IS & Ex

RFID bus modules for Ex areas

June 2022 IS & Ex

A highly automated, highly flexible and closely networked industrial production system requires efficient technologies to identify systems, tools, workpieces and products. It also requires smart data, without which the migration toward the digital transformation of production plants would not be possible.

Wireless-based RFID identification technology plays a major role here, in addition to sensors (ideally with IO-Link) and optical identification systems. RFID is a key technology for the smart factory and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) since it enables the unique and contactless identification and localisation of products, tool carriers or tools.

Robust block I/O modules as RFID interface

Implementing RFID in production processes is often a complicated and time-consuming business. Turck offers its customers support with its Ethernet RFID interfaces based on the TBEN-L, TBEN-LL, TBEN-S und TBEC-LL block I/O series. The multiprotocol devices enable HF or UHF read/write heads to be run simultaneously and bring data via Profinet, Ethernet/IP or Modbus TCP to the controller. The modules thus simplify applications with different requirements and reduce the range of inventory needed. Another RFID interface for EtherCAT (TBEC) was added to the range in 2021.

All RFID I/O modules come in a fully encapsulated plastic housing with protection to IP67/IP69K, and can be used across an extended temperature range from -40°C to +70°C. The robust modules can therefore be used directly at the machine without the need for a control cabinet or switch box.

The highly compact TBEN-S RFID module – like the standard TBEN-L module – enables simple implementation without any special programming or function blocks required. The UID or the memory areas of the tags can, for example, be read and transferred when triggered by the read/write device, even without sending a command to the controller. The integrated web server allows functional testing and commissioning without using a controller.

The Codesys-programmable TBEN-L variant provides controller functions and can thus filter and pre-process RFID data directly in the field, and even link it directly to control operations if required. Turck also offers the TBEN-L RFID interface in a Linux version for system integrators. Another variant features an integrated OPC UA server which complies with the AutoID companion specification.

Besides four RFID ports, the TBEN-L modules also come with eight universal DXP I/O channels, allowing the connection of sensors, signal lights or other actuators. All terminals are implemented as M12 male connectors, and the power supply of the L-coded versions is implemented with 7/8-inch M12 connectors. With the LL variants this is implemented with L-coded M12 male connectors for the future-proof M12 Power technology.

Bus mode allows 128 read/write heads per interface

Particularly in applications where several HF read/write heads are used in a restricted space, Turck’s TBEN interfaces, as well as the TBEC EtherCAT interface, come with the special HF bus mode feature. As this function does not require any point-to-point connection (unlike IO-Link, for example), it enables the user to connect up to 32 suitable HF read/write heads in series to each of the four RFID ports. This reduces the wiring effort and costs required in applications involving a large number of read and/or write positions.

The cabling is implemented very simply in a line topology. The read/write heads can be branched from the main line via 2-metre stub lines, meaning the system can be installed and extended easily. Each of the 32 read/write heads can be addressed individually in bus mode to perform a wide range of commands such as read, write or inventory.

The read/write heads can be addressed both manually and automatically. In an exchange between individual read/write heads, addressing is carried out automatically in ascending order according to the order of connection. Thanks to the minimal use of modules and cables, the user not only benefits from cost savings but also from shorter mounting and commissioning times.

Maximum performance in continuous mode with Track & Trace

Continuous HF bus mode is similar to HF bus mode in its structure and cost benefits, but enables all read/write heads to be activated at the same time. Thanks to its higher performance, continuous mode is therefore suitable for static as well as slow-moving applications in which, for example, tags can be read or written simultaneously. The individual read/write heads in this case store the read data in a buffer until the RFID interface queries it cyclically in sequence. The data is stored in the FIFO memory of the interface and can be fetched by the controller via the ‘Get data from buffer’ command.

The ‘Track & Trace’ function of continuous HF bus mode opens up new application fields, such as in logistics or materials handling. This includes parallel detection in multi-track transfer/conveying systems, for products with different tag position heights in a line and applications with synchronised production machines.

Several predefined commands and operating modes for the most common application scenarios also reduce the programming required in the PLC. The grouping of data and different data export options also makes any middleware unnecessary in many cases. The mixed operation of HF and UHF read/write heads is still possible even when using HF bus mode on the other RFID channels.

