A Closer Look: Ex-M NSM5 Point-to-Point Wi-Fi System

Ex-Machinery converts standard equipment to be ATEX compliant. Our standard product range consists of a wide variety of air conditioner systems, Wi-Fi Systems & Alarm Beacons.

Of course, some projects call for bespoke solutions to ensure explosion safety. We take pride in engineering and manufacturing or converting bespoke equipment and machinery for our clients.

Thus, we have decided to launch a blog series; A Closer Look, in which we review some of the bespoke solutions we have made for our clients.

Our Client

In the beginning of April 2020, a multinational company reached out to us, from their office based in Switzerland. They specialize in automated operations and employ over six hundred professionals, worldwide.

They were looking for a solution to connect two separate wireless networks. One of the networks was located in an ATEX zone 2 area. The other networks was located in a non-hazardous office, used to monitor the equipment in the ATEX zone. In between the two areas, there was a distance of approximately 700 meters.

Our client informed us that they had been using a point-to-point Wi-Fi system in the past, the Ubiquiti Nanostation M, to connect wireless networks in non-hazardous areas. We agreed on converting that specific system to be ATEX compliant. In this fashion, they were able to keep working with their already well-known system.

The Original Product

The Ubiquiti Nanostation M is an outdoor access point, which may be used in a point to point Wi-Fi setup. The Nanostation M can reach connection speeds of up to 150 Mb/s. The unit has special mounts, allowing the unit to be mounted to a pole. The specific model we used, is called the NSM5.

Original product

The Nanostation M has a maximal power of 27 dBm, which is a lot higher than the average outdoor Wi-Fi access point. This makes that the access point can bridge greater distances. One access point can reach distances of up to 500 meters, when obstacles are not present.

The access point makes use of PoE, Power over Ethernet. This means that the cable that transfers the data, also provides the power to the access point. This is a great advantage, because there does not have to be a power supply near the access point. A network cable of up to 30 meters long may be used to supply the unit with power. This is an essential feature, because our client’s power supply is located 8 meters away.

We decided to use two access points for our client’s project, so we could cover a distance of up to a thousand meters. This suffices well, since we only had 700 meters to cover.

As one of the access points was in the ATEX zone, and the other was not, only one of the units had to be converted to ATEX zone 2. The second unit was able to remain standard, saving our client money on his project.

ATEX Conversion

In order to convert the access point to be ATEX compliant, work had to be done on the access point’s PCB, other internals and casing.

We decided to use a lightweight, fiberglass casing instead of the old plastic casing. Fiberglass is easy to work on, sturdy, and does not corrode, resulting in an impact proof casing. The use of this casing also changed the product’s International Protection Rating from IP55 to IP66, making it dust tight and protected against powerfully jetting water.

We then proceeded to manufacture brackets on the new casing, so the unit could again be mounted to a pole.

Following that, we integrated a 30 meters long PoE cable within the casing, allowing our client to reach the power supply. The cable cannot be disconnected, as that would be in opposition to ATEX regulations.

In the meantime, our engineer decided on using the Ex-ec protection method for modifying the PCB. Our engineer documented the protection method in the ATEX certificate.

Finally, our specialized workers modified the internals of the access point to be in compliance with ATEX regulations.

Now that the casing, PCB and other internals were ATEX compliant, our specialist assembled them. This proudly left us with the finalized product: an ATEX zone 2 certified, point-to-point access point. Capable of transmitting data over 1000 meters, our product is an absolute milestone for Wi-FI systems in hazardous areas.