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Last month, I was lucky enough to be able to talk to Jeff Barnes from Molex on the subject of industrial connectivity. The emergence of the smart factory, Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has seen the machines within the factory become far more connected than ever before.
One of the most important features of the smart factory will be the amount of data that is collected. This data will be used for a variety of purposes, from making decisions for preventative maintenance to scheduling the delivery of raw materials. The integration of this data from the operational technology (OT) on the factory floor with traditional information technology (IT) is what will control this new factory structure.
This data will be collected by sensors. As a result, and in contrast with the traditional factory, the number of sensors that will be installed into machines will grow enormously. With this increase in the number of sensors, engineers and machine builders are looking for a new way of providing connectivity.
Instead of the conventional hard-wired approach, with long runs of wires being channelled back to the control cabinet, the new structure will see intelligence deployed much closer to the factory floor. Molex is providing much of the equipment that will provide this connectivity and will form the nervous system of the smart factory.
Key to the implementation of the smart factory is modularity. Using IO blocks that connect machines with the computer network in a compact and efficient way, the need for long and complex cabling can be replaced by just a few RJ45 connectors. By integrating intelligence into this nervous system, Molex is providing even more functionality to the user by allowing the condition and operation of the machines to be monitored remotely.
However, the factory environment is tough on connectors, with even “clean” industries such as food and pharmaceuticals creating demanding conditions for electronic devices. For these harsh environments, Molex provides a range of solutions that are sealed to IP67 to provide protection against water and other contaminants that can be found on the factory floor. The new Ultra-Lok series of M12 connectors are even protected to IP69K, allowing the use of high-pressure cleaning equipment.
This also brings an added advantage. This new generation of intelligent IO enables machine builders to adopt a modular approach. Using plug-and-play technology, users and installers can add or modify their factories easily with a minimum of downtime.
The Brad brand is part of the Molex product range. Brad is a name that has a long and distinguished track record in the world of factory automation. RS Components has increased the number of Brad products available considerably.
Alongside the familiar range of M8, M12 and other industrial connectors, RS has introduced the latest Ultra-Lock products. Ultra-Lock takes the traditional M12 design and employs an innovative push-fit locking system that saves installers time whilst providing a highly reliable, IP69K connection. Available as cordsets, receptacles and passive distribution boxes , Ultra-Lock brings the M12 connector up to date. Here is a video of the Ultra-Lock in action.
The Brad range also includes a wide selection of I/O moduleswhich form a crucial part of the connectivity in the factory of the future.
You can rewatch my video with Jeff here, and learn more about how Molex is connecting the smart factory.