Easy connections to sensors, field devices, and other automation solutions are becoming the norm in motion control — that’s according to Brian O’Connor, director of product and market development at Aerotech. In fact, increasing affordability of electronics (and subsequent rise of IIoT) have spurred all branches of industrial automation to more networking. But even basic machine designs have benefitted from new cable and connector options that impart simplicity.
Our recent survey of connectivity experts yielded details on these and other cable and connector designs for power and networking components. This cable panel included Rich Buchicchio and Howard Lind of Cicoil Corp. and Eric Rice of Applied Motion Products; and Horst Messerer, data, network, and bus technology sales manager at HELUKABEL; and Mark Kojak, V.P. of product management and business development in the Americas at Harting Inc.
Read on for what they had to say — and be sure to visit motioncontroltips.com/category/networking-iot as well as wireandcabletips.com for additional insight from other sources on IIoT trends and where Ethernet-based networking protocols are overtaking traditional fieldbuses.
Buchicchio • Cicoil: Components with electronic functionality are clearly gathering and using more data than ever. We support this market segment with lightweight designs that exhibit reliability without signal degradation. More specifically, we’ve seen significant demand for data cable — including twisted shielded-pair data cables; Cat 5e, Cat 6A, and 50 & 75 W Coax cable; and HDMI, FireWire, Camera Link, and IDC ribbon cable.
Messerer • HELUKABEL: We’re seeing a trend towards more use hybrid cables (those that combine power with control and data) for one-cable setups. More design engineers than ever are requesting these cables for use in drag-chain and torsion applications.
Related from sister site wireandcabletips.com: Single-cable solutions simplify servomotor design
Buchicchio • Cicoil: We stock and sell a wide variety of standard flat cable for motion control, data and video, and power-plus-signal applications … But engineering custom cable and assemblies is at the heart of our company. We manufacture sophisticated assemblies and cable harnesses for demanding applications — including those for military and aerospace, medical devices and diagnostics, and semiconductor-equipment manufacturers. We also offer value-added overmolding, box builds, plug-and-play designs, and other engineering design services … and custom assemblies are fully tested before delivery.
But others are taking a different tack to separate connections on relatively small motion components — to let engineers choose proprietary connectors only if they work for the application at hand.
Rice • Applied Motion Products: We now offer a daisy-chain board connector for NEMA-11-frame StepSERVO Integrated Motors that separates communication terminals into two standalone power and I/O connectors — making it easier to establish daisy-chain connections on RS-485 and Modbus RTU networks.
In contrast, standard configurations of Applied Motion’s TSM11 (NEMA-11-frame) motors incorporate a single 12-pin header that provides a power supply, input, output, and RS-485 communication terminals in a small integrated space … without sacrificing input and output connectivity to other devices, controllers, or HMIs on the machine.
Of course, the materials from which cable and connectors are made continue to have significant impact on overall design.
Buchicchio • Cicoil: Our products are suited to an array of emerging applications. All of our flat cables feature flexibility and durability; the rugged outer jackets withstand environments that are hot, cold, indoors, outdoors, on land or sea or in the air … or even space. Our cable is also compatible with sensitive environments (that are cleanroom rated) and where designs require kink-free cable.
Related from sister site wireandcabletips.com: What are flat cables?
Messerer • HELUKABEL: We sell molded M12 connectors in D and X-coded versions (male and female) for use with Category 5 and 6A cables (which cover higher data transmission rates to 10 GBit/sec). But materials are important here; the metal casing of both the connector and socket makes the assembly robust and resistant to dirt and moisture — even to IP67.
Lind • Cicoil: Thinner-jacketed (more flexible) versions of our data cables maintain EMI/RFI protection … and we’ve recently developed round Cat5e cable, HDMI cable, and Micro IDC cable with a 0.25-in. pitch. These feature ultra-fine wire stranding and Flexx-Sil jacketing for unsurpassed flexibility, durability, and usability in extremely harsh environments.
Related from sister site wireandcabletips.com: Cat5e shielded industrial Ethernet patch cords
Messerer • HELUKABEL: PVC insulation in standard and hybrid cables is being reduced and replaced with PE or PP-based compounds. The latter compounds make cables low smoke and halogen-free (LSZH) … plus necessitate a smaller cable diameter (and lighter weight) because of reduced wall thickness. This in turn is due to the fact that PE and PP have higher insulation resistance than PVC compounds.
