Joining the dots in the Industrial IoT

Modular connector provide flexibility in machine building and automation

Jonathan Newell travels to Hannover Messe to see how Harting is providing the connectivity to join the dots in connected industry.

This year’s Hannover Messe event was themed on Industry 4.0 and the technology driving the wave of transformation to digital manufacturing. The motto of the show for 2017 was “Integrated Industry – Creating Value” and industrial connectivity specialist, Harting, had a high profile presence at the event to demonstrate its role in the digital transformation of manufacturing and distribution.

At a presentation, the company’s CEO, Philip Harting told attendees how his Grandfather had taken the newly formed company to Hannover Messe exactly 70 years ago and that the company had continued to attend the show throughout the decades with its progressive technology that kept pace with the often ground breaking changes taking place in the industry.

2017 is no exception and Harting presented the products it believes adds to the value generated by the digital transformation of industry. “Integrated industry creates value and we want to show how our products are specifically able to contribute to this,” he said.

An internet of connected elements

Recognising the diversity of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) that forms the backbone of the Industry 4.0 concept, Harting has developed a range of connection technology that reflects that diversity.

It has achieved this by using a modular approach rather than a vast range of connectors with each being specific to one application. The modularity of the Han product family gives flexibility to network engineers, machine builders and technology suppliers in finding a suitable connection product that can be simply and quickly built up from modular building blocks.

The company has also created a range of products that suit tough industrial environments and provide the means of maintaining connectivity even in difficult or harsh environments.

It is also supplying the “tiny giant” range of miniaturised connection products that ideally suit the difficult requirements of connecting tiny sensors and similarly miniature endpoints onto the network.

Modular connectivity

Although the Han connector brand will be nothing new to automation specialists and machine builders, the latest generation of the range offers innovations suited to the proliferation of connected devices.

The new Han-Modular series enables designers to configure the connector in any way they wish so that each connector can be simply and quickly custom built. The connector frame is selected based on size depending on how many modules will be located in it and then each module can be slotted into the frame in whatever configuration is required.

Each individual standard size industrial connector housing module caters for different transmission media, such as data, signal, Power and even compressed air. This highly flexible connection method requiring little space and enables multiple functions to be performed by each connector, something which is an important requirement due to the increasingly modular nature of industrial production.

Part of this flexibility is achieved with the latest pneumatic module fitted with robust and durable metal contacts able to cope with 10,000 or more mating cycles. Each mating or disconnection cycle automatically pressurises or depressurises the system using internal valves and can operate at pressures as high as 10 bar.

Combined with fibre and copper connection possibilities in the Han-Modular product, it’s now possible to have optical, electrical and pneumatic systems using a single connector housing.

Docking ability

Regardless of whether the connector is handling signals, power or pneumatics, any Han-Modular can be used with the Han docking frame, itself an extension of the modular approach enabling any connector to be turned into a docking system that provides the ability for automatic coupling or blind mating.

Such docking capabilities are of particular use in switch cabinets or industrial automation modules where a rack drawer will automatically disengage the connector when opened and will automatically couple it again when closed.

The docking frame works without the need for any additional hinged frames, and connector modules can be fitted directly to it, saving time and cost. The frame has two long leading guide pins on the pin side, and these bring the two connector faces together. Located in a +/- 2 mm floating position, the socket face can be oriented to the ideal position. This allows for greater tolerances, ensuring a more secure connection.

Intelligent connectors

The Han-Modular ID connector has also been released with the ability to provide identification of key machine components or functional control elements for use in machinery predictive maintenance applications, for example. Communication can be performed using inexpensive bidirectional systems like the I2C bus, as well as standardised bus systems such as CAN Bus.

With Han Modular ID, the identification is is flexibly integrated into interfaces which comprehensively supply machines with power, data and signals.

By having an ID module with processing capability and memory within the connector, there are a range of possibilities for gaining insight and intelligence on machine usage, configuration and condition.

One example is the use of such connectors to determine which machine elements within a complex manufacturing facility are plugged and in use. Wi-Fi modules can also be built into the connector for data acquisition.

Another example is the use of ID connectors to verify condition to prevent invalid equipment configurations from being used. High speed machines which are synchronised using sensors and motion controllers can have their configuration “tested” against the parameters held in the connector which will only then transmit power if it is correctly configured, blocking start-up if any state exists other than the desired one.

Robust connectivity

With significantly higher connector mating cycles being required now than ever before in industrial environments, Harting has developed the PushPull V4 Industrial device for data, signal and power transmission.

For this connector, a new housing material has been used, which provides greater resistance to aggressive environments as well as a locking device that prevents unintentional unplugging. It is also fitted with a uniform cable clamp that uses just one seal, instead of the conventional three, whilst still offering the user the possibility to use increased cable diameters.

Joining the tiniest dots

At Hannover Mess, Harting introduced its latest “tiny giant” range, consisting of three miniaturised plug-in connectors for fast Ethernet and Industry 4.0 applications. The IX industrial, M8 D-coded and T1 Industrial connectors bring the Ethernet down to the smallest sensors, thus demonstrating the power of miniaturisation and allowing the tiniest of dots to be joined up in the Industrial IoT.

Dr Lutz Troeger explains how the Rinspeed Oasis concept car can be customised on the miniMICA platformCustom car configuration

Visionary concept car producer, Rinspeed, has been a user of the Harting MICA computing system for energy management and condition monitoring since last year when it was introduced into the company’s Etos model.

This year, Rinspeed once again chose Harting’s latest MiniMICA product to introduce a customisable element to its Oasis concept car. This pluggable module has been used to create a scalable and flexible architecture which allows computing components to be connected in various different ways.

This fits well with Rinspeed’s notion of individual mobility to suit specific customer requirements. To achieve this, the computer controlled elements themselves can be physically re-configured or the configuration can be changed within the miniMICA computer to create the custom end product.

Commenting on the Oasis at Hannover Messe, Harting’s Dr Lutz Troeger said, “Using miniMICA means that the Oasis fleet can be individualised with an efficient use of resources to suit the customer’s exact requirements”

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