Fully encapsulated for ATEX Zone 1/21

Turck’s TN-R42/TC-Ex is the world’s only HF RFID read/write head available that is certified for direct use in ATEX Zone 1/21. Unlike the well-established flameproof solutions for identification in Zone 1/21, the very compact design of the encapsulated reader means that it can also be installed in restricted spaces. The slim-line TN-R42/TC-Ex is therefore ideal for the contactless identification of correct hose and flange connections in coupling stations. HF RFID tags with a password function are also available for applications with demanding requirements with regard to data security and access protection.

With the approval of bus mode for use in Zone 1/21, Turck can now offer a complete portfolio for non-Ex and Ex devices in bus mode. The interface of the TN-R42/TC-Ex behaves like a standard read/write head, so the user can enjoy the same look and feel on the devices when connecting and configuring the entire system, regardless of whether it is intended for Ex or non-Ex operation.

In Ex operation it is only necessary to remember that the last station in the bus line requires a bus-terminating resistor. The number of connectable read/write heads in bus mode is also restricted in Ex operation: five readers per channel for the compact TBEN-S interface and ten readers per channel for the TBEN-L interface.

Protective housing enables use in ATEX Zone 2

To be able to operate reliably in hazardous areas, Turck developed a protective housing made of stainless steel for the IP67 RFID interfaces and I/O modules of the TBEN-L, TBEN-S and TBEC product families, as well as the IMC isolating switching amplifier. The protective housing encloses the module approved for this application as well as its connections, and thus protects against mechanical damage or unintentional disconnection. In this way, all specifications for the use of the devices in ATEX Zone 2 are fulfilled.

Reduced commissioning effort

Thanks to the integrated Turck RFID data interface with cyclical process data transmission, the user benefits from quick and easy access to HF and UHF functions such as idle mode. The bus-capable HF-RFID read/write heads can also be addressed automatically by simply activating the read/write head addresses in the parameters of the data interface.

Compared to the conventional method, this saves users considerable time since they can connect the read/write heads in succession and address them automatically. Bus addresses for bus-capable HF read/write heads can also be set and queried by the web server/PACTware via the TBEN-S-RFID. In this way, users can check the correct startup of bus mode without having to use an interface converter.

Hose stations, paint cartridges, format or tool changes

HF bus mode is already being used successfully in real applications, such as with coupling and hose stations in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Incorrectly connected or leaking media may have serious consequences for plant safety, product quality or the health of co-workers and customers. The entry of acid in the wrong tank can result in a serious potential hazard.

In order to ensure correct connection between a hose and the corresponding connection point, Turck therefore offers a complete HF RFID solution in which HF bus mode plays a key part in ensuring efficient operation. Only when the read/write heads have detected the correct hose connection is the opening signal output to the valve and pump. Thanks to RFID, it is also possible to transfer information like the date or time of the last hose cleaning.

Turck’s TNR42/TC-Ex HF-RFID reader also enables use in hazardous areas (Zone 1/21). The solution package is rounded off by a range of different tag types adapted to specific application requirements, including a glass variant for aggressive media. RFID tags can also be embedded directly in a metal cap or attached with a clip.

Another application field is the identification of printer cartridges. In this application, the tanks are identified automatically by the read/write head in order to reliably prevent faulty print results and production downtimes. The system can also remind operators to change ink timeously. The system determines the timing of the message according to the time when the ink cartridge was fitted, and its expiry date. The current ink consumption is used to approximate the level of each individual tank.

In many other applications, users benefit from HF bus mode and the possibility to connect many HF read devices quickly and affordably. This includes machines with several format and tool changes, which can thus detect and document the correct tool for a particular operating step.

Another aspect of this solution is brand protection. Both machine builders and users benefit from the safety and increased service life resulting from the use of original tools and original consumables such as oil or air filters. However, new and innovative business models are also conceivable if the machine is not sold but the use of the machine is monetised based on the calculation of the tools or format parts and consumables used.

The machine builder can also set up an automatic consignment warehouse for the user. As soon as a component is inserted in the machine, a message is sent to initiate the replenishment of the item concerned. However, this concept only works if the use of exclusively original parts is ensured.

For more information contact Turck Banner, +27 11 453 2468,,


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