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Moeller sheds high-tech lines to focus on communicating controlgear

15 January, 2007

Moeller Electric has announced plans to transfer its high-end automation portfolio - such as HMI-PLCs, PC-based PLCs, large touch panels and its XION remote I/O system - to the Swiss company, Micro Innovations, in which it has a 50% stake. This will allow it to focus on power control products and on basic automation components, such as drives, motor starters, switchgear, small PLCs and HMIs, and relay replacement controllers.

Revealing the plans at the recent SPS/IPC/Drives show in Germany, Moeller`s chief executive Dr Martin Schefter, said that the changes will allow Moeller to concentrate on the component market "in the lower and medium performance level - the solutions business will not be part of our sales concept".

Schefter also unveiled the first phase in a strategy that will allow its core power products - such as starters, drives and circuit-breakers - to communicate directly with PLCs, without needing communications modules, gateways, or control circuit wiring. The technology, called Darwin, is based on a custom chip which will be added to each product to provide the communications using a simple, single-cable connection.

The technology is designed to work both with new and existing products. For example, the Darwin modules will simply replace the contact element on items such as Moeller`s RMQ-Titan pushbuttons. Similarly, the modules will snap onto motor starters and other products.

The Darwin technology is being introduced in two phases. In the first phase, which kicked off at the SPS/IPC/Drives show and is due to be completed by the end of this year, Moeller will provide the basic communications links. In the second phase, starting in 2008, it will add intelligence to the system.

"Step by step, we are making our core components communications-enabled," says Schefter.

At the SPS/IPC/Drives show, Moeller was showing some of Darwin`s first elements - including motor starter modules that can be connected to each other using a system called easyConnect SmartWire (shown below). The serial easyConnect bus is designed to replace the parallel bus of a PLC backplane and to provide a connection range of up to 10m.

Moeller SmartWire

In the case of a starter, the contactor and circuit-breaker are fitted with SmartWire modules which provide two six-pole plug-in connections into which prefabricated connection cables are inserted. The second connection can be used to loop to the next starter. Up to 16 SmartWire-enabled starters up to 7.5kW can be linked in this way.

The SmartWire connector provides the power supply for the contactor control as well as signalling the contactor and breaker positions to the PLC. The system also supports safety connections to Category 3 of EN 954-1.

According to Moeller, the Darwin system will deliver substantial savings through a combination of eliminating the need for PLC I/O, avoiding the need for control circuit wiring, and cutting commissioning costs. No specialist bus knowledge will be needed.

Moeller says that the complete Darwin system will be able to exchange data between devices and a PLC in a matter of milliseconds.

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