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EtherCAT is a popular, real-time Ethernet network that features very high communication efficiency. However, because of the ring topology it relies on, cycle times increase when the network size grows larger (considering both the amount of process data and the network extension). In this paper a solution based on commonly available off-the-shelf switches is presented and analyzed that can improve performance for large automation systems. Such an approach (almost) does not require new custom h/w to be purposely developed.