An introduction to the new speed starter

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Written by Fraser Cowie, Product Manager- Interface

Do we really need another range of Variable Speed Drives?

I had a look online the other day and I was astounded by the number of different Variable Speed Drives ( VSDs) manufacturers and the breadth of offer of that is available today!

There is a lot of product out there!

Today’s drive OEMs have a variety of different VSDs for each frame size they do, and then each of these may have options, depending upon the application.

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The key to energy security is storage.

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Written by Duncan Nicol, Sales & Marketing Manager- Device Connections

Much has been written and discussed in the last year about the shift to a more sustainable energy future. Central to this topic is the ability to store energy for use when demand is high. Battery storage is part of the solution and has some key advantages over other forms of energy storage.

Back when coal was king, we would store energy in massive coal slag heaps and burn when needed. For fast power delivery when demand was high, one approach was pumped storage hydropower, but this needed a reservoir at the top of a mountain to pump and store the water.

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The unbeatable team – PLT-SEC and QUINT Power

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Written by Mark Lloyd, Senior Product Manager- Power Supplies & Surge Protection

Some time ago I penned a blog introducing a special guarantee where we offer a 5 year warranty on our QUINT4 power supplies provided that they are protected by one of our Plugtrab type 3 surge arrestors.  

This warranty is still live and I thought it would be worth mentioning again with some additional information just in case anyone thought this was a gimmick with no technical substance.  

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The world is going electric

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Written by Karl Fazakerley, Product Manager- Device Connections

I want to start this blog by jogging back to my memories of around April/ May time when, due to the Covid 19 virus spread, we were all in a national lockdown.  I live in Blackpool and my region got hit hard with the virus.  But I am not here writing this to talk about the virus, but more so about the by-product of the situation I found myself in- did anyone notice how clean the air became? 

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WLAN- the retrofit revolution

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Written by Gareth Chamberlain, Product Manager- Cyber Security & Automation

Over the last year, other than staring at four walls of the home office, we have seen a lot of retrofit projects come to us to help to bring older technology up to date. Most common needs are to replace serial systems with an ethernet based topology. The most common product family that comes up in applications is the FL WLAN 2100 and the FL WLAN 5110 to create a wireless cable replacement of what was the serial communication.

The most common application is retrofitting communications to overhead cranes. These faithful work horses play such a crucial role in everyday production that there is no leeway for a critical piece of equipment to be down due to component failure. A lot of maintenance departments spend thousands on spares that are depleting at an alarming rate due to obsolescence or the OEM that commissioned the crane originally simply does not exist anymore.

Most companies who decide to retrofit an overhead crane have already decided to gradually replace serial systems to ethernet. With a commitment of either an ethernet card placed on the PLC rack or replacing the PLC all together to a more modern unit. Once this has been decided, a simple network topology is created for testing purposes with cable runs to the control panels of the overhead cranes.

The product of choice is based on certain criteria and the environment they are situated in. In most cases the WLAN 2100 is a perfect product for most WLAN needs, but sometimes there needs to be a more complex solution to achieve the expectations of the customer. Range plays a big role in what product to choose, also WLAN airspace. If there are 5-6 WLAN networks already in place, these can cause issues.  This is where Phoenix Contact can help in surveying and planning a WLAN network in an application.

For this application, I want to share with you what was a perfect example of a more complex WLAN setup and what can be possible.

A customer had a serial based overhead crane, but was now really struggling to source spares for the crane and needed a more off the shelf solution to keep his production efficient and downtime to a minimum. The range required was a hall of 100 meters long with 2 cranes on the same crane track.

Pointing a single directional WLAN unit down the hall was not possible since the first crane would be blocking radio transmissions to the second crane. We could not use antennas that would be placed on top of the cranes to avoid the blocking issues due to roof trusses having a small clearance between the truss and crane body.

The customer had already had ideas of 1 access point in the 50-meter mark in the middle so both cranes that can be connected via a client device on the crane connected to the access point with Omni antennas. In a perfect world this would work, but in practice the customer would soon experience problems. If the cranes were to be close together at either end of the crane rail there is a high possibility that there would be very low signal, or no signal, due to the two huge chunks of steel beams blocking the signal to the access point.

To solve this issue we had to create a network within a network. I know what you’re thinking: WLAN INCEPTION! Advising the customer of the problems that are likely to occur in the solution proposed to us of a central Access Point, we proposed two networks that are independent but would still work on the Layer 2 structure of the network. The first network would be comprised of 1 FL WLAN 5110 (1043193) with two directional antennas that would handle the more extreme distance the cranes could travel 80/90 metres. This access point would be then configured to connect to a single client on network 1, in this case a WLAN 2100 (2702535)

An ethernet cable would then be plugged into the client from network 1 and plugged into the access point of network 2- another WLAN 2100. This unit can be configured to be either a client or an access point.

A third FL WLAN 2100 in client mode would be installed on crane two. This would create the bridge between crane 1 and crane 2. Traffic can then be passed over the network from one network to the other.

The setup of the two networks come with conditions; the two networks need to be on different channels to avoid conflicting with each other. Another condition is to lock the client to the channel set on the access point, if a client goes below a certain threshold of signal it will start to roam for a better signal. If you tell the client to work only on the channel set this will avoid this issue. The last condition is that the two networks are separately named, while each AP can be contacted via layer 2 communication a congested 2.4ghz airspace might be restrictive in its application. This is where you would look at the frequency (5Ghz)

The application solution provided by Phoenix Contact created a stable and strong link on these two moving cranes eliminating the environmental challenges presented to us.

If you would like to talk to Phoenix Contact regarding any network and wireless projects, contact Gareth on 07946 757375 or email

Light and sound

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Written by Andy Maskell, Product Manager- Safety & Networks

Light and sound has been used for centuries as a means of communication. In amongst all of the complex state of the art automation, we still use light and sound to communicate the status of machines and production lines.

Automation efficiencies mean there are less people on the shop floor to attend individual machines, so when there is need for intervention a simple LED indicator or sounder can help keep things moving and reduce expensive production downtime.

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Maximum connectivity in minimum space

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Written by Gary Nelson, Senior Product Manager- Device Connections.

When creating DIN rail assemblies how do you ensure your connectivity needs are met without compromising valuable space in the cabinet?

The scenario is nothing new as no matter how well planned the layout of your cabinet is, the interconnection needs always take valuable space between the DIN rails. The reason is mainly due to the location of the connectors and the cable bend radii needed to prevent damage to the connection points. In traditional electronics enclosures the number of connection points is also limited unless the physical width or height of the housing is increased which then takes up even more valuable space on the DIN rail.

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Shrink sleeve marking and pizza…all from your smartphone?

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Written by Andy Neat, Product Manager- Marking & Identification and Industrial Cabinet Solutions

Morning everyone, welcome to another one of my Monday morning blogs!

First of all, I hope you are all safe and well as we find ourselves in national lockdown again. If nothing else, I have here something to take your mind off the pandemic for a few minutes as I’m going to talk to you about a product which you can download and play with, right now!

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The green light for Clixtrab surge protection

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Written by Mark Lloyd, Senior Product Manager- Power Supplies & Surge Protection

Safety-related systems, such as signalling systems found on our railway networks, require reliable lightning and surge protection. You could imagine the outcry if a lightning strike was to take out a trackside signalling system and stop trains in their tracks (no pun intended)!

Our new family, CLIXTRAB, is specifically designed for use in the kind of safety-related systems you find in the railway industry but is also suitable for many other industry sectors.

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