Author: Brett Dolbeer | Automation Product Specialist | Dayton, OH
A common struggle facing industrial users is getting a new production line connected to the plant network. Plant network switches are often hundreds of feet away from the equipment. Many users bring in outside electrical contractors to run the CAT5/CAT6 (or even fiber optic) cabling. One alternative to running cable all over the plant is to connect the equipment to the plant’s existing WiFi network.
Phoenix Contact now offers an easy-to-install compact wireless antenna, the FL WLAN 1101. This industrial WiFi device mounts through an electrical panel through a simple 40 mm knockout. Then, inside the panel, a simple RJ45 jack is available for the patch cable connection, along with a set of terminals to connect 24 VDC electrical power. Inside the housing is a powerful 802.11a/b/g/n compatible radio, supporting 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, along with two MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antennas. The FL WLAN 1101 can function as a wireless client (turning any wired Ethernet connection into a wireless connection), an Access Point (with DHCP server capability to support multiple wireless client devices), or as a Repeater (extending the range of an existing WiFi network).
Some customers have opted to use the FL WLAN 1101 simply to make an existing machine network support wireless devices. Many PLC’s, HMI’s, VFD’s feature web servers that display important information about the equipment. With wireless access to these devices, a user’s smartphone, tablet, or PC can easily connect to this information. Another benefit of a wireless machine network is that the controls engineer or maintenance technician is no longer confined to the machine’s main electrical panel to get online with the control equipment. The wireless connection allows the programmer to be anywhere around the perimeter of the machine and still be online with the control devices.
The FL WLAN 1101 is easily configured using its built-in web page interface. It supports DHCP, BOOTP, and Static IP configurations. If used to connect to an existing plant’s wireless network, the FL WLAN 1101 also supports roaming, allowing it to connect to any access point in the plant using the same SSID and encryption key configuration (i.e., regardless of what channel number the access point is using).
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