike. For OEMs, the benefits are lower system complexity, reduced shipping costs and shorter installation times that can reduce project costs. For industrial businesses, the benefits are a higher output per square metre of production space, reduced maintenance requirements and a greater degree of flexibility in production.

“Beckhoff has been developing technologies and products in the past few years that have made this concept a plausible reality,” explained Bradley McEwan, business development manager at Beckhoff Automation UK.

“The IP65 and IP67 rated industrial PCs allow for direct integration onto machines. We have also developed the AMP8000 distributed servosystem to unify the servomotor and servo drive in one compact footprint with the same mounting dimensions as a standard servomotor. The AMP8000’s distribution modules allow several systems to be powered from a single module, reducing the need for cabinets.

“On top of this there is the advent of EtherCAT P, which allows EtherCAT communication data and power to be transmitted via a single, four-wire Ethernet cable. This means that we have consolidated much of the wiring associated with automation systems. When we use several of these technologies together, we can substantially reduce the footprint and complexity of machines.”

The whitepaper outlines the range of products that can make the concept a reality. Beckhoff Automation is launching these products to the UK market throughout 2020 but businesses can register their interest with Beckhoff representatives prior to the official launch.

Plant managers, engineers and machine builders interested in learning about the automation without cabinets concept can download the whitepaper here.

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