New EtherCAT Box for Compact Conveyor Control From Beckhoff

March 19, 2020 by Robin Mitchell

What is Zero Pressure Accumulation with regards to conveyors systems, and why are more designs using alternatives for PLCs?

Beckhoff announced its latest 2-channel motor controller for roller conveyor systems and allows for PLC-free operation. 


Finding Alternatives to Using PLCs

There has been a growing trend that looks to reduce central control as well as remove “middle man” steps usually done by PLCs. More companies like Beckhoff Automation are releasing innovative technologies that use sensors and network bridges to perform functions previously done by PLCs.

Engineers and designers can utilize a technique called Zero Pressure Accumulation (ZPA). Simply put, ZPA is a belt that is smart enough to detect where items are on the belt and make dynamic adjustments so that two items never touch each other.

Such a system would often require a PLC, which is then connected to various sensors and motor controllers. Beckhoff has recognized this problem and aims to solve it with their latest product, the EP7402.


Beckhoff's New EP7402 With EtherCAT

The EP7402 is a 2-channel motor controller box designed for use with roller conveyor systems (those that utilize rollers and not a belt) and can power and control 24V BLDC conveyor motors.

The system uses EtherCAT industrial ethernet for communication and can work with the TwinCAT3 environment.



New EP7402 With EtherCAT. Image used courtesy of Beckhoff Automation.


While the system is able to control up to 3A of motor current it is designed to operate in a PLC-free environment having 8 digital inputs/outputs allowing it to work with external sensors and can perform Zero Pressure Accumulation algorithms as well as single and block discharge.


The EP7402 With Thermal Protection and Shock Resistance 

With regards to safety features, the EP7402 includes multiple monitoring and protection systems including current and voltage monitoring, thermal protection, and overcurrent protection.

The EP7402 is also integrated into the functionality and diagnostics provided by the EtherCAT system. This allows it to be daisy-chained to machine controllers as well as operate with the TwinCAT IoT toolkit for the development of IIoT solutions. 

The EP7402 is housed in an enclosure rated for IP67 and measures 174mm x 60mm x 36.5mm making it easy to mount to standard C-channel and L-brackets on conveyor frames.

This motor controller also conforms to CE and UL regulations as well as vibration and shock resistance to EN 60068-2-6/EN 60068-2-27 and EMC immunity to EN 61000-6-2/EN 61000-6-4. The EP7402 is rated for up to 12,000 rpm motor control, uses M8 screw type connectors, provides up to 0.5A per channel, includes distributed clocks, and provides electrical isolation up to 500V. 

Beckhoff's latest motor controller is an example of how designs that do not use PLCs can help to simplify industrial process design. Additionally, the use of industrial protocols such as EtherCAT allows for devices to cross-communicate which increases capabilities.

Central PLC systems can be practical for complex tasks but many systems will likely benefit from a controller that both provides power, control motors, and executes algorithms all in a single package.


Will you be using this new device by Beckhoff?