5 Connector Considerations for the Industrial EnvironmentFollow article
Consider an industrial environment, conveyor lines, actuators, sensors, switches and cameras, all part and parcel of the process utilised to ensure a process runs safely and smoothly. With the advent of the smart factory, all of those devices mentioned, and far more besides, are rapidly increasing in number and applications. Thus, from a design, commissioning, use and servicing basis, ensuring those signals and their respective connectors are reliable and secure is paramount.
There are many factors to take into account, obviously, there is the cost, the environment where the connectors will be used, will there be moisture, vibration, do the connectors need to be a certain size, what about safety aspects? Often, those involved with the design will be chasing the cheaper option without consideration of the costs that could quickly accrue in the future. Things such as machine downtime, lengthy installation and troubleshooting should an issue arise.
Size indeed does matter, and in many applications connections need to be made within very restricted spaces. It comes as no surprise that the manufacturers of connection tech are constantly trying to reduce the size of their connectors whilst combining power, signal and data lines in the shape of hybrid connectors while increasing the pin count as well. It often makes brilliant long-term sense, and consequently a cash saving in the long run, if the optimal connection tech is chosen above the cheapest alternative. Buy it cheap, buy it twice as the saying goes, which many of us will have experienced as being true.
Wherever a connector is situated the signal connections within will be affected by the surrounding environment. This could be anything from temperature variations, exposure to chemicals, water and oil, UV radiation, ozone and EMI from nearby devices. You also have to consider your connectors exposure to mechanical shock and vibration, all of these external forces can erode effective signal communication. It pays dividends to ensure your connector choice is properly shielded against any potential threats to signal loss, be that an EMI threat or mechanical one and whether that’s an immediate or potential threat, it pays to plan ahead.
Quick, Quality Connections
Apart from the termination point between the wire and the contact, the quality of your contact material is high up there on the reasons for signal failure. Low-quality contacts are liable to rapid fretting, corrosion and oxidisation, choosing gold plated contacts with a decent thickness of plating, is a good plan, again, don’t always buy the cheapest.
If you are installing a device that requires multiple connections, using screwdrivers and fingers to assemble a connector can prove to be very time consuming and tiring. Working in a cramped space with low light levels only serves to make it even more difficult. It’s in situations like these where fast-connection-technology would prove to be a boon, push-in contacts, spring contact terminals and IDC termination types are ideal.
Key and Code
Another common error is placing the wrong wire in the wrong termination point, bringing a halt to commissioning and dragging you back to check for errors. Using a coding methodology, such as colour coding is a simple but highly effective tool to incorporate into your design and build processes to help prevent incorrect wiring issues, essentially ensuring a right-first-time approach.
On the back of ensuring that you make sure your termination process is as reliable and simple as possible, a connector designed to prevent you installing it incorrectly is just as vital. Many circular connectors are keyed to prevent incorrect installation, as are automotive connectors and industrial connectors that contain multiple keyed male and female sockets and plugs within.
It’s apparent that choosing the correct connector solution depends upon a host of factors, from environmental considerations, such as EMI and moisture, to the quality of connector contact and the ease of how those connections are made. Component cost is, of course, an important aspect in many design solutions, just try and ensure that the choices you make in the very beginning are cost-effective from conception to installation and beyond.