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MX-System: Pluggable system solution for control cabinet-free automation

29 November 2023

The MX-System from Beckhoff is a flexible, space-optimised and intelligent system solution that can completely replace conventional control cabinets, thereby opening up entirely new possibilities in plant automation.

As a modular control cabinet replacement that can also be decentralised on the machine if required, the MX-System saves engineering, assembly, installation, as well as maintenance effort. This enables highly efficient processes for the manufacturers and operators of machines and systems – from the planning, setup and installation of the MX-System through to the maintenance of MX-System-equipped machines.

The basic concept of the MX-System is to standardise the electrical and mechanical interfaces for all electronic and electromechanical components. Implementing this idea results in two interfaces:

– The data interface integrates each functional unit into an EtherCAT network and supplies it simultaneously with 24V DC and, if necessary, also with 48V DC
– A second interface has been defined as standard for the low-voltage range. These interfaces distribute the mains voltage of up to 530V AC and a DC voltage of up to 84V for the drive system

This standardisation allows all functionality traditionally found in a control cabinet to be mapped as a backplane system. Analogous to the interfaces, there are two different backplane types, which have the described interfaces in the form of connectors as essential features. The backplanes feature robust aluminium housings. 

The combination of backplane and housing is called a baseplate. In addition, there is a full range of function modules from the areas of IPCs, bus couplers, I/O, motion, relays and system power supply. These are simply plugged and screwed onto the baseplate. 

The combination of a baseplate and function modules results in an IP67-protected automation system that is optimised in terms of space utilisation and can be mounted directly on the machine.

Advantages for engineering
The system architecture of a baseplate combined with function modules results in a modular solution that can be used to solve a wide range of automation tasks. A particular advantage is that the MX-System function modules integrate individual functions, such as line protection

for outgoing lines. This facilitates project planning and significantly reduces the number of components. These advantages are evident in the fact that the number of pages in circuit diagrams and parts lists is reduced by up to 80 percent. 

Even in the engineering phase, the low installation space requirement of the MX-System creates further advantages because this facilitates simpler coordination between departments, as there is usually no need to design special installation spaces and brackets for the MX-System.

Another important aspect is that the MX-System meets the requirements of relevant control cabinet standards and, in contrast to conventional control cabinets, it is also IEC, UL and CSA-compliant, making it a globally standardised solution.

Advantages in automation system setup
The principle of plugging function modules onto a baseplate and fastening them with screws not only revolutionises control cabinet design but also completely replaces it in the form known today.

Mechanical assembly of the control cabinet and its mounting plate are eliminated, as is time-consuming manual wiring. As a consequence, an MX-System can be set up within just one hour, including the necessary tests and checks. 

For a comparable control cabinet, the total setup time would be at least 24 hours. As a result, the MX-System also addresses the shortage of skilled workers, as it takes individual employees significantly less time to complete a given task. In addition, wiring errors no longer occur. 

From a logistical point of view, there are also clear advantages for control cabinet design, as the complete elimination of mechanical work steps means that assembly requires considerably less space. Processes, such as external control cabinet design, can be completely dispensed with.

Advantages in machine installation
The MX-System can be integrated visually and functionally into the machine installation space due to its considerable compactness in contrast to conventional solutions. This reduces the machine footprint many times over. Modular machine concepts can be realised very easily due to the possibility of cascading MX-System installations.

In addition, there are significantly shorter cable runs to the sensor or actuator level. The use of pre-assembled cables shortens the installation time and provides a high level of protection against errors during cable connection. 

Connections do not have to be completed by specially trained electricians due to the simple pluggability of the modules.

Advantages for the machine end user
For the machine end user, there are clear advantages in terms of service and maintenance: the MX-System consists of EtherCAT components that are networked throughout, so comprehensive system diagnostics are possible at any time.
In addition to classic status LEDs, each function module has a unique serial number in the form of a DataMatrix code. This code can be scanned via a smartphone app, which connects the smartphone to the control in order to retrieve diagnostic data on the corresponding function module. 

Module exchange is also very easy, since the modules are hot-swappable and can be plugged in and unplugged during operation. Just like the manufacturer of the machine, operators also benefit from the fact that the modular MX-System covers the complete variety of automation technology with considerably fewer parts and therefore fewer assemblies to stock as spares.

Through their simple basic principle, MX-System modules can also be reused very easily beyond the life cycle of the machine.

Learn more here.

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