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Continuous communications in the hazardous area

10 August 2010

Explosion protected connectors that enable continuous, uninterrupted Ethernet and USB-based communications in hazardous environments are now available in the UK. Two ranges of eXLink Ethernet and eXLink USB connectors, from Cooper Crouse-Hinds, offer the safety of an innovative, explosion-protected connector system.

eXLink Ethernet and eXLink USB connectors
eXLink Ethernet and eXLink USB connectors

The technology has the advantage of having a continuous communications infrastructure between the main, control and process levels of production plants so that Ethernet-based communication systems can now be used in hazardous areas. Engineers can now install and use the latest IT and communications infrastructures while still fulfilling all the necessary explosion protection regulations and standards.

Conventional fieldbus systems are designed exclusively for data communication in process and manufacturing controls. The Ethernet communications protocol enables a continuous infrastructure between the main, control level and the process level. In hazardous industrial environments, eXLink connector systems can now replace conventional connectors found in the IT office environment. Therefore, in addition to high safety standards, this system also allows the real-time performance of Ethernet networks in hazardous areas. Controls can be adapted to suit changing production processes by allowing ‘hot swapping’. Installing eXLink connectors is very straightforward, since Ethernet and explosion-protected components are both modular in their design.

Plant information can be updated without having to change explosion-protected equipment, simply by replacing the components in the flameproof enclosures. Commercially available industrial components can be used here, as the explosion-protected connection to the network is undertaken by using the eXLink connector built into the enclosure, which also allows the hot swapping of devices without the user having to isolate them from the mains and without obtaining a hot work permit.

The plug connectors will be used to connect and disconnect electrical equipment in hazardous environments including actuators, motors, submerged pumps, liquid level sensors, floating switches, without compromising the safety or integrity of the electrical installation. The connectors allow users to maintain apparatus on a proactive or predictive basis, without using special tools and without having to isolate the apparatus from the mains or disconnect the terminals.

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