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12 Nov 2019, 10:59

TE Connectivity and the Smart Factory Connection

Harsh factory environments can play havoc with sensitive equipment and connectors are no exception. TE Connectivity has developed products to deliver data, power and signal whilst operating effectively under these constraints.

The power that connected devices can bring to the industrial world has created a huge change for manufacturers. Its impact has been compared to the first industrial revolution and has been greeted with a new name – Industry 4.0.

The steam and iron of the first industrial revolution gave way to mass-production techniques in the second. The third industrial revolution saw the explosion of electronics and the rise of computers. The key driver of the fourth revolution – Industry 4.0 – is the internet, offering high-speed communications and harnessing the power of data. The natural result of Industry 4.0 is the Smart Factory.

Factories of the past would contain lots of machines, all performing different tasks in isolation. The Smart Factory brings these machines together into a multi-layer network that shares data. The lowest layers control the function of the individual machines, the middle layers connect the machines on the factory floor together. The highest layer, known as the enterprise level, takes control of the whole factory. This top layer brings together not just production but also controls the supply chain, maintenance and logistic demands of the entire facility. It's TE Connectivity's understanding of the total environment that enables them to provide customers with connectivity solutions that perform flawlessly in these demanding industrial applications.

The Smart Factory is able to share information up and down the organisation. Machines can collect data on how they are functioning, to monitor energy use and help predict maintenance requirements. The use of raw materials can be monitored in real-time, allowing the system to prevent shortages and line-stops. The flow of data also enables the manufacturer to implement changes rapidly, allowing them to respond quickly to customer demands.

This new technology will revolutionise the manufacturing environment, but the components needed to implement it will need to evolve accordingly. Feedback is one of the biggest factors of the Smart Factory – connected devices need to communicate how they are performing, and in order to do this, they will require sensors. These sensors will need to be robust enough to work in the demanding environment of the factory floor, but also be simple to install and maintain. The connectivity requirements of the Smart Factory will grow too. With the additional sensors and data links that these smart devices will demand, it is important to understand that interconnection systems will need to adapt. In some cases, this will create the need for alternative connectivity solutions that might include wave-guided data transfer and wireless solutions.

Finally, the connectivity solution must provide a safe and reliable method to share data with the enterprise level, taking into consideration both cyber and physical security.

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12 Nov 2019, 10:59