The Beckhoff MX-System: New automation construction kit replaces the control cabinet

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The new MX-System from Beckhoff is quite simply a revolution in control cabinet construction. With the launch of this system, the company now offers a flexible, space-optimized, and intelligent system solution that completely replaces the conventional control cabinet in a bid to revolutionize control cabinet construction and automation altogether!

For a long time, control cabinets have been an integral part of machines and systems and it is almost impossible to imagine machines and systems without them. However, the planning, development and wiring of control cabinets costs a lot of time and is also prone to errors.

Approaches already exist to build automated control cabinets, thus increasing the resources required and also reliability. However, even then, the problem remains that control cabinets require valuable production space on the machine. These challenges are also met with solutions such as decentralized terminal boxes, drives or, for example, Beckhoff EtherCAT Box modules, which can be mounted directly on the machine outside the control cabinet. None of these concepts, however, claim to replace the complete control cabinet and integrate the entire world of automation technology into the machine in a compact and robust way. After all, almost every machine still requires one or more separate control cabinets.

Machine and plant concepts without control cabinet in IP67

With the new MX-System, Beckhoff Automation is rising to these challenges and starting a revolution in the automation environment. Control cabinets can be reduced to a minimum or even substituted with the holistic, modular and plug-in approach. This means that machines and systems can now be designed and controlled entirely without control cabinets.

The MX-System exemplifies system integration of all machine functionalities, as it harnesses all the advantages of PC- and EtherCAT-based control technology at the same time. The compact system made of metal is not only dustproof and waterproof complying with IP67 standard due to its high quality workmanship, but also robust and resistant, which allows it to be placed directly at the machine.

When it comes to the automation of machines or plants, system supplier Beckhoff Automation offers virtually all of the required components in a wide performance range, with TwinCAT control software, Industrial PCs, Embedded PC controllers, I/O Terminal modules, drives, motors, power supplies, and cables laying the foundations for high-performance automation. At the same time, Beckhoff also has a great deal of experience in control cabinet construction. The Beckhoff company that employs around 250 engineers has been involved in electrical cabinet manufacturing and system design since it was founded over 40 years ago.

The new MX-System channels a combination of the company’s knowhow of system and component technology along with its practical application experience.

The MX-System is a uniform modular automation component that can be used to completely replace traditional control cabinets with modules in many applications.

The system consists of a robust aluminum baseplate in protection class IP67 with integrated module slots that feature EtherCAT for communication and an integrated power supply (safety extra-low voltages as well as 400 V AC and 600 V DC). The largest expansion stage can even accommodate a connected load of 400 V AC/63 A. Corresponding modules are available for the mains connection and all other control cabinet functions.

Connecting the field level, the modules use connection plugs that have been tried and tested for many years in the field of automation technology. A system combination of baseplate and modules has a protection class of IP67 and can be mounted directly on the machine. The system reduces the amount of effort involved for the manufacturer, especially during the planning and installation phases, while the integrated diagnostic functions reduce the complexity for the end user. This all combines to result in a modular control cabinet system with a high protection class that can be mounted on the machine without the need for additional protective housings.

Five system advantages for machine and plant construction

Engineering Advantages

  • The mechanical and electrical modularization of the system becomes the new engineering standard. Minimal engineering effort,
  • less components: no housing,
  • no cable gland,
  • decentralization and modularization,
  • one solution for UL, CSA and IEC,
  • integrated functions: safety, diagnostics, electronic fuse.

System Design Advantages

Unlike a classic control cabinet, no time-consuming and error-prone installation in the form of individual wire connections is necessary. The standardized interfaces of the MX-System enable an effortless plug and play principle, as all function modules can be easily plugged onto the baseplate.

  • huge reduction of assembly time: from 24 h to 1 hour
  • cabinet assembly can be done in-house by nonelectrical workforces
  • no external cabinet construction and logistics necessary
  • high quality: no error in cabinet wiring
  • drastic reduction in supply chain complexity

Electrical Installation at the machine Advantages

The MX-System can be integrated visually and functionally into the machine room due to its considerable compactness in contrast to conventional solutions. This reduces the machine footprint many times over. In addition, there are significantly shorter cable routes to the process level and thus cost savings.

The MX-System, which is highly scalable thanks to its standardized interfaces, can be expanded in no time at all with additional MX-Systems or combined with existing machine concepts using existing control cabinet solutions.

  • easy mounting of preassembled baseplate on the machine
  • plug and play installation of all cables due to EtherCAT P cables and connectors
  • no installation faults due to prefabricated cables
  • electrical installations may be done by mechanical workforces as part of the mechanical installation
  • no need for electrical technicians during assembly
  • shorter assembly time, less space consumption for electrical components and cables

Service and maintenance Advantages

The MX-System consists of intelligent EtherCAT components throughout, enabling comprehensive system diagnostics at any time. In addition to classic status LEDs, each function module has a unique serial number in the form of a data matrix code. This code can be scanned via smartphone app, which causes the smartphone to connect to the controller and output diagnostic data to the corresponding function module.

The modular system and the simple plug and play principle make it possible to replace a defective module quickly and easily. This offers an enormous time advantage, especially for the end user/machine operator.

  • fully integrated, non-intrusive system diagnostics EtherCAT devices
  • diagnostics can be done by nonelectrical specialists – no electrical cabinet has to be opened
  • easy fault localization: module, cable or device
  • modules can be exchanged by nonprofessionals
  • easy replacement of defective modules due to hot swap function
  • unique part number diagnostics

System Advantages

Machine and plant builders can use the MX-System not only to simplify their entire engineering, but also to simplify the entire installation and wiring of the components on the machine itself. Thanks to the uncomplicated plug and play principle, the function modules can be mounted on the baseplate and the entire system can be put into operation in no time at all.

  • huge reduction of system complexity, space requirements and in construction, assembly, and installation time
  • huge reduction in machine cabling length and complexity
  • huge reduction in supply chain management
  • compatibility to all major world standards (CE, UL, CSA, IEC, …)
  • ruggedized metal housing with exceptional EMC stability
  • easy maintenance by end customer
  • easy application expansion
  • compatibility to all major device and communication standards
  • EtherCAT, EtherCAT G, EtherCAT P
  • coupler for ProfiNET, Ethernet/IP, …
  • communication controller for all major fieldbuses
  • high-level TwinCAT support
  • reuse of all components for new applications
  • lower costs