Reliable Connectors for Industry 4.0

Most manufacturing and process environments are of course controlled and monitored by electronic systems. Interconnection components between pieces of equipment, being electro-mechanical, are potentially the weakest link in these systems. It’s therefore essential that industrial connectors can withstand the conditions they are exposed to.  Let’s take a look at some examples of modern rugged connectors in detail.

 

Industrial Power Connectors

A good example of a general-purpose industrial power connector might be the Metrimate series from TE Connectivity. This series includes true metric specification 5mm-pitch square grid PCB mount connectors with a higher pinout than the company’s Mate-N-Lok range: 4 to 36 pins. These connectors are suitable for panel mounting or free-hanging. Made from UL-rated 94V-0 thermoplastic, they offer density, durability and performance advantages over competing soft shell connectors.

Connectors in the Metrimate range come pre-loaded with copper alloy, plated tin or gold duplex pin contacts or phosphor bronze, plated tin or gold duplex socket contacts. They feature locking tabs and mounting ears for ease and security of mating.

They are rated up to 14A and 600V AC or DC. Operating temperature range is -55 to -130°C.

 

Heavy Duty Power Connectors

For more heavy-duty power applications, Harting makes the Han-Yellock system. The Yellock interface consists of a bulkhead mounted housing on the cabinet side, and a carrier hood with cover on the cable side. This system features a locking push-button which can be turned to lock the connector in place once mated. It is then protected up to IP67, as well as being shock and vibration proof. Connection and disconnection is safe, simple and quick.

Han-Yellock hoods and housings fit Han Modular series connectors in combination with an adapter frame, but the system can be used with a variety of inserts.

Hoods come in top-entry and side-entry formats.

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Hazardous Environment Connectors

In applications such as chemical refineries where the environment can be extremely aggressive, connectors that protect against explosion may be required. Applications are split into Zones. For example, Zone 1 and 2 locations (exposed to flammable liquid or gas in normal or abnormal conditions, respectively), and/or Zone 21 and 22 (exposed to an explosive atmosphere in the form of combustible dust, in normal or abnormal conditions, respectively).

The CEAG Crouse-Hinds GHG511 series of IEC 309 explosion protected 16-A power connectors meet requirements for Zone 1, 2, 21 and 22 environments. A unique key-coding method ensures equipment is not used in the wrong zone. Ordinary industrial apparatus cannot be powered in zones at risk from explosion, as the plugs don’t fit in Zone 1/21 or 2/22 sockets. Zone 2/22 plugs fit Zone 2 sockets or standard industrial sockets. Zone 1/21 plugs fit all three sockets.

A patented plug and turn mating technique ensures a secure connection, as well as sealing against water, dust and dirt. The connectors are IP66 rated whether mated or not, thanks to a bayonet ring and high-end gasket.

The pins are made from high-grade nickel plating, ensuring corrosion resistance, even in aggressive environments. The pins themselves have a multi-lamella bushing design to provide a reliable connection; there are multiple elastic copper beryllium contacts around the pins, instead of slotted nickel-plated bushings with spring steel. Other benefits of this design include uniform electrical contact and very low insertion force.

This durable series of connectors features a non-metallic corrosion-resistant enclosure. All screws in the enclosure of the wall-mount unit are stainless steel, ensuring easy maintenance, even after many years. The sockets can be mounted easily and quickly because the mounting plates have a snap-on feature for wall, trellis and pipe mounting. The socket sidewalls are lowered for easy access to the switch terminals, for easy and quick wiring.

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Data Connectors

Data connectors for harsh environments are exemplified by the popular Harwin Datamate series. Widely used in aerospace and military COTS applications, their high spec also makes them suitable for high-end industrial use. These 2-mm pitch data connectors are very durable, protected against shock and vibration, and withstand tough temperatures, operating between -55 and +125°C. They can be used in either wire-to-board or board-to-board applications, and shielded versions are available too.

 

Figure 1: The high reliability Datamate connector system is ideal for applications where safety is key

The Datamate range features Harwin’s high reliability 4-leaf beryllium-copper contacts with a four-finger clip to secure the connection, even under harsh conditions. Contact resistance is 20mΩ maximum, and the connectors are rated for 500 operations.