PVC is cheaper, but isn’t low smoke or halogen-free … and has limited insulation resistance (which is why cables with PVC jackets necessitate thicker walls to get adequate voltage-resistance levels).
Buchicchio • Cicoil: We’ve formulated a silicone rubber polymer called Flexx-Sil that works as a flat-cable outer jacketing … Plus we use ultra-fine wire stranding in conductors. The combination of this conductor wire and supple Flexx-Sil jacketing (made with our extrusion process) produces a cable unsurpassed in flexibility — one that weighs less and consumes less physical space than conventional round cable with comparable electrical and signal performance.
In addition, Flexx-Sil cable jacketing is translucent and waterproof; UV and chemical resistant; and can withstand temperature extremes (operating from -65° to +260° C and remaining flexible even at -100° C); has the natural flexibility of silicone rubber (which is more than twice as flexible as PVC and PTFE insulation); and exhibits high material stability and low outgassing (with zero halogen). The cable jacketing is also durable with a durometer rating of 65 (Shore A) or a durometer rating of 85 (Shore A) in a SuperTuff version.
When asked about cable and connector options to impart simplicity or turnkey operation, our sources cited modular and universal systems.
Messerer • HELUKABEL: Our UL/CSA-approved pre-assembled data cables for Industrial Ethernet systems can include molded M12 and RJ45 industrial connectors, so engineers can modularly assemble any possible combination of cables and connectors to design product built exactly for their needs. Plus with high-speed data cables (with transmission rates to 10 GBit/sec) the molded M12 and RJ45 connectors guarantee a faster and more reliable connection within control cabinets, machinery and in-the-field operations.
Kojak • HARTING: Connectivity components must be compact, so we’ve expanded the Han-Modular product line with Smart Han modules that allow connection of active components. Using the same footprint as other Han-Modular modules, these let engineers create custom connectors using off-the-shelf modules that join in any combination to integrate power, control signals, and data into a single connection. This connector series revolutionized the industry when released in 1994 and remains our fastest-growing product line.
Messerer • HELUKABEL: We offer one RJ45 connector that has bandwidth to 500 MHz and supports data rates up to 10 GBit/sec … so it’s suitable for demanding industrial applications. The connector comes in a linear or angled version so works in industrial areas with limited space.
Lind • Cicoil: EZ-Flexx Flat Cable features a new external profile and inner jacket that makes it just as easy to strip and terminate with connectors as conventional round cable — even allowing use of automated stripping equipment. This lets OEMs and other commercial users to capitalize on the advantages and benefits of flat cable attributes and performance, without the labor overhead experienced with other types of flat cable.
Rice • Applied Motion Products: Designing very small integrated motors — motors with a NEMA 11 frame size, for example — means fitting as much functionality as possible into a tiny footprint. Because many users of our NEMA-11 motors had space for a slightly larger connector arrangement, we configured a new three-connector arrangement as an optional add-on component to three lengths the TSM11. (These integrated motors include TSM11Q-1RM-H01, TSM11Q-2RM-H01, and TSM11Q-3RM-H01.) Owners of existing single-connector modules also can upgrade their TSM11 integrated motors in the field by purchasing the daisy-chain connector board separately.
In some cases, sizing software simplifies the specification process.
Lind • Cicoil: Our online Flat Cable Configurator provides fast and easy custom cable design on desktop and mobile devices. Point and click to add any of a wide variety of conductors (including pre-configured modules) for many standardized functions — such as USB 3.0, Cat 6a, and Camera Link. A click-and-drag function lets users position their selected conductors anywhere they choose on the cable. Then engineering drawings, custom part numbers, and cost per foot are delivered immediately to the engineer’s email inbox.
More cable and connectivity offerings are designed with miniaturization or compactness in mind.
Buchicchio • Cicoil:
Micro IDC ribbon cable with 0.025-in. pitch is compact — and it’s more flexible (and can tolerate higher voltages) than standard designs … so is especially suitable for use in confined areas.