Effects of Industry 4.0 on connection technology
Cable and connection technology re-thought
In the course of Industry 4.0, the demands on cable and connection technology will also change. Data rates will climb with the consistent networking of company and business processes, a development that demands high-performance networks.
In future, network cables will no longer only be used to connect machinery and within control cabinets, they will also be laid directly to intelligent actuators or sensors in the field. The solution lies in system-specific field-compatible Ethernet cables and robust connectors.
Reliable networking of production across all levels is only possible with a comprehensive cabling and connection concept. Ethernet cables in a production environment must be substantially more robust than LAN cables in an office environment. They have to be oil resistant, must withstand high temperatures and must also function reliably and durably in the drag chain.
It is an enormous challenge to combine the requirements of flexibility, robustness and the highest data rates. In addition, it must also be possible to install network connectors in the field without special tools. Added to this are the growing demands in terms of the protection rating. Whilst an RJ45 data connector was sufficient up to now in the control cabinet, dirt and moisture-resistant connectors are becoming more and more important in the field.
In future, they will have a much more modular design so that the machinery and plants of tomorrow can be retrofitted in a more flexible manner. In the sense of 'plug & produce', in an ideal scenario the machine modules will manage with one single connector. We have already developed such a hybrid plug within the framework of the SmartFactoryKL joint project. It combines data, power supply and pneumatics in one connector and significantly reduces the retrofit times of a modular production plant. In general, the trend is towards smaller and smaller yet also more and more efficient connectors and cables.
Even today, connection solutions from LAPP can be used to realise complete end-to-end networks from office level to sensor/actuator level, and to make existing plants fit for Smart Factory. Communication, supply and sensor connections – from a single source.