The steady advance of digitalization in the process industry means that plant operators increasingly require the use of a standard wireless local area network (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz in the ISM band) as an additional wireless communication channel alongside WirelessHART—because the use of mobile end devices has serious potential in inspection, servicing, and inventory tasks in process plants. However, the initial challenge lies in integrating conventional industrial Wi-Fi® access points without Ex approvals in ubiquitous hazardous areas, in a manner that is both safe and cost-effective. With this purpose in mind, Pepperl+Fuchs now offers a wireless access point solution that is fully certified in accordance with ATEX/IECEx standards and forms the basis for end-to-end Wi-Fi communication in hazardous areas.


Ex nR Protected Wireless Access Point Solution for Zone 2 Applications

A combination of lightweight and flexible yet equally rugged GRP enclosures from Pepperl+Fuchs' GR series builds the basis for the Zone 2 solution
A combination of lightweight and flexible yet equally rugged GRP enclosures from Pepperl+Fuchs' GR series builds the basis for the Zone 2 solution

A combination of lightweight and flexible yet equally rugged GRP enclosures from the Pepperl+Fuchs GR series is used for this reason: while the tightly sealed main enclosure, which is designed with restricted breathing type of protection (Ex nR in accordance with IEC 60079-15), contains the actual Wi-Fi access point (Cisco MR 46 or Aruba AP-535 as standard), the Ex ec enclosure underneath accommodates the cabling and an Ex e certified patch panel, which is required for the Ethernet connection. This separates the Zone 2 wireless access point solution pragmatically into two functional units, minimizing the maintenance efforts required: The Ex nR ignition protection of the access point main enclosure remains unaffected from cabling work in the lower enclosure and does not need to be retested every time. Depending on requirements, customer-specific configurations with other industrial Wi-Fi access points can also be implemented as an alternative to standard solutions with Cisco MR 46 or ARUBA AP-535 that are available at short notice.


Safe in Zone 1/21 Due to Wireless Access Point Solution with Type of Protection Ex d

If the Wi-Fi network is also to be installed in hazardous areas designated ATEX/IECEx Zone 1/21, Pepperl+Fuchs also produces customer-specific access point solutions with flameproof enclosure type of protection (Ex d in accordance with IEC 60079-1). Depending on the specification, the rugged cast aluminum enclosure can be equipped with various numbers of Ex-certified Wi-Fi antennas to achieve optimal network coverage and detection range within the process plant. In addition to Wi-Fi access points, other radio frequency equipment such as RFID read/write devices, UWB receivers, and LoRaWAN gateways, can also be installed in these enclosure solutions for Zone 1/21.


End-to-End Solution up to the Intrinsically Safe Wi-Fi End Device

As soon as the network has been established in the process plant using the explosion-protected Wi-Fi access points, mobile workers can use the intrinsically safe mobile end devices (Ex i in accordance with IEC 60079-11) from the Pepperl+Fuchs brand ecom throughout the hazardous areas. These include the rugged industrial tablet thin client with Pepperl+Fuchs RM Shell firmware for access to process data regardless of location and the industrial Android® Smart-Ex® smartphone, which allows service technicians to stay in touch with the control room conveniently via Voice over IP. With this combination of Wi-Fi access points and intrinsically safe mobile end devices, Pepperl+Fuchs now covers all Wi-Fi communication applications in large process plants with hazardous areas.

Highlights of the Explosion-Protected Wireless Access Point Solutions

  • Use of common industrial Wi-Fi access points in hazardous areas
  • Separate connection enclosure for Zone 2 solution allows easy installation and maintenance
  • Standardized and customized solutions for Zone 2 and Zone 1/21 available
  • Ex nR type of protection