Complete connectivity solutions for automation infrastructures

The desire to harness the wealth of information available from smart, networked devices to revolutionise industrial processes is the very essence of Industry 4.0. Machine builders are taking every opportunity to adopt technologies that help realise this concept – one being secure connectivity solutions that perform reliably, even under extremely harsh conditions. In this article, Hannah-Lena Gehring, product manager for the Brad M16, M23 and M40 product range in the transportation and industrial division at Molex, outlines the connectivity solutions supporting automation infrastructures and presents new additions that complement the offering

Automobile builders and other high-end manufacturers are already applying Industry 4.0 techniques, creating enterprise-wide Ethernet platforms that link directly from the office to the device. Here, a well-designed infrastructure is required that mitigates security risks while providing transparency to assess what’s happening on the plant floor. This promises clear advantages to OEMs, in terms of cost and risk reductions, performance enhancements and greater flexibility.

Machine builders, line builders and robotic system integrators alike are looking to vendors to provide ready-made and assembled interconnect solutions that include everything from PLC backplane modules to multiport and IO blocks to provide soft-wiring connections to IOs. In addition, they are also looking for interface cards that support communication between the robotics and the rest of the line as well as power connectors to control motors and servo systems.

As industrial automation technologies continue to improve manufacturing quality and efficiency, Molex is committed to remaining ahead of the curve. Reflecting these trends, Molex has widened its offering for the industrial automation infrastructure via strategic acquisitions and new product developments. Today, Molex technology can provide everything from a single connector to a fully realised solution.

With a broad portfolio of standard Brad products to address all kinds of industrial automation applications, these products can also be modified for customer-specific needs. The circular connectors are offered with IP69k sealing and are UL approved. This product family also includes IEC compliant connectors, such as the Cat 6, Micro-Change CHT (Circular Hybrid Technology) and Industrial Ethernet interconnect solutions.

A comprehensive range of cables for sensors, measurement, controls, robotics, network and drives applications, manufactured and rigorously tested at the Molex Flamar facility in Italy, provide excellent performance, quality and durability for this industrial sector. The standard portfolio addresses a broad range of applications, while customer-specific solutions are also possible.

The culmination of the recent Flamar acquisition and new product development strategies is epitomised by the introduction of the Brad M23 Signal and Power overmoulded cordsets. The cordsets, which integrate Flamar WSOR (weld-slag and oil-resistant) cable with the space-saving M23 form factor, help ensure reliable performance in harsh industrial environments, including welding applications, metalworking and machining processes using cutting oil. They are also particularly well-suited for use in automotive and material handling applications, meeting the stringent power and connectivity specifications machine builders require.

Adhering to the de facto industry standard, the cordsets interface easily with existing M23 infrastructure, while the IP67 sealing ensures the connectors perform reliably. In addition, they complement the existing Molex M23 offering, which includes field-attachable connectors and panel-mounted receptacles.

Promoting soft-wiring techniques, the low-profile, pre-assembled and overmoulded connector can be fitted in less than one minute, reducing maintenance costs and machine downtime. Also, wiring and assembly errors are mitigated and valuable space is saved.

Available with multiple pin-out options and numerous standard cable lengths, the cordsets deliver clear benefits to the machine builder, in terms of excellent flex and torsion performance, over a wide operating temperature range.

Further developments are on the Molex automation infrastructure roadmap. Within the priority areas, there is a major focus on expanding the Brad portfolio with power connectors; the recent introduction of the M12 power is an excellent example of progress. In addition, the M40 overmoulded power cordsets with WSOR cable fitted as standard are currently being introduced.

As the industry continues its journey along the road to Industry 4.0, a variety of specific issues may arise that require meticulously designed and complete customised solutions – that’s where trusted partners are vital. Regardless of the end application, Molex will provide machine builders with fully-tested cable assemblies and products for a wide range of applications. Customers need only define the overall features; then Molex, based on its fully comprehensive know-how, will propose a solution, guide the customer through the options, and then supply the finished product.

Molex continues to empower the industrial infrastructure with innovative communication, control and connectivity solutions to deliver precisely what is required in terms of reliability and performance – especially in harsh conditions. For machine builders to develop best-in-class automation equipment with global compatibility, which ultimately drives long-term relationships and repeat business with end-user customers, a partner that offers global support and access to leading connectivity solutions is an essential requirement.

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